Yadz & Zeinoddin
May 20, 2015
Yadz has been known for it’s Silks and fabrics…and is on the Silk Road…Yadz’s Old City is also one of the oldest towns on earth according to UNESCO. The Old Town houses are lined on tiny walkways that also act as town streets…Our Taxi drove these narrow alleyways as if it were a mini highway when we came home one night from the gardens….It is also known as the City of the Water Towers…and is where the Zoroastrian Fire Temple is…The Zoroastrian Religion is one of the first Monotheistic religions well before Christianity and was the main religion in Iran before the Arab conquest. Zoroaster was born sometime between 1000-1500 BC. The Supreme being is Ahura Mazda(yep as in the car)..it has no symbol or icon but he asked his followers to Pray in the direction of the light…and the only light the Ancients had was Fire so they created the Fire Temples to make sure the flame burned eternally. His main teachings were dualistic: Good & Evil..
Good Thoughts…Good Words…Good Deeds. OR Bad Thoughts…Bad Words and Bad Deeds…the good brought you closer to the God and the Bad did not. There is a bit more but I really love the simplicity…and that it is tied to Earth, Water, Air…BTW the 3 Wise Men in the Bible are believed to have been Zoroastrian Magi…
Zoroastrian is still practiced in Iran today but there are only 150,000 left in the country…We were told it is illegal to convert but if you are born into it no problem.
The Fire at the fire Temple has been a continuous flame passed on from Zoroastrian community to community…house to house for 1500 years
When the Arabs brought Islam they converted all the fire temples at the time to Mosques…And during the Pahlavi Dynasty they created a permanent home in Yadz… and the Flame lives on there.
The Temple is adorned with a beautiful symbol of a Winged Guardian Spirit…It represents the Good & Bad side as well as the symbol of a man that represents experience…There is a Ring in the middle that shows yourself as good and bad…and he holds a little Ring in his left hand that represents the good relationship between nations…a side note to this is the Ring in the Left hand is how we developed the ring for uniting people in Marriage.
OK enough Zoroastrian History…although I must say, I really love it’s simplicity of Good Thoughts…Good Words and Good Deeds…and it’s attachment to the elements of the earth…
Yadz is full of things relating to the Zoroastrians including the Tower of Silence where they put their dead to be dealt with by the elements….and also happens to be a great hike…I think on my next trip here I will head north to hike the mountains.
On our first day after driving for several hours, I wandered the city taking pictures of my favorite things…Windows, Doors and Gates…I wandered around easily since it was Friday and that is Iranians one day off a week…and it was a holiday weekend so Saturday was a holiday too. They have tons of holidays here…Well I crossed the street to find some cool back alleys and I heard this man say “hello”…This is a very familiar comment…it lets me know they know I am a foreigner…then the game begins of guessing which country etc…But when I turned to reply, the man had a strange expression on his face and then glanced down…as I followed his gaze I saw I was being flashed…and I must say in a very graphic way…To say it caught me off guard is an understatement…this is something I would expect in the States or pretty much anywhere else(It happened in Budapest too)…BUT Iran: Never! But here I was…and here he was…I gave him a confused expression and hurried along…no one was on the Street…and he didn’t seem at all threatening…just your typical creep…but as I looked back and he was still hanging out all his glory…I was too far but he made it clear…I decided it would be better to cross the street since just the action of crossing would draw attention to me…I looked toward where he was and saw him get on his bike and ride in the opposite direction…that evening at dinner in the Hotel, I mentioned the incident to Fatemeh and suddenly the Manager of the Hotel Restaurant comes by to let me know I can file a Police Report…I explain that I am fine and would have no idea what to file. I thought the incident strange for this country but humorous in general…But they take these things very seriously and were quite upset that this had been done to me. Again this shows their hospitality…If this had happened in the US and I mentioned it, we would all laugh it off but here they don’t like foreigners to feel uncomfortable at all.
