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Published: October 23rd 2014
Before really planning this trip I had never heard of Yazd. After researching I learn that it is;
• One of the oldest cities in the world - over 3000 yrs old
• A major centre for the Zoroastrian religion
• Architecturally important for its Qanats (network of shafts and sloping tunnels to supply water)
• The driest city in Iran
• The hottest province north of the Persian Gulf
• Has a population of around 423 000 people (plus a lot of cats, maybe 200 000?).
According to Lonely Planet, "With its winding lanes, forest of badgirs (wind towers, not furry black and white, short legged omnivores), mud brick old town (where my hotel is centrally located) and excellent range of accommodation options, Yazd is one of the highlights of any trip to Iran.... This is a place to wander and get lost in the maze of historic streets and lanes". After spending the day here I would have to agree. It is a magical place. The alley ways are photographic gold. Did I wander? Absolutely. Did I get lost? Actually, no... That happens tomorrow.
The day began as usual with a good Persian breakfast but with the addition of yoghurt
and cherry jam- excellent mixed together, and lots of wasps (they like the cherry jam too). At breakfast a German father (Kurt, 78) and son (Oliver, 44) offered me some of their coffee- they had overheard me last night asking (read- pleading) if I could get coffee at the hotel- I had made the naive assumption that the Coffee Shop Menu at the hotel meant it sold coffee- ahh, no, it sells tea, juice, water, non-alcohol beer, soft drinks, drinking yoghurt... You name it, but no coffee. Based on this random act of niceness we agreed it would also be a good idea to spend the day together.
We headed off, as in, I followed Oliver as he looked for a millisecond at the map and instantly committed to his brain the direction we were to go, to the Masjed-e Jameh (James Mosque). Another awesome mosque- free, incredible entrance, incredible mosaics, very tall minarets (48m). Built in the 12th century, it is still a fully working mosque. We stay more than an hour, I sit barefoot on the carpet, back against one of the turquoise tiled walls, watching. Fascinating. I am very, very glad that I am travelling independently-
the group tours are shuttled through with military precision, barely spending 20 minutes.
From here we catch a cab (100 000IRR shared) just out of town to the Zoroastrian Towers of Silence. The towers were used up until the 60's for sky burials- like those I first heard about in Nepal. Apparently the bodies were taken up to the inner courtyard of the towers and left for the vultures to dispose of. I'm not sure whether one tower is more significant than the other or if they were used differently to each other. Anyone have any ideas? So, we eventually get there at 1140 to find that it closes at 1200 but we go in anyway. Admission is 50 000 IRR. It's 2 huge towers on 2 huge hills which are a walk in the park after my mountains! Sweeping views of the city, it's super windy creating a head scarf hazard. After 12 we seem to be the only ones around, the ticket people have locked up and gone for lunch so my head scarf slippage isn't such a big deal. There are other small disused buildings and badgirs, all graffitied. It's a huge windy dustbowl but a
definite must visit.
From here we climb over a broken down wall to get out and find a taxi to go to another significant Zoroastrian site- Ateshkadeh, aka The Fire Temple. There is a fire here that has been continuously burning since 470 AD, it has been in this particular temple since it was built in 1940. Unfortunately for us it was closed due to the Haji Festival. Nevermind, next time. http://english.irib.ir/radioculture/iran/history/item/171122-yazd-fire-temple
Go in search of the Laleh Teahouse as it sounds very
good in the LP and is close by. Oliver nearly gets us there but his directional sense is fatigued or hungry and a local guy who finds us wandering aimlessly in the backstreets offers us a lift there. We say, "no, its OK". He insists. We jump in the car. The place is nothing like its description but it does have the famous Yazd sweets on offer as well as tea. That's what I order, the Germans order up a huge meal. I really enjoy the sweets- Almond Luz, Coconut Luz, Baghlava and Ghottab- all sweet, fragrant, sticky and delicious, and all washed down with about 5 cups of tea (it's also very cheap-
my bill is under $3). Meanwhile Kurt falls asleep sitting up at the table, he sleeps for about 15 minutes. After that Oliver asks if I'm in a hurry, he's going to go take a quick nap on the verandah outside- hmm, OK. And he does... for 20 minutes!
The Germans, now well rested, are happy to wander the alley ways. Me too. We spend the next 2 hours wandering through the old town which is full of doors, windows, door knockers, kids, playgrounds, cats, motorbikes, the occasional traditional teashop, lots of tiles and lots of cool colours and angles. Eventually we find ourselves in the Amir Chakhmaq Complex - a stunning 9th century, predominately turquoise, tiled mosque with a bazaar underneath. Also photographic heaven; there are abandoned shops, interesting alcoves, kebab shops, a kid sharpening kebab skewers and a guy threading liver onto the skewers just to name a handful of wonderful curiosities. Apparently liver skewers are a local specialty- think I'll stick to the sweets.
Back on the street we end up at an ice cream shop (surprise, surprise) where I can't resist another carrot and ice cream float. Oliver gets a smoothie and Kurt has
another sleep. We decide to go back to the James Mosque as apparently it's on the way back to the hotel (really?- I wouldn't have had a clue). Spend another hour and a half here. Although the prayer service begins while we're here we are allowed to sit outside the main hall to watch and listen.
Sitting outside, a young guy called Abolfazi spots me. He had asked me to make a sign in English for him earlier- a watch had been found and they thought it might belong to a tourist. Anyway, turns out Abolfazi is a student at the Yazd University and works there a few afternoons a week, and in return for my sign making prowess, he would be very happy to tell me about the history of the mosque, how different sections were used seasonally and about the qanats that run for 90km under the mosque. He had lots of photos of different excavations and sections of the mosque- interesting. We also had a conversation with an Iranian girl from Esfahan who was in Yazd sketching. It was very pleasant- a nice temperature, slight breeze, the minarets were illuminated....really nice.
Finally got back to
Love these tiles
to the Kohan about 7:45. Very good day, good company, a nice meal in the courtyard. Bed at 10:30- my turn to sleep.
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