The man who rose from humble beginnings to rule half the hemisphere, who took the Koh-i-Noor (and gave it the name), today rests in small town in Iran, which strangely (or appropriately) feels Indian.
Two hours from Iran’s most sacred city, perched at the foot of the Koppeh Dagh mountains, Kalat-e-Naderi feels completely different from the rest of Iran. It was besieged by Alexander the Great, finds mention in the Persian Book of Kings and was the only fortress to ever resist Tamerlane. Yet despite its central role in Iranian history, the town feels more Indian than Persian. Bollywood music blares out of small kabab shops and the local biscuits, made from crushed nuts, fennel and aniseed taste of mukhwas. Locals, dressed in Shalwar Kamiz even gossip of ‘Hindustani treasure’ hidden in the surrounding mountains.
In the centre of the town, I find one more echo of India: a sandstone tomb covered in floral stucco reliefs, nestled in a fragrant Char Bagh of saffron crocus and red roses. The Mughal Empire never reached Iran, but the building is strikingly similar to Safdarjung’s tomb in Delhi, and unmistakably the work of Mughal craftsmen.
However, this tomb was not built for a Mughal, but for the man who conquered them: Nader Shah.
After visiting the tomb (and rather fittingly finding Mein Kampf in the gift shop), I follow a hunch-backed man to the Friday mosque—the most ancient structure in the town. Old mudbrick houses and Nazri stalls offering free dates and cinnamon chai for Muharram line the road, and together we eat in the shadow of the large green dome. The tiles on the Gombad-e-Kaboud have badly deteriorated but the thousand-year-old mosque is stunning.
As I leave the town, several crumbling watchtowers loom over the road.