The Hotel we stayed at is called the Orient Hotel and it’s sister Hotel, across the street, is the Silk Road…both these places reminded me of the “Best Little Marigold Hotel” They are basic backpacker hotels with lovely common spaces(the only area for wifi so everyone congregates there)…I met a bunch of Australians and New Zealanders traveling with Intrepid tours(but using the same local company I am traveling with)..Funny, they are paying quite a bit more because it’s Intrepid and they have an identical itinerary with a few minor changes…It made me feel like a good bargainer. (-: We all hung out and swapped stories, along with some French & Germans…ALL said the same thing…that when they told their family & friends they were traveling to Iran, they all got negative and fearful feedback BUT they all agreed the Iranian people had been amazing and beyond welcoming…And this is not new…I know several people who have traveled here and that is what they told me before I left…It’s purely a cultural thing…Persians are all about hospitality…and happiness…They love to laugh and have a good time…the smiles come easily here…you may walk by a stern looking fully covered woman in a black Chador and if you put your hand on your heart and nod as you say Salaam, a big smile will come over her face with a reply and most of the time a stop to chat…even if only with hands…You just say whatever Country you are from and that makes the smiles bigger…no exaggeration…but I will say if you are not someone who likes to engage then you will miss the best part of what Iran has to offer…and in my book, I think it is priceless…It puts Southern or MidWestern Hospitality to shame…I have been invited to stay in people’s homes or just come in to visit…but because I am on a tour, I am limited…That is my only complaint…Being stuck on a tour…It limits my ability to just wander completely on my own and get lost…
The next day we were off to do the Fire Temple, Tower of Silence and the Water Museum…Water is obviously a vital resource living in the desert and the Zoroastrians had created an amazing system of underground of aqueducts…we traveled through them as part of the museum.
After the various touring, we went over to the Silk Road Hotel for lunch…great food…as usual…but I am getting better about trying to eat less…it’s quite a feat since they serve everything with mounds of saffron rice mixed with lovely herbs…best tasting rice…but I have to admit, this is not an easy place for full vegetarians…I met a few and they were navigating it but not having the best culinary experience since it is all about Kabobs…Beef, Chicken and Lamb…but their salads are quite good, especially in Tehran.
After lunch we got a real treat…a nap! I loved Yadz because we had quite a bit of free time to wander on our own and the schedule loosened up for a bit…so a good nap was called for…Fatemeh had a surprise in the evening for us…She took us to a sporting event called the Ancient Sport in a very old rounded building called a Zoor Khaneh..Now let me be honest…I am not sure exactly what the sport is…It started with what looked like 2 or 3 possible teams circling the little arena and there were clubs shaped like huge bowling pins and massive heavy chains shaped like a bow…BUT they started off all doing about 30 minutes of what looked like intense yoga…the downward dog position…oh and there were 2 little boys among the group too…Fatemeh says that this sport has some religious relationship and if you are not a Shia then you can’t do the sport…While they do these poses, 2 men in an announcers box Sing and play a very large tin drum …Let me say THIS is exceptionally loud…After the posing…the main guy says some welcoming remarks and they move on to what I can only describe as Jazzercize or Intense Aerobics. Seriously…They continued the Drumming and singing and my ears continued suffering (-: And after about 70 minutes they started a circle and each man began to spin like a top…I was guessing whoever could spin the longest and fastest won…after that they grabbed these heavy looking clubs and one guy began some juggling, starting with 2 and ending with 4…then they walked around heaving these clubs in a methodical manner…and then it was onto these insane chains…all the while the singing drumming and now bells were added…then suddenly it was over… Not sure what the point was BUT I was amazed that in all that time and exertion, most of the men barely broke a sweat! They glistened!
Afterward, Fatemeh said she had yet another surprise…I could barely hear her so I just nodded and smiled and let her lead the way…we were whisked off in a Taxi to the Yadz Gardens…where we relaxed and walked around. They have this incredible Wind Tower there that captures the wind from various angles and sucks it into the tunnel where the wind meets some water in a pool inside this building and it cools all the rooms like an AC…It’s really interesting and works really well. Yadz has many Circular and Square Wind Towers…they are attractive and are quite efficient…I don’t know why we don’t have things like this.
Afterward our Taxi zipped us through the incredible narrow alleyways of the old town of Yazd…how these guys navigate these extremely narrow pathways is amazing…Fatemeh gave us a walking tour and explained that throughout the town, they created ceilings to these pathways…some high enough for a man on a horse and some too low so when invaders would come in, they would be forced to get off their horses in order to pass through thereby giving the local villagers time to defend. Simple but elegant.
