Kermanshah developed in the 4th century AD under the patronage of Sassanian kings. The city squats astride the former Royal Rd to Baghdad, and such strategic positioning has brought both prosperity and attack: 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 (Iraq) and Kerbala.
Large, sprawling and often bewildering, Kermanshah can be a hard city to love. The centre, if there is one, feels strangely empty of people, yet traffic snarls along its main arteries. The city's proximity to the Achaemanid and Sassanid carvings of Bisotun and Taq-e Bustanis is the main tourist drawcard.