Press Centre

Joanna Lumley’s Silk Road Adventure

  • Episode: 

    3 of 4

  • Transmission (TX): 

    Wed 26 Sep 2018
  • TX Confirmed: 

  • Time: 

    9.00pm - 10.00pm
  • Week: 

    Week 39 2018 : Sat 22 Sep - Fri 28 Sep
  • Channel: 

The information contained herein is embargoed from all Press, online, social media, non-commercial publication or syndication - in the public domain - until Tuesday 18 September 2018.
Joanna Lumley’s Silk Road Adventure
Series overview
“I’m embarking on a 7000-mile journey following the route of the legendary Silk Road, that throughout history helped spread all manner of foods, inventions and cultures across Asia and most adventurous and exotic journey yet.” Joanna Lumley 
This epic new four-part series is Joanna Lumley’s grandest and most challenging journey yet, a breath-taking odyssey from Venice to the Chinese border along the veins of the ancient Silk Road.
A perilous network of paths, the Silk Road shaped the modern world, bringing silk, printing, spices, gunpowder, and many other things, to the West. Joanna’s adventure will see her travel through a breath-taking array of fabulous landscapes as she crosses continents, deserts, mountains and steppe, boldly following in the footsteps of the merchants, conquerors, kings and pilgrims who once lived and died along this route.
Episode 3
In episode three, Joanna continues her adventure following the ancient Silk Road across the Islamic Republic of Iran, home to one of the oldest civilizations on earth. A land of incredible diversity and phenomenal beauty, Iran was once the thriving heart of the mighty Persian Empire, but nowadays it’s little visited by Westerners, and somewhat misunderstood.
Joanna’s Persian odyssey begins in Iran’s capital Tehran, home to 15 million people. Politically and socially, it is Iran’s cutting edge. Joanna goes headscarf shopping and visits the Golestan Palace, the opulent home of the Qajar dynasty who ruled Iran until the revolution of 1979. It’s a symbol of the power and sophistication of the Persian Empire that helped make this part of the world a Silk Road fulcrum. 
Taking the road south, Joanna travels to Kashan, an old Silk Road oasis where she visits the Fin Garden, one of Iran’s famed paradise gardens, and visits the home of a carpet weaver who still works by hand to create intricate designs, the type that would have travelled with Persian traders far beyond their empire.  
From the arid surroundings of Kashan, Joanna travels south again to Isfahan, the jewel of ancient Persia. At the centre of the city is Naqshe-e-Jahan - the biggest enclosed square in the world where Joanna discovers the palace, mosque and bazaar that surround it. As night falls, the square comes to life with hundreds of people picnicking and promenading. 
Things heat up as Joanna travels across the desert to the mud-brick Yazd, a five-hour drive south east of Isfahan, a place that Marco Polo noted as a ‘good and noble city’, which had a good strategic location on trade routes from India and central Asia. 
It’s so hot here that the Yazdis have developed ingenious methods for keeping cool using tall brick badgirs, or wind catchers. It’s also a centre of Zoroastrianism, an ancient religion that holds fire as sacred. It originated here in Persia and spread all along the Silk Road as far as China and India. Joanna visits the city’s Zoroastrian Temple of Fire, where it’s said the fire here has been burning solidly for 1,500 years, and the mysterious Towers of Silence on the edge of the city, where the Zoroastrians used to lay their dead out to be eaten by the birds, not wanting to contaminate the fire with a dead body. 
Joanna says: “Because Zoroastrians believe that fire was sacred, they wouldn’t contaminate the fire with a dead body. So, they are laid to rest up here, birds of the air come and eat them. Sky burial. Eaten by the birds.”
Next stop is Shiraz, the beating heart of Persian culture for more than 2,000 years. Joanna takes a stroll around the citadel, and recalls the time her grandparents spent in Shiraz in the 1920s. She visits the tomb of the poet Hafez, to watch a popular ritual in which people seek insight into their futures through his poems. With the help of English student Abbas Shahsafdari, Joanna consults the weighty volume to see what lies ahead.   
Joanna ends her journey in the ruined city of Persepolis, founded in 518BC by Darius the Great. Joanna wanders through the huge site, past fluted columns, and bas-reliefs of tribes from as far and wide as India, Russia, Armenia and Greece, bringing gifts of wine, cloth, ceramics and more to pay tribute to the Persian kings.
Joanna says of Iran: “I can’t tell you how pleased I am that I came here. I have to say, I did have doubts about it…I could not have been more wrong. It’s been completely extraordinary. Fantastically welcoming, so kind and so friendly. It’s just been a revelation.”
Produced by Burning Bright for ITV.