Before Islam came to Iran the major religion was Zoroastrianism, named in honour of its founder, Zoroaster, and arguably the world's first monotheistic religion. Zoroastrians held seven things to be
sacred including the four elements of which fire was considered to be pre-eminent. The main Zoroastrian festival was the New Year, No Ruz, (literally 'New Day') which took place as the sun entered the first point of Aries, or 0 degrees ecliptic longitude, on or about March 21st. The Festival of No Ruz has survived as the main festival to the present day, when families gather together, very much as Christmas in Christian societies.
Seven kilometres to the west of Isfahan there are the remains of one of these places of worship, known as the Atashgah (or 'Place of Fire'), seen here on top of a hill. The walls are made of mud brick with the layers separated by reeds from one another. The whole is surmounted by a small circular building.
It is worth climbing up to the top, although there is no clear path, as the view from the top across the plain of Isfahan is unforgettable. Below in the plain on the opposite side of the road a footpath leads down to some interesting Pigeon Towers, some of which have been decorated. It is also a popular picnic place and there are a number of Kebab restaurants by the roadside.
Last Updated: October 23, 1998