Soaring above the old city, this magnificent building is graced with a tiled entrance portal (one of the tallest in Iran), flanked by two 48m-high minarets and adorned with inscriptions from the 15th century. The exquisite mosaics on the dome and mihrab, and the tiles above the main western entrance to the courtyard are masterpieces of calligraphy, evoking sacred names in infinitely complex patterns.
Built for Sayyed Roknaddin in the 15th century, the mosque is built on 12th-century foundations over a former fire temple and with access to the Zarch Qanat (a stairwell leads down to part of this ancient water channel but is closed to the public).
The Jameh Mosque is particularly notable for the prevalence of faience – a form of tiling that, like mosaic, is formed of different coloured pieces that are sandwiched together to create the design. These predate later uniform tiling, which feature painted designs. The gardoneh mehr(swastika symbol) used on some tiles symbolises infinity, timelessness, birth and death, and can be found on Iranian buildings dating back as early as 5000 BC.
This is one sight where having a guide (and ideally a rudimentary knowledge of Arabic script) can transform the experience of a visit as it is impossible to guess at the calligraphic conundrums involved in the design without expert interpretation.
The most revered object in the small museum, which is only open in the mornings, is a piece of hand-loomed cloth that once adorned the Kabbah in Mecca.
The cavernous ab anbar (water reservoir), built around 1580, resembles a 29m-high standing egg from the inside. Crowned with five burly badgirs, this impressive piece of architecture stored water for much of the city until modern irrigation made it redundant. The building has found a new purpose as a zurkhaneh (house of strength) in which javan mard (gentlemen) exercise using heavy wooden clubs to build muscle. The practitioners of this ancient sport are expected to display chivalrous values and embrace high integrity.
Visitors are permitted to sit around the central exercise area (shoes should be removed) and watch the exercise sessions. These are accompanied by rhythmic drumming that helps the whirling individuals to reach almost religious heights of concentration.
This 150-year-old building is one of the best-preserved Qajar-era houses in Yazd. The badgirs, traditional doors, stained-glass windows, elegant archways and alcoves distinguish it as one of the city’s grandest homes. It is worth noting the particularly delicate white-and-cream plaster work, traced with slivers of mirror, that decorate the courtyard iwans. The merchant family who built the mansion have long gone, and it’s now home to a set of archives. It’s signposted west of Zaiee Sq.
The son of the owner of this house had a penchant for Western women and the walls and ceiling of one of the rooms is dedicated to their demure (and not so demure) portraits. Another interesting feature of the house is the sitting platform with all four legs in the water to avoid the harassment of scorpions – a reminder that the desert is only just kept at bay in this desert city.
The stunning three-storey facade of this Hosseinieh is one of the largest such structures in Iran. The rows of perfectly proportioned sunken alcoves are at their best and most photogenic in late afternoon, when the copper-coloured sunlight is captured within each alcove and the towering exterior appears to glow against the darkening sky. New two-storey arcades hem the pedestrianised square and illuminated fountains lend an attractive foreground to the splendid vista at night. Only the 1st floor of the structure is accessible.
A huge wooden palm nakhl (cypress tree-shaped wooden structure) is parked under the Amir Chakhmaq. An important centrepiece for the observance of Shiite Ashura commemorations, this nakhl is over 200 years old and is no longer moved. During Ashura, it is draped in a black cover for a day or two around the celebrations to represent the coffin of Imam Hossein. Illusions to cypress trees, and by association the nakhl(which in fact means date palm), predate Islam and signify immortality, resistance and freedom – qualities that have come also to be associated with the Shiite imam, Imam Hossein.
Underneath the complex is a bazaar where kababis specialise in jigar(grilled liver).
With its numerous badgirs (windtowers) rising above a labyrinth of adobe roofs, the historic old city of Yazd is one of the oldest towns on earth. Listed as a Unesco World Heritage site, it encompasses thousands of ancient dwellings, screened from the narrow kuches (lanes) by imposing mud walls. For the visitor, the old city offers a treasure trove of hidden courtyards and teahouses, shops selling crafts and houses converted into atmospheric hotels. Altogether, it is one of Iran’s don’t miss sights.
