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    Catching the wind in Yazd desert city, where the Zoroastrian fire still burns

    Yazd - Catching the wind in Yazd desert city, where the Zoroastrian fire still burns

    Overview:

    Sand and blue pastel hues, a clutter of low-rising sandstone buildings that during the dry summer give some break from the blazing heat that invades the city. “Be ready, Yazd is very conservative,” warned me my friend Madi when we were arriving on the bus from Isfahan. “I lived here for five years when I was in uni and all women were wearing the chador, the atmosphere was so heavy that I felt I had to wear it, too. But you will love it, streets are huge and empty, sand hues are predominant, a real photographer’s paradise.”

    With this in mind, we arrived in Yazd, the capital of its namesake province of central Iran. Or better, we were dropped sort of in the middle of the desert by the friendly owner of the coach we took from Isfahan bus station, where locals didn’t miss the occasion for making fun of us saying that that particular bus company is used to leaving passengers in the middle of nowhere, instead of the city center. It didn’t matter that like two infuriated bees we hurled all kinds of warnings at the owner, as anticipated, in fact, we were left in the middle of nowhere.

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    A forest of badgirs defining the skyline in Yazd

    We managed to grab the attention of one of the very few cab drivers passing by, likely the least loquacious in all of Yazd, who, after reassuring us that even though the trunk was left open and we were darting at full speed on an unforgivingly potholed road, our suitcases were totally safe. Needless to say, after such an adventurous ride, the driver, according to tradition, dropped us in the middle of nowhere. Granted, not far from our hotel, but still somewhere unfamiliar in the slightly-pink sand-hued labyrinth.

    If you come by bus like we did, you will quickly understand when you are approaching Yazd: the already seldom vegetation starts disappearing all together, a forest of wind catchers (badgirs) sketching the skyline.

    Yazd might have been a quiet, desolate place a couple of years ago, but right now it definitely is a bustling city with all sorts of vehicles racing back and forth the main roads, markets, shops and shopping malls open all day. Still processing the transformation, Madi kept muttering that modern urbanization had evolved too fast in Yazd, faster than other places she would have rather expected, merely giving older and younger generations the time to catch up and accustom themselves to their new reality.

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    Beautiful Amir Chakhmaq square, part of its namesake complex including a mosque and a bazaar

    This being said, yes, Yazd is indeed bustling, hectic and all that, but this doesn’t mean it has sacrificed its intimate identity and given up on the authenticity that has made it one fascinating must-see in Iran.

    It’s easy to get lost in central Fahadan district, a charming maze of narrow alleys lined with sand-hued traditional houses mainly built with mud bricks and dome roofs, embellished with quaint wooden doors featuring two types of knobs, one for female guests and one for men. The city center probably still looked like Madi remembered, quiet, untethered to time, motorbikes occasionally passing by, not many people walking around, especially during the hottest hours that even in May, when summer hasn’t stricken yet, can be pretty rough. As a matter of fact, the waves of modernity notwithstanding, here in Fahadan neighborhood the atmosphere has remained authentic, reeking of that ancestral identity that seems lost once out of this yesteryear district.

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    Amir Chakhmaq with its old Nakhl standing on the left used for Ashura festival

    But this is not the only place that shows how Yazd is still proud of its own culture and past.

    In Kashan Street lies the heart of Zoroastrian religion, the Fire Temple, Ateshkadeh, enshrining a fire that is said to have been burning for 1,500 years. Zoroastrianism, very much alive in Yazd, is the world’s oldest monotheistic religion (apparently containing also the features of a dualistic creed), founded by Prophet Zoroaster (otherwise known as Zarathustra) some 3,500 years ago and soon become the official religion of ancient Persia. While back in the day it was one of the world’s most powerful religions, one that inspired both Christianity and Islam, today Zoroastrianism is a minority cult in Iran, still practiced also in India under the name of Parsiism.

    According to Zoroastrians, very much respectful of the earth, the four elements are pure, and the fire represents God’s wisdom. This might well be why Yazd’s Fire Temple was the busiest place I visited when I was there last May. Sure there are many attractions and important monuments to see in the city, such as the Grand Mosque and its sophisticated decorations, the gorgeous Dolat Abad garden and the popular bazaar selling the handicraft Yazd is famous for, but none of them were as bustling.

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    Facade and garden of the Zoroastrian Fire Temple (Atashkadeh) in Yazd

    The more you visit Yazd, the more its architecture, art and handicraft will seduce you. Before me, another fellow Italian felt tempted by the city’s allure and textile production, Marco Polo who, in his book “The Travels of Marco Polo” (Il Milione, in Italian), describes Yazd in these terms:

    “It is a good and noble city, and has a great amount of trade. They weave there quantities of a certain silk tissue known as Yasdi, which merchants carry into many quarters to dispose of. When you leave this city to travel further, you ride for seven days over great plains, finding harbour to receive you at three places only.”

    In fact, I was so tempted that I didn’t resist and finally brought home some pieces of the famous Termeh, fine and gorgeous hand-woven fabrics made of silk and wool, almost to re-experience the legendary Silk Road, albeit with much more comfortable means of transportation than my Venetian predecessor.

