The Castles of Alamut
by Hector Oliver-Russell (10 years)
The old ruins of the Castle of Alamut was last inhabited by Hassan-e Sabbah and his fellow Assassins. The word assassin is derived from the drug hashish. The drug made you fall asleep. Legend has it that they would carry you to what was known as the garden of paradise. In the apparent garden of paradise, there was wine, naked women and lots of other ‘haram’ things (haram means religiously forbidden in the Muslim world). You may ask yourself, why, did they have such a thing; the answer is, that the assassins thought that when they died they would go to paradise. If they had seen this splendour they would be less reluctant to do suicidal missions for their leader. The leader of the Assassins was Hassan-e Sabbah. At first he was not particularly rich. Amazingly he got the castle of Alamut by trickery. That trick, you may ask was very clever. He got invited into the castle with some of his followers. The owner was away, so over the days, Hassan-e Sabbah took in more and more of his followers until one day he had taken it over. Then the intelligent Assassin leader paid the owner with gold so he would not attack him back. He repeated this process on more and more castles till at the end he had over 100 of them!!!! The castle of Alamut was by far the most important. It had one of the most important libraries in the whole of the Islamic world!
In 1926, Freya Stark set off on an expedition with muleteers and of course her famous camel. She found most of the castles including Alamut. Freya describes in her book “the valley of the assassins”, the kneeling camel, the rock on which is held the great castle of Alamut. Not much remains of the castle as the Mongles totally abolished it in 1256. Now, not much more than a heap of rubble and some bits of pottery are left. When Freya Stark left the site it did not see visitors till 1960 when another expedition took place sponsored by the British Museum and Oxford University. Led by Peter Willy the exploration included Mike Oliver, Richard Mordant, Roddy Dugmore and two Iranian Doctors.
Peter Willy was the leader.
Richard Mordant deputy leader and cameraman
Mike Oliver quartermaster and main climber
Roddy Dugmore Surveyor (made plans of the castles)
There was meant to be 8 of them in the team but one got ill and the other got offered a job, so he had to go back to England.
When they got the mule train in Persia after travelling in a Series 2 Land Rover through Europe the team travelled for about a week non stop. They finally saw what is described in “The Valley of the Assassins” as the kneeling camel. The moment so long awaited, had finally come. There before them, was Alamut and there was no doubt about it.
When they had finished exploring the castle of Alamut for them the fun was not over yet, as for the next 4 months they were to go to the presumed location of Maymun-Diz.
The castle of Alamut would stay undisturbed for another 41 years till 2001 where the excavation started again. After 15 years of reconstruction the castle of Alamut had much more than a heap of rubble to show and tell!