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Home to some of the world's oldest civilisations, Iran is one of the most archaeologically rich countries in the Middle East. An astonishing array of cultures vied for influence in the region, Akkadians, Assyrians, Medes and Persians all held sway and the splendid ruins at Persepolis and Susa testify to the constant diplomatic and military contact between the Mesopotamian superpowers in ancient times. Few cities weave such enchantment on the traveller as Shiraz: the city of poets and flowers is an almagmation of grand private houses and Daedalian mosques and shrines.