Published: March 18th 2009March 18th 2009
School kids after posing for a class photo
I needed to drain my thoughts to someone. The build up of information from 3 days in Shiraz was going to send my crazy. Enter Yazd the real western travellers hub. Nowhere else in Iran is the cities sites and hotels so congested. It also has Iran’s first true hostel. This place helped me put everything into perspective.
Yazd like some cities in the world, claims to be the ‘oldest living city on Earth.’ Continually inhabited for around 7000 years. Since Marco Polo days it has been known for its silks and fabrics. It is a brilliantly designed city. Perfect for its existence in the desert.
Intertwining narrow streets with mud brick houses. Basically the place looks dead just mud walls of faded brown and yellow hay. The only signs of life are the sounds from my footprints and the occasional motorbike buzzing past. (They come at a fair pace.)
I was staying in the dorm of a restored traditional house. The large storage room downstairs is perfectly suited for the varied weather. High ceilings mean in summer the heat can be contained and in winter one small heater warms up the room easily. The only problem was
this dirty black cat was in the room and for the whole night I had nightmares of this black cat climbing up to my shoulders and resting on me. A very restless night.
The hostel was near Jameh Mosque the mostly blue tiled entrance is one of the tallest in Iran with 48m high minarets. (Minarets are two tall towers popping up for a building at the top of the entrance.) Under lights it can be even more spectacular.
There is Alexander Prison which rumours to be where Alexander the Great had a dungeon. That is now a teahouse and it was here I spoke briefly to a family hoping in 3 months to move to Perth. They are travelling around Iran every few weeks to have one last look, in case they get accepted. I told them if they want quick money to work in the mines.
They took me to a restaurant where I got Dizzi a local lamb stew dish. This would be my first real meal in Iran. In town there isn’t too much accept walk around get lost in the streets (a local will help you get out if need be). Go
into a few houses that are open and climb up onto the roof. The rooves are dominated by Badgirs (Wind towers.) It’s an ancient system, which naturally air conditions by catching the slightest breeze and directs it down to the room. Ranging from 2-6, most have the standard 4 sides. It’s a fascinated architectural feat dispensing the hot air and keeping the cold air with flaps. I won’t go any further than that.
Since Yazd is in the desert, where do they get their water? Well that is from the Qanat. For around 2000 years they have been digging underground water canals to supply drinking water and to water crops. They find the sources 100m deep but higher than the eventual destination. Yazd is close to some mountains. It’s said that Iran has more than 50 000 qanats.
For the best aerial view of Yazd, Amir Chakhmaq is the place. A 3-storey façade that is tiled from virtually top to bottom with minarets at the top. This view is dominated by its modern city but to the right, looking at the main square the mud brick buildings with the badgirs sticking out is nice to see. On the
Towers of Silence
View of Yazd from the Dakhmeh-ye Zartoshtriyun
way down 2 girls talked to me. There English was not good but good enough. One was really attractive so I tried to invite myself to join them. I asked if there is anywhere where young people hang out? (Thinking that it could be like Shiraz) But Yazd is a more conservative city and teahouses are hard to find and there are no young person getaways.
The women on the streets wore more black and some women would cover their faces when I walked past. Towards sunset when I rejoined a few guys from the hostel we tried to find a place to smoke qalyan (shisha) but we were told it is not allowed here. Despite them selling the utensil in shops.
One of the real interesting religions is the Zoroastrian’s. This was the Iranian religion until the Arabs conquered them. It was one of the first to not have a symbol or icon for its God Ahura Mazda. To prey to him they prey to the direction of the light. Which is why there is a sacred eternal flame, which has been burning since AD 470.
They believe in the purity of the elements and refuse
to bury their dead as it pollutes the earth or cremate as it pollutes the air. Instead they are now buried at a cemetery 4.5km from town in graves lined with concrete to prevent the contamination of the earth.
Above that, near by, is where all previous believers would be past onto the next world. They would be taken to the Towers of Silence. Not used since the 1960’s the dead would be exposed for the vultures to release their souls. It is said that the Three Wise Men were Zoroastrian. The numbers however are dwindling with only around 550 000 in the world and 5500 in Iran. The towers are a good 5-10 minute walk up two hills. It provides an empty circular mud brick wall an empty inside and great views of Yazd the full city.
It is almost Iranian New year so many local tourists are travelling now. What that means for the westerner is an almost celebrity like atmosphere. It is like I have been in the wilderness after earning an Oscar nomination back in 2004 for my role in India. 5 years later I have come back with the critically acclaimed Iran and
the fans can’t get enough of me. I’ve been stopping for photos, people yelling out “Hello!” Shaking hands, “Where are you from?” One guy at a bus stop, stopped me and asks me “Hello” (shake hand) “Where are you from?” “What is your name?” “What is your email?” “Photo?” “Okay bye!” All this in a minute! This must be what celebrities have to put up with. But like being a celebrity, in Iran it’s part of the territory. If you don’t like it than get out. I suspect at the end of my trip in Iran I will be glad my time as a celebrity is over. One of the guys in the hostel was a Norwegian red head so that gave me a bit of a brake one day. If you are a red head than cover up, that’s alien like to these people.
I really enjoyed my time in Yazd and the Silk Road Hotel. I had pretty good company. At night because it was too cold so we’d sit around drinking tea telling stories. Apart from needing to pee half way through the night because of all the tea everything was brilliant at the hotel. So
good I even brought out the Helsinki Story, which has never been published. This is probably one of my greatest travelling stories, which very few people have had the privilege to hear. I think 3 days is enough here although I did stay 4. There are other day trips from here but for this Iran trip I am sticking to the cities mostly. Plus, Yazd is Iran’s ultimate mud brick destination.
Assumed Nationality - German, Italian, French, Told I look a lot like the guitarist from Metallica
Started to lose count of the rest.
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