Tuesday, June 13, 2006


To the south and east of Tehran the word that best describes the landscape is khaki. Not only is it the predominant colour of the mountains, plains and buildings (i.e. everything), but it is also true to its original Farsi meaning (for khaki is a Farsi word) of dusty. So much so that I have decided to rename this part of Iran Khakestan. Which makes the town of Yazd all the more impressive. Squeezed between Iran's two main desserts it springs like a mirage from its arid surroundings. Although the buildings cannot help but be khaki in colour (there is but one building material) the monochromy is broken up by the greenery of the many trees and parks fed by the waters of the intricate qanat irrigation system, which has been used for thousands of years, that channels water from the mountains through tunnels under the parched dessert floor. I'm being continually astounded by the ingenuity and technical ability of the ancient Persians. For example, along with the badgirs and sardabs already mentioned, they constructed huge conical structures (that remind me of ice-cream cones and so always make me hungry whenever I see them) in which they would bring ice from the mountains in Winter, which would keep all through Summer despite temperatures in excess of 40 degrees for months on end, and be used for making traditional ice-cream (at least they had their priorities straight!) and keeping meat fresh.

Due to its remote location, during the Arab conquest of Persia Yazd remained relatively untouched and so the local religion, Zoroastrianism (often regarded as the first monotheistic religion in the world which probably influenced Judaism a great deal), managed to survive when it disappeared from the other regions of Persia. The city is still home to a sizable community of Zoroastrians and is the spiritual capital of their global diaspora, being close to their holiest temple at Chak Chak (the local temple also has a fire that has been continuously burning for the past 1500 years). And although they are no longer persecuted, they keep to themselves and so it is difficult to learn much about them, however I managed to meet one the other day who invited me to a local celebration in a couple of day's time, so I hope that will work out.

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