There really are Zoroastrians, and other Yazd stories

Friday Mosque, YazdFirst thing this morning we visited the Friday mosque in the old city of Yazd. Since it was Friday, most stores are closed for the Moslem sabbath, but the mosques do a brisk business in worshipers. Our always entertaining guide,Soufi, pointed out the trulyMr. Soufi shows us the tiles amazing inlaid tile work on the facade as well as the more spiritual aspects of the mosque. His explanations of Islam’s deep connections to nature, and how the visual aspects of the mosque’s decoration describe that connection are critical to my understanding of this country. He is a remarkably interesting man, curious and full of energy.

From the mosque, where we spent the better part of 2 hours, we headed into the old city of Yazd. Some shopping was done by various members of the group. Most of what is for sale near the mosque is from India/Pakistan or China. We did stop at a textile shop where I bought two nice silk scarves, which the shop keeper said were made in Iran. You can always use another scarf! and they pack so well….

Lunch was in a converted hammam, or bath-house, below street level. It was lit by skylights and was all tiled in blue and white. The food was quite good, esp. the yogurt soup and the locally made ice cream, both rose water and cardamom-pistachio flavors, I preferred the cardamom. We then walked some more, looked at carpets, walked more and nearly melted from the heat. This is spring, but it’s summer to me! without a thermometer, but with an internal sense, I’d say it was close to 90degrees. I drank lots of water, but still it was way too hot in the sun.

Eventually we met up with our bus and drivers again, and headed off to the village of Taft, about a 25 min ride (just time for a short nap) where we were to see a ZoroastrianAhuramazda symbol Fire Temple and walk through a neighborhood of it’s adherents. We walked down an unpaved lane with the occasional smell of burning wood. At one gate, a tiny old lady let us in to the grounds of the Fire Temple.

Her grandaughters had met us and alerted her to our arrival and they stayed around watching and talking with us.Fire Temple care-taker and girls

The temple was a mass of incongruities. The building seemed to be a combination of 400+yr old stone steps and 50’s era aluminum door and window panels. The rooms are small, carpeted, and hung with photos of Zoroastrians around the world, but mostly from India. The Parsi sect, former Persians, are generally wealthy and support their co-religionists back in Yazd. In the middle of the building was an enclosed room with a metal stand in the center, about 4 ft tall. On the top was a round metal dish emitting a bit of smoke. It was explained to us that the fire is down under the ashes and that it has been burning for something like 1500 years.Our first Fire Temple

On Fridays, Zoroastrians make fires in several other spots in the area. Their actual beliefs and current practices are still mysterious to me, but it was fun to see the temple.

The little girls were wonderful, playful and curious. They were dressed in bright colors, with their heads covered with scarves, but not black. I gave them one of my postcards of San Francisco which seemed to please and excite them. When we left and walked back down the lane, the girls were following us for a way, and then, when the older one saw her father, invited us in. We couldn’t accept, but thanked her. In a few minutes when we were nearly at the bus, we heard the sound of a motorcycle and looked back. There was the father and all three of the girls, come to say good -by to us! It was really sweet.girls and dad

We made one more stop, at a famous Persian garden and to tour a house on the grounds that was cooled by a badgir, the Yazd special designed wind tower.This house, once owned by a provincial governor had elaborate gardens with a long pool, many divans for lounging and a huge garden of fruit trees and flowers. I immediately felt cooler in the lovely shade there.badgirs, Yazd

The interior of the house was designed to function with the garden as a total cooling system. The wall of the garden separate it from the hot street,the trees provide shade and humidity, and the water, usually running water, helps to cool the air. The badgir, a tall tower with internal vertical divisions inside, both draws in the hot air from outside and pulls cooler air through the house. The idea is that outside air comes down, is draw past a pool in a lower level of the house, then is pulled back up through the house cooling it off. I can say that it seemed to be working this afternoon!Inside the house, under the badgir

We returned to the lovely Garden Hotel, where dinner was eaten outside on a terrace overlooking the garden. I”m pretty tired from the hot sun, and I’m looking forward to a bit of reading time. Tomorrow we will drive to Shiraz, stopping at Pasargardae, the tomb of Cyrus the great, from about 600 BC. I”m pretty excited about that, and about Shiraz.

Relaxing after dinner in the garden


Published in: on April 25, 2008 at 4:57 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. (((Sheepish))) I have been guilty of lurking and not commenting. But please know I have been fully drawn into this vicarious experience!

    You are such a wonderful ambassador for us. 🙂 I appreciate you many truly wonderful descriptions. I can feel the heat and the dry climate and what a pleasant relief it must be to sit fountain-side in a lovely garden.

    I can see the vibrant colors of the children’s clothing and the many flowers you describe. I can smell the cardamom (and, yum, cardamom ice-cream, how interesting)and curried mix of spices you’ve been encountering. The grilled lamb, the freshly made bread/nan. I can hear the music you describe mixing with the sounds of the street. It’s all so interesting.

    You haven’t mentioned many little boys approaching you or your group. Is that just a coincidence or is there a different standard for young boys that would prevent them from being as friendly?

    I’m proud and relieved, actually, that you (and other Americans who humbly venture to Iran) are creating a difference. A positive memory held by a child lives on for generations.

    I would not be able to cope with such little sleep and so much to accomplish and be as gracious as you are. Wearing a head covering in that kind of heat sounds like a nightmare. I imagine you are having moments of air conditioning throughout the day? You see how my spoiledness has ruined me!?!

    Maybe as I age I will gain enough wisdom to get beyond my idiosyncrasies, fears and false sense of needs, enough, anyway, to have such adventures as you do. Thanks for providing some modeling here. 🙂



    p.s. Are you able to upload and post any of your pictures here? I would love to see some!

  2. I second that! Particularly the posting pictures stuff.

  3. Hi to all,

    I’ve enjoyed the posts but too wanted to see pictures. I’ve googled some of places that Karen mentions and found that especially informative. Karen’s words are great but a “picture says a —words ” is true. Love to all. – safe travels.
    Jan Schur

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