Yazd is famous for its qanats (underground aqueducts) and this museum, one of the best of its kind, is devoted to the brave men who built them. Located in a restored mansion with a visible qanat running underneath, the museum offers, through a series of photographs, exhibits and architectural drawings, a fascinating glimpse into the hidden world of waterways that have allowed life to flourish in the desert.
The uniform of the qanat builders shows an early form of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), with padded cotton hats and white-coloured clothing that was both luminous in the dark and would act as a shroud in the event of a fatal accident.
The museum, which charts the 2000 years that Iran’s unique irrigation system has been in operation, describes the drilling of mother wells (which can reach a depth of 300m, such as the qanat near Mashad) and the use of water distribution clocks. These clocks (basically a bowl with a hole in the bottom) helped to mark out the 15- or 20-minute shares of water purchasable by householder or farmer.
Qanats run through many of the wealthy old houses in Yazd, collecting in pools in basements known as sardob. As the coolest part of the house, these rooms were often beautifully decorated and several fine examples exist in Yazd’s old traditional hotels today. The qanats (there are many running through each town) are the reason why the wealthiest districts are always closest to the mountains – to be closest to the freshest water.
This elegant 20th-century mansion, dating from the 1940s, was confiscated after the 1978 revolution and has been converted into a quirky and fun museum celebrating the wonder of reflection. Some fine examples of mirrors and lamps are on display, and a photo booth, featuring opposing mirrors, provides for the ultimate selfie. Despite its name, the museum’s highlight is neither mirror nor lamp but a superb piece of plaster work in the shape of a curtain. It took the 46-year-old master craftsman four years to complete.
Other treasures in the museum include a collection of matches from around the world, old lamps appropriate to a city dedicated to light, and some ancient artefacts recovered from smugglers.
Abandoned in the 1960s, these evocative Zoroastrian Towers of Silence are set on two lonely, barren hilltops on the southern outskirts of Yazd. Several buildings used for the ceremonial preparation of bodies dot the site, while the modern Zoroastrian cemetery is nearby. An elderly man at the entrance is often on hand to pose for a photograph: he is the last remaining porter of bodies, whose responsibility it once was to transport the deceased up the steep path to their final resting place.
The easiest way to reach the towers from central Yazd is by taxi dar bast(one way/return with waiting time IR100,000/350,000). It takes around 45 minutes to climb to the top of the towers and back.
Often referred to as the Zoroastrian Fire Temple, this elegant neoclassical building, reflected in an oval pool in the garden courtyard, houses a flame that is said to have been burning since about AD 470. Visible through a window from the entrance hall, the flame was transferred to Ardakan in 1174, to Yazd in 1474 and to its present site in 1940. It is cherished (not worshipped) by the followers of the Zoroastrian faith – the oldest of the world’s monotheistic religions.
With wings outstretched to represent good thoughts, good words and good deeds, the Fravahar symbol graces the entrance of the building. The downward-pointing tail feathers symbolise bad thoughts, words and deeds while the large ring suggests the dualism of good and evil. The bearded man, representative of aged wisdom, holds a smaller ring signifying loyalty.
The museum houses a few relics and, of more interest, a set of informative panels explaining some of the principles and customs of the Zoroastrian religion, which dates back some 5000 years. There are about 4000 Zoroastrians living in Yazd, one of the largest such concentrations in Iran.
Within 30 minutes (15km) drive of Yazd city centre, this belt of rippling sand dunes is a popular spot to watch the sun set across the desert landscape. As the colours of the pink-hued mountains beyond intensify with the last of the sun’s rays, the shadows of the dunes are thrown into sharp relief, making for the perfect photo opportunity. While a taxi may be persuaded to the edge of the sands, it is better to take a licensed driver-guide who can navigate the soft terrain.
The temperature drops quickly after sunset, especially in winter when it can be bitter cold. If coming by taxi, it’s essential to ask the driver to wait as this is an isolated spot after dark.
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Persiansurfing as full-service travel holding located in Isfahan, Iran, offering a variety of travel packages and services. Our team consists of a group of young Iranians, who have educated in tourism as well as tourism management . We are aiming to present Iran in a different light and promote the country’s rich culture heritage and architecture to the world.
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