We had some late night Tea and went off to bed…The next day we were to head off to a little desert UNESCO called Zeinoddin Carrvanserai which is smack in the middle of the dessert…Before we left we had one last Lunch at the Silk Road Hotel…and while enjoying some nice Cucumber and mint in yogurt, a group of the first Americans I have seen came in…They were a huge group and one of their people was the NYT Foreign Correspondent and author, Stephen Kinzer. He wrote “All the Shahs Men”…I went up and spoke to him for a bit and had such a lovely conversation. How lucky his tour was to have him. He was bureau Chief in Turkey for years and knows Iran better then most.
Gary, while we were at the Fire Temple saw a Celebrity from Australia on another tour…he saw him again at the Sporting event.
We left Yadz and headed to Zeinoddin Carrvanserai.
It is a 480 year old building on the Silk Road …It’s an old Camel “truck” stop where traders would stop along the route…Here you just hang out…nothing to do but ponder…There were 2 couples from Belgium who I had briefly seen in the Silk Road hotel and so it felt like running into old friends…We sat and chatted and they told me how they travel every other year together on a big trip…Last time it was Uganda where they saw the Silverback Gorillas…They had amazing pictures…I think I may have my next idea for a trip…They said I needed to do it sooner than later because tourism is taking off and things will be totally changed.
Their driver, who spoke no English, kept showing me pictures of Jimmy Carter and the Shah and putting his hand on his heart…Seems he is a fan….then he brought us a fresh meon and cut it up for us…we all lined up on the edge of the courtyard and ate over the plants…
On a side note…on the way into the Water Museum, a Cleric said hello to me(which seemed unusual)…they nod and say Salaam but usually have not engaged in conversation. But this Cleric seemed to want to …He told me how he loved America BUT not our Gov’t…and it’s funny most here are huge fans of both because they are so hopeful for peace between us. They seem to all love America…Several have asked me to tell other Americans they are not Terrorists…and I laugh and tell them I know…But that many Americans seem to put Persians in the same group with the other Arabs…they shudder at that idea…And for those who said you can’t have an Israeli stamp and get in…both Pam and Gary have been to Israel in the past few years and had no problem. There is so much misinformation…and I know I keep harping on this but as one California woman I met said, “it is up to the few of us who have come here and met the real people to go home and dispel the misinformation that the media and politicians keep trying to sell us..Politics aside, the people are universally Pro American…but fear that we want to hurt them because we think they are Terrorists.
I have watched their local news and some of it tells the story from a different side but no different than we tell it…They have done several in-depth stories on our prison system and seem to have the issues down…Also they did a great documentary on Austria coming to grips with their Holocaust past…Their coverage on Israel and the Palestinians is slightly biased but they definitely had interviews with Israelis and talked about the struggle for peace from their perspective…all of this shocked me…I expected far more propaganda…It’s funny I see more in our media…
They love their sitcoms and game shows…I can’t understand a word being said but I can follow the story by the background music and the expressions and gestures…and the game shows remind me of Nickelodeon type…lots of mess…I have only been able to watch some TV in the bigger cities and on the Bus.
Our sleeping quarters in Zeinoddin Carrvanserai were mats on wooded platform in rooms separated by a curtain….like a train…But surprisingly quiet…what makes this place so special is the rooftop at Sunset and Sunrise…in the middle of the desert with the Mountain range in the near distance. I will admit sleeping was a feat, especially since Gary was next to me and has serious Sleep Apnea issues…but hey….sleeping has become overrated… (-:
I bid farewell to my Belgium friends with the hopes we might meet again in Esfahan…and onto another local bus we go for another 6 hour journey…These buses are not too shabby…lots of leg room and you can almost fully recline…and they serve snacks and drinks…for free. Better then flying…although our flight to Shiraz, even an hour, they served us a meal and Tea. I am savoring my book but it is coming to an end…which feels like losing a good traveling companion…When we got to Esfahan, we did the usual Taxi fight…this time I took some pics…
I will report back when I get back to Tehran on Friday….And try to post some pictures in the next couple of days… of Yadz and Zeinoddin.