Chogha Zanbil

‘Chogh-a-blocked’ in between two of Iran’s most historic cities (Shush and Shushtar), stands perhaps the oldest and supposedly unfinished structure: Chogha Zanbil. Built by the Elamite ruler Untash-Gal way back in 1250BCE, this ‘temple’ was once dedicated to the worship of the ancient God Inshushinak.

With an outer wall that extends approximately 3,900 by 2,600 feet (1,200 by 800 meters) and a height of 24 meters (at its peak it was 48 meters high), it’s amazing that in the 7th century this impeccably preserved ruin got ‘lost’ – apparently it lay hidden under sand until an aerial survey by a British oil company in 1935 noticed something odd and consequently rediscovered it.


Chogha Zanbil – Iran’s 5000 year old Elamite complex was lost under the sand before its discovery in 1935

When I read in the Lonley Planet guide that the bricks ‘look like they came out of the kiln last week’ I was amazed at the condition of them upon my arrival.  Naturally corrosion has taken place but generally speaking these bricks look brand new and stand firm.  And on some bricks – spread about the site in what appeared to be rather random fashion – there are ancient Elamite inscriptions scratched on its surface.

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Ancient Elamite writting…God knows what it says! 

But one of the greatest highlights Chogha has on offer isn’t the sheer size of the structure or the fantastic brick work, but a small 3000 year old human footprint.  Is it one of the labourers? Was it a child who momentarily stamped his/her foot in the mud then ran away laughing?  History ignites an endless stream of imagination!

choqa footprint.png

Ancient footprint, Chogha Zanbil, Iran.

Getting there

With no public transport available, your only option is to take a taxi.  And as the chances of finding someone to share the taxi with is extremely low, expect to pay more.

Finding a taxi from Shush is your best option as Shush is closer to Chogha Zanbil than Shushtar.  As there are no taxi stands (at least I didn’t find one) your best bet is to stop on the side of the road and wave a taxi down.  In hindsight this is exactly what I should have done.  Instead I made inquiries about going to Chogha when – hospitality kicks in – suddenly someone called a tour agency to arrange a car come pick me up! The bottom line is I paid way too much £20 (10000 tomans) – even though it included waiting time around the site and a ride to my hotel in Shushtar after.  I would say £10-12 ( 5000 to 7000 tomans) is a more realistic price. And don’t forget to bargain! I had to keep reminding myself.

Even though there is nothing much to see on the way to Chogha, the dusty roads, green open fields and innumerable palm trees dotted around made me feel like I was in a country in Southeast Asia let alone Iran.

Upon arrival at Chogha, we got out of the car and paid £4 (20000 tomans – undoubtedly the tourist price) to a bored looking man inside a small camper-trailer thingy.  With only a couple of cleaners perched on a wall holding brooms and a handful of dogs following me, I had the whole site to myself.  Iran is brilliant for having zero tourists, especially off the well beaten – Esfahan, Shiraz , Yazd route.

Wish you a safe journey!



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One response to “Chogha Zanbil

  1. Pingback: Travelling Iran | Writings, essays and perspectives

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