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Khuzestan tells story of Persia’s rise, fall

Iran's Khuzestan province, with its many ancient sites and artifacts, tells the story of Persia’s rise and fall.

TEHRAN, Iran — In Iran’s southwestern Khuzestan province, history becomes a warm breeze over hills that hold thousands of years of human stories. Home to some of the country’s oldest heritage sites, the province is also a host to decaying structures, organizational looting and systematic neglect. To see this in vivid color, drive 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of the provincial capital Ahvaz to Susa — a city that for millennia played a significant role in the story of human civilization. But as civilizations rise and fall, there is as much to note in their descent as in their pinnacle.

Eight years of war have completely disheveled Susa’s aura. Previous residents have fled, migrants and war refugees from all over Khuzestan have settled in their place, and the city carries a daze that the scorn of its custodians only exasperates. One wonders if this really is the place written about in Sumerian records of southern Mesopotamia, the Hebrew Bible’s Book of Esther, and the city that was to play a prominent role in both the Elamite and proto-Elamite civilizations.

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