Iran People Of The Flame with David Adams Middle East History Documentary Timeline

in the heart of an ancient nation a sacred Firebirds it hasn't been extinguished for over 2,000 years its mysteries inspired the faith of millions and lie at the very root of what Christians Muslims and Jews believe in today [Music] if I am to find it I'll have to set out on a two and a half thousand mile journey a journey which takes me behind a lifting veil of Islamic fundamentalism to a place where time and history began [Music] [Applause] [Music] I'm David Adams I'm a photojournalist and my work takes me on journey to some of the most remote corners of the world [Music] now it takes me to a place where many have been afraid to visit Iran now Iran's not strictly at the ends of the earth but because it's been effectively off-limits to so many Westerners for so long it's still a land shrouded in mystery my journey starts in the Iranian capital Tehran where I discover one of its more lethal amateur sports extreme jaywalking well into the valley of death [Music] this is a daily game of chicken between determined flesh and unrelenting steel there are police and stoplights but no one seems to pay much attention to him so for extreme conditions it's best to show extreme confidence finding myself still alive I go and see the sights and discover that some Western visitors are still unwelcome these were the walls of the United States Embassy in Tehran behind them a group of revolutionaries once held 52 Americans hostage for over a year the graffiti still proclaims Iran's hatred for America a country they call the Great Satan and everywhere the face of Ayatollah Khomeini father of the Islamic Revolution while strict Islamic law can still jail a woman who forgets to cover her head or whip a man who drinks a beer that law is now being observed less strictly the old Iran is reimagine from behind the fundamentalist veil an ancient land with roots reaching right back to the beginning of time centuries before Jesus a man was born here whose genius still shapes our world his name was Zarathustra we call him Zoroaster fire was his fascination in its flickering mystery he saw things which few had seen before a single Supreme Being a heaven for the good and a hell for the wicked a divine Savior and a Last Judgement [Music] Jews and Christians have long embraced versions of these beliefs beliefs which are still at the center of our civilization today so for me this is as much a spiritual journey as a physical one as I head into Iran's remotest corners in my search for Zoroaster Zi ternal flame my route takes me Northwest into the Elbrus a long finger of mountains on the southern shores of the Caspian Sea here I hope to catch a bus deeper into the mountains [Music] they always have problems with the pronunciation you know it's the high end of all those words all that you know because it doesn't exist in English it's very difficult with me is I've seen a young English teacher from Tehran but so how do I say what time does the bus go aside from his English machine was also a bodyguard to an Iranian president not a bad skills combination so I hire him as my translator ok autobus Meera and Gaza Han sir so I said three o'clock yeah that's three hours away okay well let's let's get a drink the old ticket seller is totally blind but he seems to know where everything is except the bus can you ask him what these the bus station isn't exactly brimming with people waiting to start a journey maybe they know something we don't [Music] okay I'm just eat the middle yeah that's right my suspicions are confirmed when even the ticket seller himself gives up waiting it looks as if we're in for a long long wait so one hour that's about 30 or 40 kilometers yeah how long will that take won't you go three hours to walk yeah what are you an Olympic sprinter I think that's a better day's walk well maybe something will come along and we'll we're gonna lift yeah it's a really kind of quiet place in the world this [Music] we're stuck in the middle of nowhere an Islamic Revolutionary nowhere they may have been able to enforce Quranic law but they can't make the buses run on time [Music] then just as we're ready to give up hope the mountains ring with the sweet sound of our salvation it's not a bus just a kind truck driver who takes pity on us wayward travelers this is dragged down the back of his truck is hardly luxurious but at least we're mobile again it feels great to be on the move again as we head further north west deep into the Elbrus mountains one of the great barrier ranges of Central Asia some of these pigs are over 10,000 feet high that's 3,000 meters for centuries the Elbrus have been a refuge for those who wanted to remain independent of cities on the plains [Music] they've also been a sanctuary anyone wanting to hide from Authority or just wanting to be different and these mountains have also been a place from which to plot mayhem my journey is about to take me into the lair of the assassins and the fortress of a very dangerous man at last Afshin and I meet up with the friends we've come so far to see while Razer is an expert Mountaineer his mentor Aziz is a legend one of only four Iranians who conquered Mount Everest what better people to have for my next mission gear checked and packed we set off for the place whose name means Eagles teaching Island [Music] Allenwood is a rocky skyscraper thrusting 3,000 feet into the air that's 1,000 meters [Music] maybe it's just the extraordinary shape but as you toil up its slopes you begin to understand why some people believe that certain spots on earth possessed uncanny powers [Music] a challenge for the toughest of climbers but for an army its mission impossible if you're looking for a natural fortress Alamut is it this is quite