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    Eye-catching wall decorations in Yazd city center

    Alongside the Zoroastrian sanctuary, sand and blue shades are easy to spot all over the city center through its buildings, handicraft markets, mosques and houses, creating a delicate contrast. Jameh Mosque is embellished with sophisticated decorations in all shades of blue, from a gentle turquoise to a saturated sapphire in an overall azur tone. A mesmerizing ensemble of symbols and geometric shapes adorns the walls of Yazd’s Grand Mosque, evoking the patterns also used on carpets. The local handicraft is displayed everywhere, from the local markets to private courtyards turned into shops, most of them offering the perk of a terrace from where to admire the unusual and suggestive skyline of this one-of-a-kind desert city.

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    Yazd blue handicraft displayed in a private courtyard alongside its overburdened owner.

    Among the monuments and historical buildings worth a visit are also its Jame Mosque and the beautiful Dolat Abad garden, for each of which I’ve linked to the related post.

    Below some more shots I took in lovely Yazd, as usual in the hope to inspire you to get there yourselves.

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    Beautiful building of Amir Chakhmaq Takiyya complex

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    A forest of badgirs defining Yazd skyline

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    Yazd skyline with the Grand Mosque standing out

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    A view of local badgirs

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    Mud walls in Yazd’s central Fahadan district

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    Winding alley in central Fahadan district

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    Handicraft from Yazd bazaar

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    Blue pottery on sale at a private courtyard in Yazd

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    Beautiful Termeh fabrics typical from Yazd, a fine hand-woven textile made of a mix of silk and wool. In Yazd you can find tablecloths, runners and all sorts of decoration.

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    Mausoleum of Seyyed Rokn Al-Din Mohammad, mystic and scientist of the 8th century, founder of the Rokni-ye school

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    A Nakhl, huge leaf-shaped wooden structure present near mosques in different desert cities in Iran festooned with precious fabrics, mirrors and swords for Ashura festival


    About Us

    The word Persia gives the image of a magical and mysterious land of far away and long ago, of ancient monuments and beautiful works of art – carpets, tiles, fine ceramics and miniatures. It also reminds us of legendary and tragic love stories and epic poems about great wars. And Persia is indeed a world ancient and contemporary, a bridge between heaven and earth. We want to show you around. Discover things to do on your next trip to Iran and plan a trip of your lifetime. Yes, it is that easy! This website gives you the tools to plan your trip to Iran: detailed information on destinations; inspiring ideas on what to see and do in each city; where to stay; where to eat; travel guides and let’s say everything you need so you can dream up a trip to Iran.

    Patrimonito

    This workshop is designed according to the UNESCO World Heritage Education Programme in order to give young people a chance to voice their concerns and to become involved in the protection of our common cultural and natural heritage. It seeks to encourage and enable tomorrow’s decision-makers to participate in heritage conservation and to respond to the continuing threats facing our World Heritage. The idea of involving young people in World Heritage preservation and promotion came as a response to Article 27 of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (World Heritage Convention). Furthermore, Patrimonito means 'small heritage' in Spanish and the character represents a young heritage guardian. Patrimonito has been widely adopted as the international mascot of the World Heritage Education Programme.
    Date: 29th December
    Number of trainees: 7
    Duration: 3 hours

    The workshop of "Patrimonito" was held on 29th of December. Participants arrived around 10:30 and they were welcomed by hot chocolate and Persian cup cakes. After a little introduction by trainers and trainees, the process started by making two groups and letting them choose a name for their group, each group was accompanied by a mentor then each group was given some images of world heritage sites in Iran and some descriptions, each group was asked to match images and descriptions, the mentor was guiding them throughout the activity. All trainees were participating actively and trying to remember their experiences about their travels to these places. When they were done with the activity, the mentors started giving the answers and a brief explanation about each site; mentors were using trainees’ ideas and experiences to complete their tasks.

    Shortly after that, the second part started which was a presentation done by two of mentors. The aim of this presentation was to define the value of these world heritage sites and duties of each person as a "Patrimonito", and what happens if there is no "Patrimonito" and nobody cares about our tangible or intangible heritage. In this part trainees started questioning and understanding the whole concept of being a "Patrimonito", they also added their own suggestions on how to protect our heritage and by the end of this part, they were completely aware about their role as a "Patrimonito".
    Now it was a best time to have a short break, during the break trainees were introduced to some of intangible heritages as they were served by traditional food and snacks and even they way of serving was according to traditions and everyone had this opportunity to discuss about intangible heritage while enjoying some traditional food and snacks.
    When the break was done, everyone was asked to choose a heritage either tangible or intangible and they had to introduce their chosen heritage to a tourist by making a postcard using what they have learnt. They were given all of necessary tools such as color papers, color pencils, glue, scissors, images of heritage and a mentor was with them in order to help them completing the task.

    When they were done, they handed out their postcards and with the mentors they sat together and spent a few minutes asking and answering about what they have learnt. Then they were told to say their vows for protecting their heritage and caring about it, the mentor said the vow and the trainees repeated after her and they officially became a "Patrimonito".

    The last but the best part was when they were given the certificates, and they were told that since they are aware of the value of the heritage and they know how to protect it, they are chosen as "Patrimonito" and they should continue their mission by introducing the value of heritage to others. They were granted certificates and labels and the workshop of "Patrimonito" was finished by taking some memorial photos.