Yazd style.

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I had stepped back in time whilst stepping onto the overnight train to the ancient city of Yazd in the centre or Iran. The sun-faded orange tones of the carbon-fiber interior that still wore the warning signs in multiple European languages captured me in the Shah's time. This was very much doubled by the fact that we were enclosed for the 9-hour journey with the night helping hide any hint of a decade.

The plans for Yazd arrived after failed attempts for visiting other historical cities around the country. For me at least the trip was a little birthday present, yet for the other 6-girls who joined me, it was an adventure. 6-girls is not something one should casually mention what with the climate here, but I rationed that this might be the best mixed combination I could be part of - for security, naturally. The girls were mostly unfamiliar to me but the forced intimacies of the train journey quickly broke the ice.

The train journey was fun, I felt like I was on a school trip with all the excitement brought by the over-night sleep. Amusingly the train guards erratic discipline helped cement this feeling. To escape the limited space in the cabins we went to the restaurant area for some tea, yet the nonsensical responses of the various staff troubled me, "We've run out", "We only serve tea if you eat dinner", "You have to get tea in another carriage". "Everybody out, leave" requested the train's guard one hour ahead of the advertised time. I struggled to make sense of things. I half expected a white rabbit to dash across the floor and pleaded with my friend to explain what the meaning was behind this and many other peculiarities on this journey. The oddities disappeared after the taxi driver removed the functioning portable gas-cooker from the front seat to allow another gentleman in to join us part way to our hotel.

Our hotel was splendid, and the price more so thanks to a friend of a friend. £5 a night managed to get a sensitively decorative room in a 4-star venue. There were very few details overlooked as far as style and modern conveniences were concerned. Water fountains and streams split the garden areas from the yellow bricked Qajari period rooms. We met with the staff and two parrots, created our associations then sneaked off to the rooms to get a couple of hours kip before the schedule commenced.

Much of the trip seemed to be consumed with back-to-back visits of buildings from the Qajar dynasty (some 100-200 years ago) to Zoroastrian nic-naks (reaching quadruple figures). I tried to take in much of what was translated to me but was overwhelmed, probably more so than my fellow traveler who were at least familiar with the non-tourist related aspects. More interesting to me was the winding paths of monotone, milk-chocolate buildings that scatter across the city, blending into one another with no particular care. The shapes were welcoming for the eye; mostly modest archways with frequent domed roofs; circles and curves dominate, apparently symbolising immortality. The pathways, impractical for cars rendered the older parts of the city with a calm silence, only broken by the occasional speeding motorbike. In fact motorbikes seemed the most popular method of transport by a long way and it wasn't uncommon to see entire families to be arrange and transported around.

We made plans one night to go to the cinema not too far from our hotel. This was going to be the first opportunity I've had to experience what an Iranian picture house had to offer. I was fed with many amusing anecdotes of what going to the cinema means. Naturally my curiosity lay with what could possibly exist after the splicing machine was made blunt for the Islamic audience, yet more intriguingly I was enlightened as to how subtitles were once relayed to the part-illiterate audience. Apparently a person would stand before the screen and read in a monotone voice, "Kissing noise", It was explained before the group broke out in laughter. We were late and decided that we would run, at least as fast as our headscarfs would allow us. This excited more of a response than on other occasions in the streets where motorbikes would rush by with riders shouting unknown comments to the six relatively liberally dressed city-girls that accompanied me.

As it turned out the cinema was closed due to Moharam so we set back for the hotel and found ways to amuse ourselves for the evening. We played a game of "Pantomime", which is Shirades with less limitation. I saw great poetry in seeing the Iranian folk try to silently act out "Axis of Evil". "The Sixth Dimension" followed, which I unsuccessfully acted out. This led on to a debate, mostly centering around perspective of life, which gave me a fascinating incite into the minds of my generation in Iran.

We were lost in the old town, partly by choice yet we filled this time like so much of the trip by rearranging ourselves for each-other's camera. I'm not sure how we got into one of these curious buildings but somehow we were invited, impromptu, to visit what appeared to be a tar (Iranian like guitar) workshop. Echoing around the courtyard were the solitary tunes repeating while we explored without guidance. We were envious and imagined our lives there in whilst circling the courtyard. The group disseminated as we explored and when I found them later in a dusty room, no head turned as we gazed on at what we'd stumbled upon. This room appeared to have been vacated with disregard, with evidence surrounding us as to the lives of the previous occupants. As we rifled through the cupboards and shelves, coughing with the disturbed dust, we put together the history. Two men, doctor and merchant, left roughly 2-years after the revolution. As we studied deeper I half joking asked whether it would be wrong to loot the place, yet as I looked up, it appear that this question was being answered. I claimed old letters, a receipt book and news papers while my partners in crime went for old keys and locks. I've formulated plans to go back but I could surely not navigate the Yazd labyrinth so successfully again.


  • I really liked your photoblog. :D

    By Blogger sheernejad, at 4:05 AM  

  • This entry, along with the photos from Yazd, were absolutely intoxicating, especially the dakhmeh photographs. It's a shame such an old custom seems to be dying out.
    Err.. no pun intended.

    By Anonymous Tahereh, at 6:00 AM  

  • Hi there

    My name is Sean Kenny and I’m an English journalist. I am writing an article on Iranian bloggers and I would like to interview you for the piece.

    The article is for Salon, a liberal American magazine (www.salon.com), and the interview would be done via email (unless you wanted me to telephone you, that is perfectly possible).

    The article will look at how the views of ordinary Iranians are very different to the image of Iran in the West. I would ask questions about your views on: the cartoons controversy, Iran’s nuclear weapons, what is going on in Iraq, what you think of the West/America.
    I’m also interested in trying to give readers your views on daily life in Iran – what are your biggest problems, fears, etc.

    Would you be interested in taking part? Obviously you would be completely anonymous and you can give a false name.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Best wishes,

    Sean Kenny

    PS. Love the photos!

    By Anonymous Sean Kenny, at 7:35 PM  

  • Hello David!

    That was just great! Kewl!


    By Anonymous Reza, at 1:05 AM  

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