We depart Shiraz and head north towards Yazd with a stop in Pasargadae. Pasargadae was the first dynastic capital of the Achaemenid Empire under Cyrus the Great (559-530 BC) and this is also where his tomb can be found. Pasargadae has been declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The most important monument here is the tomb of Cyrus the Great. Greek historians of Alexander the Great claim that inside the tomb was a golden bed, a gold coffin, and other treasures and an inscription on the tomb saying “Passer-by, I am Cyrus, who gave the Persians an Empire, and was king of Asia. Grudge me not therefore this monument.” However, no inscription survived and there had been debates as to its exact wording and even its existence. It was recorded that the tomb was ransacked and Alexander the Great was furious to this sacrilegious act because he deeply admired Cyrus the Great. Even after Pasargadae was no longer the capital of the Achaemenid Empire, it was still where the inauguration of the kings took place. The tomb of Cyrus the Great was very well preserved probably because it was forgotten until the Islamic conquests of Iran where the Arabs came to believe that it was the tomb of Solomon’s mother.
The fortress of Tall-e Takht or Throne Hill at Pasargadae. The placement of the columns suggest that it may have resembled the Acropolis of Athens.
Private Palace or Palace P, the residential palace at Pasargadae.
“I am Cyrus, the king, an Achaemenid” carved in three languages: Persian, Elamite, and Akkadian.
Tomb of Cyrus the Great at Pasargadae
From Pasargadae, we continue northeast for about 4 hours to Yazd. Yazd is one of the main cities of Zoroastrian culture. Zoroastrianism is one of the world’s oldest religions and ascribed to the teachings of the Prophet Zoroaster. It is here in Yazd where the eternal flame that has been burning for some 1,500 years can be found. Yazd has long been referred to as “the Pearl of the Desert” and is filled with a maze of historic streets and old mud-brick houses. Because of the arid extreme climatic conditions of the desert landscape, buildings are packed quite closely together resulting in narrow streets to provide more shade at the street levels. Also most windows are small and face away from the sun. The most interesting architectural feature is the windcatcher or badgir for natural ventilation in the buildings. We spend the next two nights at Dad Hotel in Yazd which is quite basic and not all that nice.
Our first stop in Yazd was to the Yazd Zoroastrian Fire Temple with an eternal flame that has been burning for 1,500 years! Good thing the flame is behind a glass wall or else the thunderous sneeze of my dear friend might have extinguished the flame and made it onto the evening news. :) Next was to Amir Chaqmakh Square known for its beautiful symmetrical sunken alcoves. Underneath is a bazaar where grilled liver is a specialty. The complex also has a bathhouse, a caravanserai, and a confectionery etc.
Yazd Zoroastrian Fire Temple
The eternal flame that has been burning continuously for 1,500 years!
Amir Chaqmkh Square in Yazd
Amir Chaqmakh Square
Windcatchers in Yazd
From Amir Chaqmakh Square, we continue to Jame Mosque with its stunning mosaics on the dome and mihrab. The ancient gardoneh mehr or swastika symbol used on the tiles symbolises infinity, timelessness, and birth and death. The swastika generally takes the form of an cross with its four legs bent at 90 degrees and is more commonly associated with Buddhism. However, this symbol can be found on Iranian buildings as early as 5000 BC. The mosque is flanked by the tallest minarets in Iran.
Jame Mosque of Yazd
Local women in their chadors
Fahadan Neighborhood is the oldest neighborhood in the city of Yazd and is also one of the oldest in the world. The neighborhood is filled with adobe architecture with windcatchers on top of them amongst tall walls and labyrinthine lanes. You get a feel of the region’s history and how people used to and still live in this part of the world. Windcatchers or Bagdirs also known as Wind Towers are the ingenuity of the builders in the middle of the desert to adapt and survive the extreme climates. Most buildings in Yazd have these windcatchers on top of the roofs or domes to create natural ventilation and even refrigeration. We were told that the windcatchers at resevoirs are capable of storing water at near freezing temperatures even during the scorching summer months. The windcatcher is basically a tall tower with one face open at top facing the wind and hence catching it and then bringing the wind down the tower into the building. The tower relies on the rate of airflow to attain the cooling effect. The number of openings and where it faces depends on the direction of airflow at that location. The more complicated designs are built together with an underground canal where the open face of the tower faces away from the prevailing wind so that the pressure differential allows air to be drawn down the tower. The wind enters the underground canal and is cooled by the cold water and then flows through the building to decrease the interior temperature.
Narrow lanes in Fahadan neighborhood
Underneath one of the windcatchers…it really feels like standing underneath an air-conditioner!
To see the tallest windcatcher in Iran, we went to Dowlat Abad Garden. Dowlat Abad was once the residence of Persian regent Karim Khan Zand and the pavilion in the garden has intricate latticework and beautiful stained-glass windows.
Dowlat Abad Garden with the tallest windcatcher in Iran.
For sunset, we drove out of Yazd to the 400-year-old Zein-o-din Caravanserai which is the only round caravanserai and still in operation today.
Up on the roof of the caravanserai
The only round caravanserai
Courtesy of my friend Jackie who took a photo of me “busy at work” :)
Our two nights in Yazd flew by and it was time to move on to Isfahan. Enroute we passed by the cities of Meybod and Naein, as well as Wahe Desert. Meybod was the capital of Iran during the Mozaffarid period and is famous for their pottery. We stopped by Narin Maleh Castle in Meybod, claimed to have been built in 4,000 BC. However, archaeologists date it closer to about 2,000 years ago.
Narin Maleh Castle in Meybod
The city of Meybod
One of the many pottery workshops in Meybod
A short detour out to Wahe Desert
Our crew heading up the sand dunes of Wahe
Love the ripples in the sand!
Sand dunes of Wahe
After driving for what seemed like forever, we finally arrived in Isfahan. Stayed tuned for my next post!
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