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After crashing out for a few hours at the hotel right next to the dominating Amir Chakhmaq mosque, I woke to find the Polish guy had come to the same joint. Jack from Warsaw was an IT student who was having to move even faster than me, he had only a breakneck 10 days in Iran, flying in and out of Tehran. I was set for a wander round the old city and so with Jack now in tow I climbed up the Amir Chakhmaq for some panoramic views of the city and its unusual architecture, before disappearing into the mud lined alleyways of ancient Yazd. It was the most overtly touristy place I had encountered so far in all of Iran, unexpected for a small city in the middle of the desert, it proferred carpet shops and souvenir stalls, postcards and signs in English. First though the 14th Century Jameh Mosque held our full attention with its grand entrance portal topped with a pair of very slender, elegant minarets distinctive of Yazd. In the alleyways I found what I knew to be another quirk of Yazd, doors with twin knockers (oo-er!), one for men and one for women. Yup, there was even sex segragation for answering the door. The heavier, typically boot shaped knocker made a harder sound than the round ring often ascribed to women, and from the tone one could deduce whether the man or woman of the house should answer. Archways also periodically traversed the alleys either side of the doorways, from which a carpet could be hung as a sunscreen. It was easy to get lost in the rabbits warren of passageways, which was all part of the fun of course, you never quite knew what to expect around the next corner. One of the main distinctive features of the Yazd skyline was the preponderance of Badgirs (windtowers), rooftop vertical columns designed to catch the slightest whiff of a breeze and channel it downwards into the living quarters. A kind of medieval air-con which was obviously still effective to this day. You often found that these were sited over internal pools to add to the refreshment. We eventually stumbled upon a brace of neighbouring domed edifices, similar but of differing origin, one of them being the 11th Century Tomb of the Twelve Imams, perhaps the oldest building in Yazd. None of the Imams are actually buried there, it serves merely as a memorial, and though once doubtless very ornate inside it lies empty, any decoration now lost to time. Very similar in design but with an added courtyard, the adjacent box shaped Alexander's Prison has its dome supported on an octagonal base with more subtle geometric ornamentation than most of its ostentatious blue tiled contemporaries. The building itself is actually a 14th Century construction, and though internationally revered since antiquity and referred to by Hafez the national poet, all that probably remains of Big Ecks prison is the very deep well in the yard, where Persian princes once festered in captivity. After treating Jack to a chelo kebab lunch, it was at his behest that I negotiated a taxi for the 9Ks out of town to the Towers of Silence. One of Yazd's most renowned sites, it was a centre for the locally grown Zoroastrian order, who brought their dead here to be disposed of in the ritual manner. An ancient complex of rooms, stables, a lavatory and fire temple sitting starkly in the desert reminded me of a caravaneserai with its style and setting, backed by two craggy peaks. On the summit of each hill had been built open air roundtowers, where the dead were brought to have their bones picked clean of the flesh by friendly neighbourhood vultures. The tradition is that overseeing priests would take note of which eye the scavengers first picked out, an interesting way to while away your day. If they took the right one then you were on your way to heaven, the left and you were stuffed. It was in the leaving here that we bumped into Ruben and Maria, a Spanish couple who had popped down from Tehran for a few days. Ruben worked at the Spanish Embassy and spirited Maria had come out to visit him, we agreed to meet up together the next day to share more of the sights of Yazd.

Posted by andyhay 00:00 Archived in Iran

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