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A Weekend Trip to Yazd


By Syma Sayyah & Paul Sanford, Tehran



For many years I have been ashamed to admit that I had never been to Yazd, which is the second most ancient city in the world, and since last year we have made several plans to go there but something always happened, so this time I was adamant that we should go and see this old city which is also the center of Zoroastrianism.


Last month with a few friends, despite the very busy schedule that we all have, we decided to go there for the weekend by car and to come back by plane.  Like many things in life all did not go as planned.



On the Tuesday evening we had had a big gathering at home and by the time that our 50 odd guests had left and we had cleaned up the house and put it in some sort of order, it was 2 in the morning, but we were up at 6.30 and ready to go.  We met up with our friend Abolfazl, who is a famous film director originally from Yazd.  His film 'The End of the Earth' has won many awards.  Abolfazl who had invited us to his family home in Yazd was also taking the trouble of driving us there and at the same time show us the road and places on our way.  We also learned that he is a very cool and good driver.  Eventually we left about 8.30 - the famous Tehran traffic was bad but could have been worse.  The road to Yazd is mostly expressway and we could see the mountains from afar.



As we were driving past Qom we heard on the car radio that Barack Obama had won the election and we all screamed with joy and took this as a great positive sign.  We were even more delighted when we saw the number of votes that he had got. I remembered again Leonard Cohen singing how 'America is the place of best and the worst' and for the first time in many years I thought about traveling to the USA to see family and friends as I felt that at last change is coming.


We stopped for lunch at Nain and had time to visit this almost deserted city.  Believe it or not, as soon as we got to Yazd Province, it started to rain and as much as people in that area were happy to see rain we were not - we wanted some of the famous Yazd sun to take better pictures.



In Nain we saw the Kavir Museum which was in the house of the late Mr Mohammad Karim Pirnia who was an architect and an architectural historian from Naeen.  We entered the house and saw the cabinets with old spoons, keys, oil pots, old deeds, plates and many pots of different sizes and shapes. The garden was in serious need of attention and at least in my opinion old is different from dusty.  (But I fell in love with a cat with honey color eyes!)



In the museum we met Mr Jamal Tavakoli; a weaver who was making an original abba which is made from camel hair. This is a long and tedious process as from 10 kilos of natural camel hair only 2 kilos suitable for weaving may be obtained, and he told us that from beginning to end it takes 5-6 months.  He learned the trade from his father and his grandfather but doubts that this profession will be carried out for much longer.  The Jameh Mosque is one of the oldest mosques in the country.  We went down to the cellar and saw the chehel (forties), a series of underground cells where people would go to meditate for 40 days in the dark.



We had lunch at the Nain Mehmansarah (motel/inn) and in the rain headed for Mayboud.  When we got there it was almost dark but we stopped for a rest and to have some tea and headed on to Yazd where we arrived at about 8pm.  We got to Abolfazl's home and met his family.  His mother was a very beautiful lady and his dad most elegant and smart looking man. We also met his younger brother Ali and also his 10 year old youngest brother (I called him Tarzan) who despite his small figure was the most energetic young lad I have come across for a long time.  He knew a lot about football (Iranian and international) and was watching a match on TV when we got there.  He is a great fan of Chelsea football club. If this is not globalization then I do not know what is!



After a great dinner and a long sleep we had a good breakfast and headed to the bazaar. What most intrigued me there was how many of the shop keepers were actually makers and producers of their own goods.  In some cases there were some workers who helped out too but the owners also knew how to make and repair the goods, for example metal workers were making and selling all kinds of kitchen equipment and tools.  We were so impressed when we came across a violin maker and his shop was most meticulously clean and tidy. We went to shops that at least I thought the business is out of circulation and overall we were happy and amazed walking these ancient streets and passages and meeting these hard working men.  We saw a few ladies but not that many were running businesses, this was for the men.



Yazd is surrounded by mountains on three sides and its most well known peak is Shir Kouh (Lion Mountain).  It is also one of the driest cities in Iran and it is usually very hot during the day and quite cold at night - a very typical desert climate.  Yazd has many mosques and the most famous is the Mashed-e Jame'.  The architecture of this city is unique, simple, practical and distinguished with important features such as subterranean water channels (Ghanats) and Wind catching towers (Badgirs).  Deserted alleyways lead from street to street, and solid wooden doors keep the privacy of the houses.  Yazd  is also known for its woven cloth (Termeh), silk carpets and these days there is also a big fiber optic factory.  Last but not least Yazd is famous the world over for its sweets and confectionary, and there is a bustling shop by the Amir Chakhmaq complex where we got lots to take home as gifts.



On the next day, we went to the Towers of Silence (dakhma) , where the Zoroastrians used to dispose of their dead by taking them to the top of the towers and leaving the vultures to do the rest.  The towers were not very silent when we visited as dozens of motor bikers were using them to practice scrambling.  We also went to see the Atashkade, where a Zoroastrian flame has been burning, some say since 470 AD.



Unfortunately we had to cut short our visit to Yazd as we received word that someone in the family had passed away.  Although we tried to change our air tickets, unfortunately the flights were full, and we had to go back by car, which was uneventful apart from a puncture in the rain!


We have a few photographs for you from our trip. You can find more information about Yazd on the following sites:  Persian  English

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