The Persian province of Māzandarān has characteristics unique in the land of Iran, even among its Caspian neighbours. The landscape of mountain, forest, ricefield and sea has its special freshness and charm, worlds away from the rocky plateau and searing desert further to the south. Its beauty was appreciated among others by the Safavid Shāh 'Abbās, who built an engineered highroad hidden to-day by the forest above Gālūgāh, and maintained favoured residences at Behshahr and Faraḥābād. For the visiting stranger, the most obvious impression is that created by the perennial Māzandarān cloud, a sea of cotton tufts, as it is often described, rising steadily up the hillsides with the growing heat of the day, to sink back into the valleys with the chill of evening, or fall as soft drizzle through the hours of darkness. When the traveller ascending the mountainside reaches the level of condensation, suddenly he is in a world of total humidity, with streaming perspiration, and water running from the trees and undergrowth. Twenty minutes later he has passed through the cloudbase, and entered the bone-dry world of “Iraq”. Dry sand replaces the treacherous “yellow clay” (zarde gil) beneath his feet, and the cool breeze in an instant evaporates the moisture from his shirt.