In a previous post about Ganj Nameh, I mention that I visited Hamedan as part of my personal "discover Iran" tour. Before going to Hamedan, I stopped by Ghare Ali Sadr, Ali Sadr Cave, which is about 60 miles north of the city. I had heard about it before, but was definitely not prepared for just how immense, not to mention well-kept, this cave is!
I was famished upon arrival, so food was in order. There was a nice outdoor restaurant with the charming bed-style tables that are common in Iran. You take off your shoes and sit up on the bed, stretch your legs, chat, eat, smoke hookah, and enjoy the company.
I decided to order dizi, a kind of stew. At home, it's known as ab gusht, literally meat water. This mouth-watering dish is made with meat, chickpeas, white beans, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, and turmeric. Sometimes a lump of fat is also thrown in there for flavor. You typically pour the broth into a bowl with torn up pieces of bread and eat that first. Then with the mortar and pestle, you mash the meat, beans, tomatoes, potatoes, and fat (if you like, but you can also choose to have it taken out) and eat it with bread. This is one of my favorite stews to eat at home, but it was my first time having it in a restaurant, and it was delicious!
After getting some energy from the dizi, I was ready to start my water cave adventure. Ghare Ali Sadr is the world's largest water cave. It was only rediscovered in the 60s by Iranian excavators, but artwork and pottery inside the cave have dated back to 12,000 years! Pictures of animals, hunting scenes, and bows and arrows suggest that primitive hunting man lived in this 70 million year-old cave. Historically, this cave was also used as a safe refuge for the Safavid Army.
Once I was inside, I was thankful to have my sweater with me because it was quite chilly. I was also happy to be wearing sneakers because some parts of the ground were wet from water dripping from the ceiling. The cave was incredibly clean, the air was fresh and the water was clearly visible to a depth of about 5 meters. Tours are given using pedal boats so as to keep the air and water clean. Along the way, the tour guide pedaled the boat, explained the cave's history, and pointed out the different formations that the stalactites and stalagmites have taken over the years resembling the Statue of Liberty, an alligator, a lion, and a dove missing a wing.
|Welcome to the world's largest water cave|
|See the Statue of Liberty?|
After going a bit deeper in the cave, we had the chance to get out and walk through a chamber. We climbed up some stairs, crossed over and came down the other side to go back and get into another pedal boat.
|The flat surface of the ceiling shows how high the water used to be at one point.|
One of my favorite parts of the cave was the different stalactites, stalagmites, and wall formations. There were some that reminded me of faloudeh, the Iranian dessert made with vermicelli noodles; others looked like mushrooms, cauliflower, jellyfish; and yet others looked like rain on the walls.
Another fascinating thought is the fact that most of this cave is still undiscovered. About 16 kilometers has been explored. Considering this is the world's largest water cave, I wonder what else is yet to be uncovered.
But Ali Sadr is not Iran's only cave. There is also Ghare Dosar near Yazd which, though already a popular destination for cavers, was confirmed just one month ago as having the fourth largest chamber in the world. Yazd is still one of the destinations on my "discover Iran" list due to its rich culture of Zoroastrianism, but now I have even more reason to visit!
If you haven't yet visited Ghare Ali Sadr, put the world's largest water cave on your travel bucket list. I'm excited to have scratched this one off of mine!