Gateway to the sweltering cities of the Iraqi plains, Kermanshah developed in the 4th century AD under the patronage of Sassanian kings and squats astride the former Royal Road to Baghdad – such strategic positioning has brought both prosperity and attack, and Kermanshah suffered brutal damage during the Iran-Iraq War. Briefly renamed Bakhtaran in the 1980s, the city is a melting pot of Kurds, Lori and other Iranians, many on pilgrimage west to the holy cities of Najaf and Kerbala. Though not a yet a major tourist draw, the backdrop of glowing red-rock mountains is impressive enough and Taq-e Bustan stands as one of the most peculiar monuments in all of Iran.
Kermanshah is bewilderingly vast. The main street changes names (Kashani-Modarres-Beheshti-Sheikh Shiroodi) as it stretches over 10km from the busy commercial centre (the southern third) to the foot of the magnificent rocky Parom Mountain massif. Here the Taq-e Bustan carvings, ringed by parks and outdoor restaurants, form the city’s foremost attraction.