Hamadan is one of the oldest continuously occupied cities in the world. In the sixth century BC, Hamadan (then called Ecbatana) served as the summer capital of the Achaemenian kings and was peppered with opulent palaces encrusted in jewels and precious metals. Unfortunately, most of the old city remains buried under a newer, blander version. Sights include the 12th-century Gonbad Alavian building, the tomb of the philosopher-physician Avicenna (good museum in a hideous modern building) and the Esther-Mordecai shrine (said to be the tomb of Esther, the Jewish wife of Xerxes I). Hamadan is noted for blue ceramics. 175 mi/280 km southwest of Tehran.

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