Central Iran

December 2019

Iran is a quite big country therefore you need to cover long distances even more than 1000km at times. When you are in the middle of nowhere and not close to main transport hubs, travelling can be little tough. It is sometimes impossible to find people who speaks English or to search for bus or train tickets because of the websites that are just in Farsi. Nevertheless somehow I found some people who helped me out. By this way I could be able to catch a night bus passing through a remote highway in Gonabad. Since the area is close to the border of Afghanistan, the diversity in the crowded bus was rich by the groups of Afghanistanis. People sleeping on the corridor floor of the bus reminded me of the crowdedness of India. After 650km I arrived at Yazd at an early morning.
I always stayed at homes of lovely people in Iran but this time I gave myself a gift and chose a cosy hostel in the old city. Because of my magical but intensive experiences in Khorasan in the last two weeks, I was feeling so tired. I took a day off and stayed at the hostel all day long, having a long bath, washing my clothes, cooking some food I missed to eat, sleeping, resting in tranquility. Next day I was ready to start my explorations.

Yazd is an almost 5000 year old city of desert and is one of the most ancient settlements on earth according to Unesco. It is located in the central plateau of Iran between Kavir and Lut desert.

It is a city that is famous for its unique architecture. It has one of the most traditional architectural styles of Iran which is formed in accordance with its climate. The designs take shape due to the harsh living situation of the desert. It is said that Yazd is the first adobe city of the world. The adobes are good isolators for heat and cold.
There are many characteristics of old desert architecture of Yazd. Like sabats (sunshades), badgirs (wind towers) and qanats (underground aqueducts)

Sabats meaning the sunshades (above) are built over alleys to shelter passangers from the hot sun light, keep them warmer in winters and save them against seasonal winds. And also they make the adjacent walls stronger. The regular intervals produce a beautiful scene of shade and light.

Badgirs meaning windtowers or ventilation shafts (above) are ancient systems of natural air conditioning and are designed to catch the breeze and direct it to the rooms below.

Since central plateau has hot and arid deserts and limited precipitation, the inhabitants have found methods (dating back to 500 BC) to compensate this shortage. By some genius techniques and incredible labour they carried the water from the water resources or the mountains into the heart of the desert. (sometimes 70km!) Some old and historical underground aqueducts (qanats) are still present.

The other significant feature of Yazd is its alleys. Wandering around and getting lost in the labyrinth like alleys is a part of the unique experience of this beautiful old city.

Narrow alleys cross each other in many junctions. It was such a delight to walk in these soft earth coloured alleys in the day time. I so much enjoyed to get lost in the desolate lanes at nights as well.

Jameh Mosque (above) is located in the center of the old city. It is notable for its tall minarets and exquisite mosaics and tiles that are masterpieces of calligraphy and complex patterns. Its dome is visible from almost everywhere which helps you to find your way to the center of the old city (below). I really liked the contrast of turqoise coloured tiles on the earth coloured plain facades.

Amir Chakhmaq Mosque (below); is another architectural highlight of Yazd. It opens to the main and biggest square in the old city.

Dowlat Abad Garden (below) is a historical large green area (consisting many different types of trees especially pomegranates) that is surprisingly located in the middle of the desert. 270 years old complex includes the residence of Khan and his government and officials. You can see Iran’s tallest 33m badgir (wind catcher) here. As common in many historical buildings the ceiling in the center of the interior is magnificent with its geometric shapes (below).

Inside the residence, there are many frames of colourful stained glasses with different floral patterns (below). The sunlight that filter in through the windows produce a changing interplay of many colours. I enjoyed sitting there peacefully in between the colourful reflections.

In Pre-islamic times we see first Mithraism then Zoroastrianism as the ancient religions. 10% of Yazd’s population follow Zoroastrianism. That’s why in the area we see some temples and places of this belief. Fire Temple (Ateshkadeh) seen below is one of them that shelters a flame which never extinguished for the last 1600 years. Fire is holy to Zoroastrians and it is the supreme symbol of purity. Faravahar is the ancient symbol of the Zoroastrian faith (below).

Tower of Silence (below) is one of the most important Zoroastrian burial place in the region. Ancient Zoroastrians were putting the dead body on a mount to be defleshed by raptors. Then they were gathering the remaining bones in a well in the middle of the tower. Zoroastrians have followed the tradition until a couple of decades ago.

There are two towers on top of two hills facing each other. The buildings down the hills are places for family and relatives to perform their religious rituals and to rest and stay. I learned that Zoroastrians believe that death is not the end of life, rather it is the beginning of an ongoing happiness. With my prayers I showed my respect to all the people who are resting at peace here.

Sitting at the top of the hill at Tower of Silence, I watched the impressive view of the mountains lining up in the south of the city. The feeling of the wind here, on top of the hill was breathtaking. Inevitably I contemplated on the impermenance nature of all phenomena. I realized how differently I relate to death now, how the fear and suffering on this matter was vanishing gradually. I was now more conscious of the eternity of the real Self.

Coming back to the old city. . As in every old city in Iran, Yazd has a remarkable bazaar. In the afternoon for couple of hours all the shops are closed for a break. After they are opened again, they don’t close their shutters till the night. The street life in Iran especially in the bazaars lasts long. This time I chose to explore the bazaar in the calm periods of the afternoon.

Yazd was a center of commerce on old Silk Road and it was famous for silk, carpet and textile production. Therefore you see many different products of traditional craftsmanship all around the old city. The tileworks, the potteries, carpets are so colourful indeed.

In Yazd you see quite attractive examples of wooden doors. They are decorated with many doornails and have two knockers in different shapes. One in form of a ring is for women and the other hammer like one is for men. The first has a higher and the latter has a lower pitch.

There are many nice and cosy cafes in Yazd, mostly at the rooftops. I enjoyed hearing the traditional Iranian music in these places. Even the youngsters enjoy listening to them, they commonly know the lyrics of old songs. They sing them, they contemplate and talk about the meanings of the lyrics. I really liked this.

You catch the best views of old Yazd always over the rooftops. While many pigeons are flying above, the colours in the sky look amazing at the sunset.
Exploring Yazd was a delightful experience that it got its place in my list of points that I would love to visit again. I enjoyed each and every day I spent here. It was a visual feast indeed.

The Author