Yadz sits in the geographical centre of Iran and also in the middle of a desert, so we arrived and left by bus rather than bike -we’ve already had our desert fix in Turkmenistan. At 7am we wearily got off our overnight bus, put tandem back together and cycled the 10km into the old town.
We made a great decision by heading to a swanky hotel and getting a buffet breakfast for a reasonable price. By 10am we were full of various sausage, breads and jams.
We headed outside, it was hot! Our time in Yazd clearly would be spent chasing shadows to stay out of the sun.
Later that day we met our warm showers hosts Mohammed and Maboub with their wonderful little girl, Anita.
They were excellent hosts and we shared food and good conversation with them at mealtimes for the next two days. Instead of eating at a table, it’s more commen for Persian families to lay out a patterned waterproof sheet into their rug and eat on the floor.
Maboub was also a talented artist and musician.
Anita is 4 and charmed us from the minute we met her, here is her colouring-in versions of us:
I particularly liked my jester hat and Annie’s green skin.
Over our two days Anita painted all of Annie’s nails, styled my hair, helped fix a puncture, showed us some groovy Persian dancing and generally made everyone smile lots. In return Annie sang a song which made Anita very happy. 🙂
Yazd had lots to see. The old town is mud-brick built and has some ancient but extremely clever ways of dealing with the hot climate. Firstly most buildings have at least one badgir which is like a reverse chimney – it’s a tall tower that catches air from 4 sides and directs it down into the building to provide ventilation.
But this is surpassed by the water management system. Persian civilisations grew up in an area where there are no significant rivers, and cities have developed near mountains in order to get fresh water. To do this deep wells were dug up in the hills and underground passages, called Qanats, were dug to transport the water along a gentle slope down into towns and cities. Along the 60cm wide qanat new wells were dug every few hundred metres to check the direction, depth and provide ventilation.
The slope and direction of the qanat is critical so that the water arrives into the basement level of the town.
Once there the water serves underground collection points, Hamams, clothes washing areas and huge storage reservoirs called Ab Anbar. These egg shaped buildings are about 30m high (mostly underground), 15m wide and ventilated by 4 Badgirs.
Needless to say we thought the water museum was excellent! The Qanat system allowed civilization to flourish on the Iranian plateau and although metal pipe has taken over, a lot are still running and in use.
Just down the road from Mohammed’s house was the Zoroastrian fire temple or Ateshkadek and museum which we paid a visit to and was very interesting.
Zoroastrianism or Mazdism was the first monotheistic religion and was the main belief system in Persian until Islam arrived in the 7th century. Zarathustra was apparently born in 1768BC and was apposed to the superstitious belief of the time. He preached that there was a single omnipresent God called Ahura Mazda and there were opposing forces of light and dark in the world.
Zoroastrian’s worship of fire represents the light from Ahura Mazda and there is a burning flame in Yazd that has been alight since 470 AD! Interestingly it is believed that the 3 wise men from the Bible were Zoroastrian Magi (priests).
Today there are around 10,000 Zoroastrians in Yazd and around half a million worldwide. From speaking with Mohammed they seem to be well respected in the community. It was very interesting to learn about such an ancient faith and the fire temple was well worth a visit even if it looks a bit like the Olympic flame behind a big panel of glass…
On our last evening in Yazd we had another great dinner with Mohammed and then headed out to see the local club Zurkhaneh (House of Strength). This is a kind of body building/strongman ritual that was located inside an old water storage building. About 15 barrel chested men perform repetitive lifts/spins/push ups to the rhythm of a drumbeat and a man reciting parts of the Iranian epic Shahnameh and old Iranian poetry.
It was impressive for us tourists and at the same time it felt like a regular social occasion for the men. Some of their kids joined in and took a go at the ‘spnning around very fast’ manoeuvre and half way through an old master arrivedand was greeted by all with great respect. He even joined in lifting some weights.
After 2 days it was time to say goodbye to Yazd and we headed to the bus station to travel south towards Persepolis and Shiraz. As usual at the bus station a host of different people came to help us, get photos and swap phone numbers…we’ve given out our number to a lot of Iranians now and randomly gets texts asking how we are getting on! We’ve also got really good at jamming tandem + bags into the bottom of busses, so with little hassle we set off south.