a tough climb but in the Middle Ages anybody tunneling in these mountains would have found it a lot tougher because they would have been wearing full body armor because the man who lived on the top of this mountain was the most feared in all the Middle East and even beyond his name was hassan al sabah the old man of the mountains and from alamode he launched a reign of terror back in the 12th century the Turks ruled Iran and the Crusaders held Jerusalem to battle these invaders Hasan invented a new weapon political murder his followers killed princes generals and grand Vizier's even a crusader King no one was safe from Hassan al-sabah tradition has it that he acquired such powers over his followers by drugging them with hashish as a result a new word entered the English language in Arabic they were called hashishin we call them assassins and there's another story if Hassan al-sabah wanted to impress a visitor yet only to say the word and fanatical assassins would leap from Alamut to their death on the rocks below I thought I'd see what it was like in a more controlled sort of way of course razor and as is a veteran repellers for AB sailors before they'd agree to help me they wanted to know if I'd done this before I tell them I have but what I didn't tell them is that it was a long time ago in high school when I was only 18 so difficulty in jumping off a cliff like this is this is an 800 year old castle or probably more and the whole thing is rubble on top and at any moment the whole lip of it could actually fall down and fall on top of us as we as we add sail down but with a bit of testing we should be able to work out if it's going to hold or not thank you it's like we fitted by an Iranian tailor I guess unfortunately for the assassins they didn't have all this gear and thank god I've got razor instead of Hassan al-sabah so he's happy for me to go now okay little unfirm I always knew that someday I'd go over the edge [Music] as I descend from Allenwood I must admit that thoughts of stoned assassins hurtling to their oblivion do pass through my mind but of more concern are the stones from this crumbling fortress hurtling down by my head [Music] [Music] think about doing this is it somewhere between fear and absolute elation and now I reached the bottom where hundreds of assassins met there dude makes your blood run hot do this I recommend it for medicinal purposes thanks guys [Music] fantastic that evening we build a fire in a cave from which it is said that Hassani Sabbah once directed his campaigns of terror aziz sing songs about the mountains and as darkness falls the scene keeps the ghosts and as I gaze into the fire I remember why I'm here tomorrow I return to the source of a fiery mystery and the place where Zoroaster first kindled is sacred flames [Music] further on into northwestern Iran the snows from Central Asia sweep across the mountains as the winter temperatures plunge below zero now I head off alone on a personal mission to a place called tuck de salón Solomon's throne [Music] [Applause] [Music] legend has it that it was here King Solomon struck the ground with his staff instantly steaming water poured from the earth and the Queen of Sheba was able to have a hot bath [Music] but there's another legend also beside this thermal leg I find the ruins of a Zoroastrian temple this is one of the places where the great mystic Zoroaster is supposed to have been born [Music] in this pit some of the most sacred fires of Zoroastrianism once burned maternal flames tendered by priests called Maggie's magic flames for that's the source of the word magic flames never to be extinguished and it's here at the so called thrown of a Jewish King that the myths of for religions merged [Music] it was from here two thousand years ago the three magic set off in search of a newborn child guided by a star the star took them to Bethlehem [Music] there they found a Christian son of God and a great Prophet of Islam Jesus [Music] but further up the road I go back another thousand years this is the biblical Land of Nod where Cain slew Abel the further I travel the further back in time I seem to go to the beginning of time itself in fact for somewhere around here is supposed to be the place where time began the Garden of Eden but the facts don't seem to match my expectations a glimpse of paradise perhaps a garden where Adam and Eve once frolicked in a perfect world not this barren windswept wilderness I feel disappointed and then I Drive round a corner and see this [Music] Wow village it's a village car from living rock the home of the Iranian troglodytes eons ago these bizarre conical shapes were formed by lava spewed from an erupting volcano and upon and out of these rocks they carved their homes which is why it's called candy van the word means the place that is done something out of Spielberg what an unlikely looking paradise the last place you'd expect to find a Garden of Eden it's time I took some photographs [Music] it's pretty quiet in Canavan it said that the river that feeds the Garden of Eden is supposed to flow through here but I see no river and I definitely see no garden [Music] as I walk I'm entranced by the fairytale feeling of this place I'm told people came to Canavan because there aren't any snakes here now the Garden of Eden legend is really wearing thin but I'm curious about what lies behind those walls I'm David thank you yes the Iranians are incredibly hospitable and I'm constantly being invited into their private homes and that's how I come to meet mr. Hashim him would you a much younger man ask them how sure are you and this is Mecca like it baba uh-huh baba my men have been Baba your father he was great hey Joss dick check your charm hey honey mark horny mark I don't understand Oh dinner oh sure yeah that would