Khuzestan Province was one of my (Amir Sina) most favorite destinations in southern Iran. Khuzestan is the land of sun, ancient civilizations, oil, palm trees and dates. Shahin, a photojournalist, and I had been on a road trip in the south for several days and we had already traveled to a few cities including Dezful before we decided to stop in Shushtar.
We took the scenic route to Shushtar, the city which some say has 7,000 years of history and is home to a Historical Hydraulic System that has been registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Some even say the story of Shushtar goes back to the time of the legendary warrior king, Houshang the Demon Slayer, who according to legend defeated the Black Demon of Shahnameh, Ferdowsi’s Book of Kings, to become the ruler of the world. Houshang is said to have built Shushtar as a beautiful city but it fell into ruin and was rebuilt by the Sassanids.
Our first stop was of course the Historical Hydraulic System of Shushtar – a network of watermills, weir bridges, dams, water channels, rivers, and moats along with a castle that controlled the flow of the operation. The oldest part of the Hydraulic System is a manmade river built by the Achaemenids (550-330 BC) named Gargar Channel.
I was most interested in seeing Shadorvan Weir Bridge which locals know as Band-e Kaiser or Caesar’s Bridge. This bridge was built in 260 CE by Roman soldiers and engineers who were taken into captivity along with Emperor Valerian (reign 253–260 CE) after his defeat by Shapur I (241-272 CE). Looking at this astonishing arch bridge I could not help but wonder what it would have looked like if only it had not been damaged by severe floods and had remained intact. We used the morning sun to capture photos of the Hydraulic System and spent some time admiring this intricate network. Before we knew it was time for lunch.
We asked around and were told Mostofi House is the best place for lunch in Shushtar. It was a perfect choice! A traditional Qajar mansion turned restaurant with a fabulous view of Shadorvan Bridge and mouthwatering Persian and local dishes, what more could one ask for!
After a few more hours going around the city to GPS map the attractions, talk to hotels, and restaurants we were ready to head to our next destination. But before hitting the road we decided to try the famous buffalo milk ice cream of Shushtar. This creamy scoop of heaven was the perfect ending to our short Shushtar visit.
My advice: if you decide to visit Shushtar just remember, summer may not be the best time for you. Fall and winter are the best seasons for Shushtar when you can make the most of the pleasantly mild climate and enjoy the unforgettable sights! Try the buffalo ice cream and of course if you can, watch the sun set over the Shushtar Hydraulic System!