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Iran – Discovering the Traces of Old Persia in the Islamic Republic. Episode 12 – Yazd, on the Silk Road

The tall minarts of Yazd mosque in Iran

I left Shiraz early in the morning. One day before we bought the tickets to Shiraz (this time no Iranian showed up to buy them for us like in Teheran) so early, in the morning we were present at the bus terminal in Shiraz…Today was a big day …the election campaign began and Ahmadinejad himself came to the poets town to launch his election campaign. He went to Persepolis also in order to get validation from the great Shahs and now he returned to the city. Thanks God, he was an early bird, otherwise who knows how long we could stay in the bus on the road – the road from Shiraz to Yazd passes by Persepolis.

Let me tell you a couple of words about the Iranian political system. First of all, the political system can be characterized as being semi-democratic. It is fun that the semi-democracy from Iran totally contradicts the official American theory that says that the major objective of the USA foreign policy is the propagation of democracy and not, God forbid, the theft of natural resources especially the energy ones of other nations…And more than that, the biggest enemy of the US in the Middle East is the most democratic state – Iran …The Great Allies are either dictatorships of medieval kind where elections happen with one candidate once every couple of decades (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Emirates) or the modern type of dictatorship with regular elections, won by the eternal candidate with 90% and something out of all votes (Egypt). Yes, I know some countries changed in the past 3 years since my visit, turning towards democracy like Egypt, Tunisia and hopefully soon, Yemen.

In Iran, anyone can run for any place. Women included can run for presidency. Free election at a local level take place, than parliament and the president are chosen directly. More than that, there are political parties. Why is it only semi-democratic and not democratic?  Simple, because all the parties and all the candidates must be pre-selected by a committee of ayatollahs that verify their “morality”, that is their adhesion to the regime. Otherwise, the elections have election campaigns, meetings, balloons, posters and slogans, personal attacks, etc, etc – the circus we know happening across Europe and North America.

Let’s move on from the election campaign that culminated with the election of Ahmadinejad and the mini Green Revolution that followed and let’s leave politics and City of Poets towards Yazd. Initially, the road was nice and spectacular, the bus was going on the highway through a mountainous view, but dry, afterwards it became really boring …But like everything in the world has an ending, we arrived to Yazd.

Yazd is a superb city. It is that city that makes you feel  you live the period of the great caravans on the Silk Road… If in Kashan, we saw imposing palaces, here, the alleys, badgirs and multi-secular buildings really throw you straight into “the 1001 nights”. And on top of that, almost naturally, in Yazd numerous traditional houses and old caravanserais metamorphosed into hotels. We stayed at the Silk Road Hotel, one of the first that appeared in Yazd.

What did we do in Yazd? Well, we wandered the little streets, we climbed up the buildings to admire the crowd of badjirs, those towers made to capture even the slightest wind breeze in order to transform it into natural air conditioning. Obviously, we didn’t miss out on the mosque that has one of the tallest minarets in all Iran.  Here also, we had tea in an old hamam and it was one of the few places in Iran where the waiters found Romania’s flag and brought it proudly next to the area we were seated… And I’m sure they ran all across the town in order to borrow it!

The new city had its attractions as well … not only the camel corps that hang inside the butcher store, but especially the immense Amir Chakhmaq Complex. This building is a Hossenieh, a building used for the occasion of Ashura, the commemoration of the martyrdom of the imam Hossein that I told you about in a former episode. You can climb it and the image above the town, of the bald mountains from the periphery is unforgettable… Especially because we had some pretty weird days in Yazd – either it was raining like at the tropics, immediately afterwards, came the sunshine… so we caught an extremely rare phenomenon in Yazd – some incredible rainbows! Plus, we started talking to a Lors family, a usually nomad tribe. However, the family we talked to was not nomad anymore, they were in Yazd to visit their son, a student in this university town. A student that had some Scandinavian-like blue eyes!  And while talking about students, discussing with other young people in the square in front of the Amir Chakhmaq, I concluded that it wasn’t so much fun to be a student in Yazd – it is a small and very boring town…He, he, the parties that take place in Teheran or Esfahan are far away …But what to do, if you didn’t learn well enough, you settle for Yazd for the university studies!

Reading Lonely Planet, I found out that the same square houses a Zourkaneh (or “house of power”). An amusing place, typical forIran. It is a sort of gym where some guys that are more or less cool, build up their muscles… Practically, while listening the songs and drums of some singers, a few men lift and lower smaller or bigger bats, weighting at least 2 kilos, toning their muscles…Don’t you think it is something violent – they’re not hitting each other…it is like a ritual dance, handling these weights easily…I tried to lift one…after picking it up in my arms, I said it would be better not to…and I stayed to watch the demonstration of power in the house of power – that by the way was from around the 1580’s.

Yazd is known as being the center of the Zoroastrian religion, a religion that preceded the Islamic one and that still exists in Iran… Persecuted, numerous Zoroastrians emigrated in foreign countries, one of the largest communities from abroad is in Mumbai, India where they are known under the name of “Pars”. And by the way, the former Indian prime-minister, the famous Indira Gandhi, daughter of Nehru was married to a Zoroastrian Pars from Mumbai…Married by the parents, according to the tradition, she only met her husband a few days before the wedding. And she was the daughter of the liberating prim- minister, herself becoming master of over a billion souls! And she had a arranged marriage. Would you believe it ?

Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to visit the Towers of Silence, those Zoroastrian temples from the Yazd suburbs…We spent a lot of time on the secular alleys of Yazd discovering new corners at every step, children playing and people doing a hundred years old tasks…

When evening came, we took the train and left towards Teheran. With the night train in a sleeping couch …Clean, airy, we received water and newspapers …And at the dining car we ate a hot and tasty kebab (for the standards of Iranian kebabs, of course)…Nobody said anything about being two guys and two girls in the same sleeping couch…The second day, we were back to Teheran where the palaces of the Pahlavi dynasty were awaiting for us.

Pictures of Yazd:

 Shiraz: Election campaign posters in Iran

Whose hands is the president kissing?

Shiraz: Election campaign posters in Iran

Election campaign

Shiraz bus terminal - European backpackers in Iran

Bus terminal in Shiraz

Transportation in Iran: public bus Shiraz - Yazd

The bus towards Yazd

Iranian desert

On the road

Accomodation in Yazd: The Silk Road Hotel

Silk Road Hotel

Sights of Yazd: the Silk Road map

And the Silk Road map

Things to see in Yazd: The mosque

Things to see in Yazd: The mosque

The mosque

Yazd old city streets

On the streets of Yazd

Things to see in Yazd: ancient Silk Road palaces

Yazd has palaces as well

Photos of Yazd

Places to drink in Yazd: Hamam

In the hamam – tea shop

Sights of Iran: cafe of Yazd

Where they found the flag of Romania

Accomodation in Yazd: Luxury hotel

Luxury hotel …traditional as well

Yazd: The Skyline of Yazd

The Skyline of Yazd

Yazd: The Skyline of Yazd

Things to see in Yazd: Skyline

Things to see in Yazd: Amir Chakmak

At the Amir Chakmak

Amir Chakmak Yazd

Raibow over Yazd

Rainbow in the desert

Yazd: Rainbow in the desert

Things to see in Yazd: Amir Chakmak Hoseinieh

Things to see in Yazd: The house of power

Strong guys in the house of power

Iran Railways: Yazd - Teheran restaurant train

Good bye, Yazd…tomorrow morning in Teheran!

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