be great okay I think mr. Hashim is inviting me to dinner so that evening I come back with my guide F Shane and mr. Hashim Slade on quite a feast so how is this man he's invited some shepherds to meet me Musa and Rahim so it isn't long before the conversation gets around a shape we've got more sheep than any other place and then with no ladies present the conversation takes a rather masculine turn does he have a girlfriend No would you like to have a girlfriend [Laughter] you ask a lot of question about his girlfriend so how about you do you have anyone you know it's difficult for me because I travel so much so you know I travel maybe nine months of the year so it's very no woman would tolerate that he doesn't look convinced and then the big surprise not only are they shepherds and musicians Musa plays a six stringed instrument called a sands while Raheem plays the sauna a Shepherd's flu [Music] I never do learn exactly what they were singing I wanted to ask when they'd finished but they have other plans [Music] [Laughter] [Music] [Music] whoa whoa [Music] [Music] [Music] at sunrise I'm up early along with the rest of kin Devon as flocks are driven out to pasture and people go about the business of another day I may not have found the Garden of Eden but I'm getting closer to the real Iran but if I want to explore deep into its spiritual soul I must go further [Music] I'm about to drive to a beautiful city where I have an appointment with the warrior wrestlers of Isfahan I'm now heading south through a country that has been well trodden by some of history's greatest men Alexander the Great Genghis Khan Marco Polo all have passed this way and now David Adams and ashy [Music] our language is not Arabic is completely different with the Arabic language sounds yeah but we use some of the article do you think it's a hard language to work no no it's very easy to learn no as we drive Afshin does his best to teach me some of his own language Farsi so what well I'd like to know how to ask for a beer but I can't get a beer in this country killer if I'm if we're going into someone's home what what's the correct greeting mabashi of a she was a heavy Timothy Moser Hamilton language has never been my forte my Farsi is terrible his English is excellent but I wonder what he's like at Australian don't come the raw prawn with me sunshine don't come okay the raw prawn don't on the roll for raw through roll from her like a it's a shrimp that's that's not cooked yeah okay Rob Roy yeah don't count the rule prawn with me sunshine dawn call come one come the roll problem with me son you know what it means it's kind of like don't pull my leg you know someone is joking with you as we mangle each other's languages we arrive in one of Iran's most magnificent places of Assam the holy city of s father [Music] best fahan nests for jihad the Iranians say esfahan is half the world and on my first morning here I'm inclined to agree no other city in Iran compares with it perhaps none in the whole Islamic world it lies in the very heart of the country and at the heart and soul of Iranian civilization [Music] while Shakespeare was a struggling playwright and Sir Walter Raleigh had just set foot in Virginia Shah Abbas was transforming Isfahan into Iran's new imperial capital he designed it around a huge Central Square still one of the largest squares in the world on the surface little has changed in its bazaars artisans still beat out copper balls as they've done for centuries in Esfahan I say goodbye to a sheen white he must return to his english students in Tehran [Music] [Music] in a way the timing is good I want to experience s for Hans greatest glory on my own [Music] I've seen my fair share of wonders in my travels around the world but the Aman's mosque fills me with absolute awe completed in 1638 it took 26 years to build and remains one of the world's most perfect fusions of architecture and belief its acoustics are so good that its Imams could preach the vast crowds here long before the invention of the microphone welcome to the zoo kana the name means the house of power [Music] four thousand years or so Iranian men have joined a Sakana to prove their manhood and draw closer to God [Music] this isn't a gym you just can't walk in and sign up happy hopefuls will spend at least a month watching meditating and deciding whether they're made of the right stuff [Music] at first sue Khanna seemed to be an augment of aerobics circus acts and trying to make yourself as dizzy as possible really a very ancient way of life before the days of standing armies it was the zucchinis that transformed peasants into soldiers it's really an Islamic version of martial arts the trainer is also their spiritual leader [Music] as they do their workouts he chants verses from the Shannara an epic poem celebrating the deeds of a mythical Iranian Superman violent with the spiritual climax as the trainer beats out his hypnotic rhythm they take turns at a feat made famous by Sufi mystics the doubts of the whirling dervishes sofie's believe that as they dance their souls leave their body and journey to God [Music] and what is all this building up to wrestling Iranian style perhaps I've been watching too much wrestling on television but after all the warm-up exercises the reigning wrestling seems to be a bit of an anti-climax that's until unhand at these ok the message is clear this is the point when I'm in serious danger of making a fool of myself and it will be all the more embarrassing if I can't fit into these Iranian wrestling togs Iranian colors my new friend his name is motion helps me but it's a tight fit just a little bit too much ice cream last night good burger okay [Music] [Music] as we enter the ring I pray that motion won't be my opponent but of course he is this is