In an ancient country like Iran, ruins are less of a relic and more of an eyesore. Driving through the desert between Tehran and Esfahan, loads of old abandoned brick-and-mud settlements can be seen easily from the motorway. We saw them on our way down but time was short and we didn’t stop. Two days later, as we sped back up north to the capital, a pile of crumbling buildings winked at us enticingly in the fading daylight, so we decided to check it out.
These are the crumbling ruins of the old town of Abyazan, a town that Google doesn’t reveal much about but was probably founded sometime during the late Safavid dynasty (1598–1736) when Esfahan was the capital of Iran. The part of the town still in use is recorded to have a population of 94, and the area is famous for a few holy shrines.
On the day we visited there was no one around, and we wandered through blocks of buildings that must have been houses, shops, palaces, stables and storage rooms. The scale of the place was really amazing, with doors created by fallen walls linking different courtyards together. The buildings towered up to three-storeys high, and some of the gaping holes in the ground revealed basements up to three-metres deep.
So excited by our discovery, we forgot to watch where we were walking, and as the sun sunk even lower we realised that we’d lost the way out. It was getting dark, and relentless dog barking echoed off the mud walls from somewhere nearby. Not exactly the kind of place you want to be trapped by stray dogs. But after a mild panic, we found the hole we’d climbed through and were able to speed off past the big doggies just as the sky got dark.