Monday, December 5, 2022

Yazd, Iran

The historical city of Yazd is located in the middle of Iran and is a perfect example of how it has adapted to its desert surroundings by the use of limited resources for survival. It is actually the first city in Iran to be listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site and is definitely worth a visit. I was in the city for a couple of days and here are some of the highlights that I got to enjoy:

Walking around the city and enjoying the sites of its adobe structures and desert architecture




 



See the vertical structure behind me with sticks sticking out? those are traditional wind catchers that act as air conditioning during the hot season. Of course, now most people use electric air conditioning but before modern times, these wind catchers acted as air conditioners. They work really well, and you can actually feel the cool breeze when you are inside a building that has a wind catcher. I was told that the sticks sticking out are used to climb up and fix the wind catcher if it needs repairs.





This is a traditional door with two knocks. Each knock elicits a different sound meant for the person inside to know if there is a man or a woman knocking. If it's a man knocking and there is a woman inside, they can cover up before opening the door. 



This a traditional qanat which an underground aqueduct used to transport water from a source water to the surface. According to sources, this system originated in Persia (Iran) in 3,000 BC. Fascinating indeed!

 

Zourkhaneh - An ancient Persian sport that was part of soldiers' training. It combines martial arts, calisthenics, strength training and musicians It's recognized by UNESCO as being the world's longest running sport. It fuses elements of Pre-Islamic Persian culture, Sufism and Shia Islam. The clubs being held by the men are not as light as they appear, each club weighs between 22 - 66 pounds.



Jameh Mosque of Yazd is the main congregational mosque of the city. According to sources, the original building dates back to the Sassanid period (224 - 651 AD)



Women must wear a full body covering (chador) before entering the mosque. Chadors are provided at the entrance and once you leave, you can take them off and place them in a designated bin from which I think they are re-used after being cleaned.






Zoroastrian Fire Temple - Zoroastrism is an ancient Persin religion that originated more than 4,000 years ago. It's one of the oldest religions that's still being practiced today, and it's the world's first monotheistic faith. This religion was practiced by 3 Persian dynasties until the Muslim conquest of Persia in the 7th century A.D.

The Muslim conquest made it hard for Zoroastrians to practice their religion, so some ended up migrating to India. In the present day, there is a small minority that practices this religion in Iran and India.


Zoroastrians believe that fire represents God's light and wisdom, this fire is always lit and never allowed to burn out.

 
Tower of Silence - This is where Zoroastrians disposed of their dead. Instead of burying the bodies, they would take them up this tower so that the sun would disintegrate them, and birds would eat the flesh off the bones. 

They did not bury their dead because they believe burying the dead pollutes nature so the body being in direct contact with the soil was seen as contaminating it. This practice has since been stopped and now they bury their dead in concrete so that the body doesn't touch the soil. It is actually an interesting religion, and I was fascinated learning about some of their beliefs.




 

That's it folks! Yazd is really a fascinating city to visit and it's impressive seeing how historical settlements in the city adapted well to their environment and used ingenuity for survival. On to the next adventure!

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Isfahan, Iran

Isfahan turned out to be my favorite city in Iran during my visit, I found it so pretty with its numerous tree lined boulevards that made for pleasant walks around the city. Isfahan is one of the top tourist destinations in Iran and it was actually one of the largest and most important cities in central Asia. The city has a long history which I will not get into, but I will highlight the main things I got to check out.

Naqsh-e Jahan Square - Also known as Shah or Imam square was built between 1598 and 1629 under the directive of Shah Abbas who decided to move the Persian Empire's capital to Isfahan. The square was designed in order to create an area where national events could be held. According to sources, the Shah's strategy was to centralize the power structure of Iran, so the main idea of the project was to reflect all the components of power. The mosque in the square represents the power of the clergy, the imperial bazaar represents the power of the merchants, and the palace represents the power of the king.




Khaju Bridge - Historical bridge built is 1650 by Shah Abbas during the Safavid period. The bridge serves as a social meeting place and at night you can find people hanging out or listening to music from street performers, it is a perfect example of Persian Architecture.

Vank Cathedral - An Armenian church located in a beautiful neighborhood known as Jolfa. The church was built in 1606 and its architecture is a combination of Persian and Armenian influence. It is worth a visit and there is a museum adjacent to it where you can learn the history of Armenians in Iran.

 


Jolfa Neighborhood - One of the most densely populated neighborhoods in Isfahan and is home to Armenians who live in the city. During the Safavid period (1501 - 1736), Shah Abbas ordered thousands of Armenians to move to Jolfa because they were very good in the silk trade and the Shah believed that their knowledge would benefit Iran. The neighborhood has a hip vibe to it and worth checking out, unfortunately it was raining so I couldn't take as many photos as I would have liked.





Lastly, here are some random photos I took during my walks around the city. I like cities where nature is incorporated in the planning, that's why I was so in love with the numerous tree lined streets that I saw in Isfahan.



How cute is this ATM?!







That's it folks! although the weather got rainy in Isfahan, I am glad that I was still able to walk around the city and get a feel of it. It really is a pretty city, and I can only imagine how much prettier it looks when the sun is out in its full glory, and everything appears bright. After an enjoyable two days in Isfahan, it was time to move on to the next city.