waiting for death so I'm squaring off with a man has been wrestling since he was 5 years old well I've been a wrestling spectator for about 15 minutes yeah but for some inexplicable reason I'm not rolling around on the floor maybe they don't want to embarrass me there's a problem I've obviously committed some dreadful breach of etiquette [Music] but after only a few minutes up against one of s four hands wrestling champions the referee literally throws in the towel and declares the match a draw [Music] and I never did find out what I done wrong [Applause] the next day motion invites me to another s forehand tradition to get to it we have to go by this bridge but we don't just go over the bridge we have to actually go inside it and there we find a teahouse here retired wrestling champions passed the day away with tales of triumphs past go makes you very strong but I couldn't lift it but you can do it very well when our t arise I discovered that I have to learn to drink it all over again Iranian style and you swallow it well you keep it on your tongue [Applause] hot do that damn just when I've mastered tea drinking the dreaded hooker arise I feel like the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland this is tobacco I don't smoke you [Music] there's an old Iranian saying if you want to find God looking a hooker but I suspect there's no truth in it this one's making me feel decidedly ill start and fill green [Music] it takes me a few minutes to recover from the hooker but its smoke has reminded me of my quest [Music] before I leave as far I've got one more stop to make [Music] it's a tough climb but the view is worth it and once more I feel the presence of Zorro aster [Music] these are the ruins of an ancient temple once more taking me back to a time that precedes Islam where once the sacred flames burned tomorrow I set out for the source of that fire a fire that hasn't been extinguished for thousands of years I have an appointment with the people of the flame further southeast of Isfahan in the heart of Iran are the ruins of Persepolis ancient capital of the mighty Persian Empire Persepolis is actually its Greek name in ancient Farsi it was called Parsa in two thousand four hundred years ago pather had running water and effective drainage system and not to mention one of the world's greatest libraries from here you could send a letter to the ends of the earth that was until Alexander the Great destroyed Parsa in the third century BC you know I've always wanted to come to Persepolis it was a kid I used to read about Alexander and what the Greeks did when they came here but walking through these columns you can just get an impression of what this place must have been like when these are 60 70 feet and the roof was on top of that it's just mind-blowing really [Music] [Music] Persepolis or parcel was also an important center of the state belief Zoroastrianism which is the real reason I'm here [Music] nude party is a group of living Zoroastrians worshipping before the tomb of a former Persian Emperor Darius the great it's a sign of a thaw in fundamentalist Iran they were prevented from doing this until very recently thank you very much welcome to of course after two hundred five thousand years ago because of five hundred years ago yes sister Imani it will be continued always and over here as you see this strange winged figure is the sacred symbol of Zoroaster is God and as always central to their worship is fire could you explain to me why you burn the fire every time you pray you see all these we must turn towards the light lots no difference no there is Sun we can stand where the Sun if there is no Sun beating on the fire and B we have toward the light we stand like yes there should be the fire rays of sun rays of whatever it's light towards the light stand and pray because we believe that brightness brings happiness in life due to that yes [Music] [Music] so at last I found the people of the flame but if I want to see the ancient flame itself I must go further east there I will find the original fire lit all those years ago by Zoroaster I want to travel through this country the way Marco Polo and the old silk traders did it has to be by camel my route takes me into the desert along the old Silk Road between China and the West we're great camel caravans once carried men's fortunes on their backs [Music] if Marcopolo were alive today he'd find this valley unchanged as I travel through these vast primordial spaces I've almost forgotten the 21st century exists and then I arrive at my destination it's called chat check a cluster of buildings embedded into a massive mountain [Music] [Music] this is the end of my journey this is where I'll find the sacred flame [Music] check-check is one of the most important of all Zoroastrian tribe anyone entering it must be purified so suitably washed I leave my shoes at the door and into the sanctuary [Music] and there before me is the flame I've come all this way to see [Music] all around me are the worshipers I don't understand the words but in their faces I see something that needs no translation and now I gaze at a fire that's been burning for nearly two and a half thousand years never extinguish fire kindled from fire flame beginning flame in an ancient line of descent from that first fire of Zoroaster I'm staring at their gift of God and as I watch I'm reminded of the man who first conceived those values we still hold sacred today long before the dawn of Judaism Christianity and Islam it was Zoroaster who first saw a single Supreme Being a struggle between good and evil a savior a Last Judgement a beginning and an end [Music] and he soared all in a flame the flame into which I now gaze a flame so eternal that it will burn until the ends of the earth [Music] [Music] [Music] you