Khorramabad, despite its truly awful sounding name, might just be Iran’s hidden gem. The town seems to fill a valley floor, high in the Zagros Mountains with markets and kebab shops sneaking into every ripple of the surrounding ranges. Although a main highway meanders through the city, the place bustles with a friendly, big country-town vibe.
It is the capital of the state of Lorestan, named after the local ethnicity, the Lors. Lors are different from other Persians (Iranians), with a nomadic culture more similar to parts of Arabia or the south and west of Iran.
Their culture and way of life has changed little over the past 3000 years. The tree-lined streets of central Khorramabad play host to a spectacular 1800-year-old castle. which rises high above on a rocky promontory, not far from a river which feeds to the Persian Gulf.
During the Shah of Iran’s time the castle was a prison, quite possibly for political prisoners. In fact many Lors people were made to disappear during the Shah’s time due to their reluctance to yield to his vision of “modern Iran”. More still were shipped out in the middle of the night, only to turn up as “refugees” on the streets of far-flung Mashhad.
Now the castle is a museum for Lors culture, perhaps more fitting for its name Falak-ol-Aflak; “the heaven of heavens”.