Henna grinding is a 700-year-old profession still practiced in traditional bazaar of the city. Many old professions had been long forlorn, but the profession now supplying the best and popular henna to Iran and Persian Gulf countries is still alive in the dark, dim-lit cells of the bazaar, where the mazars (which means ‘to move wheel’ in local dialect) prefer their traditional means of the job.
A street in Yazd hosts the traditional industry, and every tourist would find the street easily to buy the city’s souvenir.
The local traders introduced henna to India, Pakistan and Persian Gulf countries. This brought a boom to local henna grinding industry as one of the main professions, and with it, Yazd henna found fame in these countries. Henna leaves were introduced to Yazd to be ground; however, the processing and packaging of henna made Yazd famous globally. In the course of their travels, the same traders introduced unground spices such as pepper, cinnamon, and ginger, adding to the ground items by mazars.
Through centuries, Yazd mazars still prefer their old style of henna grinding using a traditional millstone, which ground henna leaves and was derived by donkey. The millstone was carved in a workshop near Mehriz hills. “Mazari” comes from the word “maz”, meaning wheel. It is the old name for spice and henna grinding workshops and the like in the dry climate of cities alongside the desert. In a green workshop, one can see a mazari grinding stone measuring three meters in width on a 4cm high platform. A wooden lever is the fulcrum that turns the stone. Although electricity is used to do the job these days, in the old days, horses, camels, and cow were used to turn the wheel.
Apart from the massive stone turning in the center of the mazari in the main space of the workshop, the interior architecture comprises four rooms in the four corners as storage places for the whole, half-ground, and sieved henna leaves. One of the rooms is used to store the ground henna, bagged and stamped.
The green henna powder is produced from the leaves of a shrub, which grows for 2-3 meters, native to Mediterranean, middle-eastern, Asia Minor, North Asian, and eastern African countries. The best areas in Iran to grow the shrub are Baluchistan in the east and Kerman in the center. Moreover, henna is one of the oldest coloring powders in the world and was used to draw on cave walls in the Second Stone Age. However, its most uses were in cosmetics. It is still popular among people for its healing and cosmetic uses. In the distant past and the Middle Ages, Iranian and Arab physicians prescribed it for burns, mouth ulcers, abscesses, and bladder swelling.
These days, the leaves of the henna shrubs are brought to Yazd from other provinces of Iran to be ground and bagged in white.
However, the profession now has been gradually changed to milling other species, which has now limited to a small cell in the mill entrance. The majority of lovers of henna come from Persian Gulf Arab states; some buy it for Hajj; some others buy henna to sell in their home country. Yazd exports the larger part of henna packaged to neighboring countries and Sistan and Baluchistan, Kerman and southern Khorasan are also frequent destinations.
The street of the mazari in the old fabric of the city has been registered as a national heritage site.