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Shiraz today comprises two distinct parts: an old city once tightly hemmed in by a defensive wall, now extended by the accretion of 24 PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY modern developments, chiefly on the south and west (fig. 101, p. 440). Within the old city, recently cut through by a number of wide modern avenues, lay the Jewish quarter of the "Mehalla", but this tends nowadays to be occupied only by poorer Jews. Less well endowed than Isfahan with splendid public buildings of the Middle Ages and later periods, Shiraz nevertheless has an impressive and very agreable impact on the visitor.

It is convenient to discuss the Alburz system as made up of two unequal portions: the Talish hills in the extreme west and north-west, and the main Alburz massifs in the centre and east. Fronting the entire range on the north is the narrow coastal plain of the Caspian, which is presently in process of slow building out by accretion of sediment brought down mainly by rivers. The Talish hills consist overall of a long, narrow hog's-back ridge running north-west and south-east, and rising to a maximum height of just over 10,000 ft.

With deeply entrenched and often turbulent rivers that produce steep-sided valleys, wild crags, pinnacles, and frequent gorges, this region affords distinctly less upland pasture than the Karun basin; whilst the cultivable parts are fewer, more scattered, and often sharply isolated as tiny terraces, benches, or valley flats hemmed in closely by towering heights and steep cliff faces. Remoteness and isolation are emphasized still more by the broken and intricate relief, and the area to some extent remains one of tribal strongholds, with clan leaders and a tradition of resistance to central government.

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