TAXI TRIP SERIES: YAZD 2
In the morning, as I was pushing aside the window curtain, I could see many green tall olive trees surrounding my cottage. In the cloudless sky, the leaves of olive trees were swaying heavily. It looked like the wind was blowing strongly outside. I unlocked the window and pushed its panel a little bit and yes, the wind slapped my face. I pulled back the panel and left the curtain open.
Walking to the living room, I just had the chance to observe my room and abruptly felt that I returned to the 1970s. The old sofa, the cabinet, and the tube screen television reminded me of a living room in my childhood. Taking my notebook, I sat on the sofa and wrote about the places I was going to visit in Yazd.
The breakfast was at the main house. It was simple. I had Iranian barbari bread with Iranian cream cheese, tomatoes, and boiled eggs and a cup of tea. I seemed to be the only guest that morning.
After breakfast, I told the hotel owner about my plan of the day. He knew about it. My Tehran-based guide had talked with him about the plan. The hotel owner would find a driver for me. “But, you will not have a guide,” he said. I agreed.
As the driver arrived, the hotel owner told me how much I should pay to the driver directly. The price was within my estimated budget . After he spoke to the driver, I got in the car. I was quite confident. It was not my first time riding a taxi by myself in Iran. In Shiraz, my Tehran-based guide arranged a taxi for me for a day trip to Persepolis, the ancient capital of Persian Achaemenid Empire. I was the only passenger. And last night, I rode a shared taxi from the Yazd bus terminal to the cottage. Moreover, despite being a country with a sharia law, Iran didn’t ban a woman from traveling by herself.
Sitting in the car, I realized the driver spoke no English at all. He mentioned some Asian countries’ names like China and Japan. I guessed, he asked my origin. Failing to guess, I told him my home country. He nodded. My country’s name, Indonesia, is pronounced distinctly in different tongues. An Iranian woman who I met in Persepolis asked me my origin. She could not figure it out while I was pronouncing in-duh-nee-zee-uh. Well, I didn’t expect that everyone knew the world’s geography. I found out that the Iranians pronounced it Andonezya. The driver nodded right away when I was pronouncing it like the locals did. He asked my name. I told him my nickname and he also told his name, which was Gholam.
In 2014, I was not familiar with compressed natural gas vehicles as I didn’t find such a car on the streets in Jakarta. The car stopped at the gas station, I noticed that the car I was riding was energized by compressed natural gas. Wanting to see how the car was tanked, I got out. The driver opened up the trunk and I saw a big gas cylinder laid down there. In the car, I didn’t feel any different, it was like riding in any conventional gasoline car.
The car entered the center of Yazd. The city looked dry with most buildings made of mud and unbaked bricks. Yazd had many protruding wind catchers (baadgiir). They were obvious on the top of many houses. The main streets of Yazd were clean, I didn’t see any trash. The view on both sides of the windows gradually changed into desert as the car was leaving the city.
From a distance, I could see a cylindrical structure on the top of a hill. I was sure that was dakhmeh, my destination. “There it is, ” I said to Gholam while I was pointing to the structure. He didn’t understand what I meant, he kept driving. “That is my destination,” I said it again when the car was leaving behind the dakhmeh. I grabbed the photocopied papers that I had, found the page with the picture of dakhmeh, and showed it to him. He pulled over the car, opened up the window, and asked someone on the road. It guessed he asked for the route to dakhmeh.
Apparently, Gholam was a regular driver. He never had foreign passengers asking him to take to dakhmeh. The reason he didn’t know the location of dakhmeh. Dakhmeh in Yazd is a special interest destination, only people who are keen on old traditions want to see it. It was a funeral site for Zoroastrians in the past. Zoroastrianism was a pre-Islamic emporium religion of the Persians.
Arriving at the complex of the funeral site, I found only few visitors. I paid the entrance ticket and walked to some ruins and restored houses that were made of unbaked mud bricks in the middle of a vast, flat, and sandy site. My steps were heavy as I was walking on the sands. The driver followed me.
The houses and ruins looked like places for the funeral procession and the residences of the people who took care of the dakhmeh in the past. I just took photos of Farsi written information on site and would ask my Iranian friends about their meaning.
Wanting to see the dakhmeh that was built on a small hill, I decided to climb up. The step was a bit slippery as the path was ascending and sandy. Reaching the dakmeh, I realized that it was just a circular open structure and there was nothing on it.
Gholam who went along with me helped to shoot some photos on the dakhmeh. From dakhmeh I could see the entire Yazd. It was clear that the city was on flat terrain and it was surrounded by desert. In the past, the funeral complex must have been secluded from the city.
I was glad to be able to see the dakhmeh and the funeral complex in person. I didn’t have to imagine dakmeh anymore if I read about it.
The car returned to central Yazd. I wanted to see my next destination: the Fire Temple, a temple for Zoroastrians. The temple was located just near the tourist area. I wished I had stayed in the hotel in the area. When I got out of the car, Gholam was also coming out following me.
At noon, many tourists visited the Fire Temple. The Fire Temple didn’t look as big as it was in many pictures. I stayed to see the heritage of the Persians’ primary religion in the past. I was glad to see in person the eternal flame in the Fire Temple.
AMIR CHAQMAQ SQUARE
The next place I wanted to visit was the Amir Chaqmaq Square, a legacy of the Timurid Dynasty in Iran. The Timurid Dynasty conquered many parts of Central Asia including Anatolia and Persia from the 14th to 16th century.
Gholam got off the car and walked accompanying me in the area. He didn’t give any explanation about the places.
Amir Chaqmaq Square was a huge complex built by the governor of Yazd, Amir Jalal-al-Din Chaqmaq-e Sham, who ruled from the 15th to 16th century. He built a caravansary, school, a house for dervishes, water reservoir, and a mosque in the complex. The complex was sandwiched between two big streets in the middle of Yazd.
The most prominent building in the Square was a three-story facade in the middle of the complex square. The facade has become a monumental postcard of Yazd. The building now functions as hussainiyah, a site to commemorate the Muharram mourning, the martyrdom of Imam Hussain–Prophet Muhammad’s grandson.
I walked around the Complex and observed many arched alcoves in the facades of the buildings. Loving to see the architecture in the whole complex, I spent a long time there. I visited the Jame mosque. The tiles with calligraphic and geometric motifs of dominant turquoise color decorated the mosque.
Visitors could access the Amir Chaqmaq Complex without paying any tickets. The Complex was a showcase of one of the legacies of the Timurid Dynasty in Iran.
I was wondering how the people have survived living in a desert city that had been inhabited since the 5th century–as Marco Polo once wrote. My visit to Dolat Abad Garden opened up the answer to my question.
Gholam pointed to the high mud wall as we approached the Garden. From outside people could only see the surrounding wall. Of the places that I visited in some cities in Iran, I noted that Persian people in the past tended to hide the beauty of their houses. That also applied to Dolat Abad Garden–a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
At the ticket counter, the attendant asked me to pay for two tickets as she was seeing Gholam standing next to me. “He is my driver,” I told her. “Guide?,” she asked for confirmation. I nodded my head. She accepted me to pay for one ticket. Foreign tourists paid the tickets higher than the local tourists. It was the same as in Indonesia, anyway.
Entering the gate, I didn’t expect what I would see inside. As soon as I was stepping into the Garden, I was startled to see how well-tended and green it was. The lines of conifers encircled a rectangular long pond with fountains, it gave a soothing effect. In the corner there was a building, a two-story house with a giant baadgiir or wind catcher on top of it.
Inside the building, I learnt about the qanat, an ancient engineering system that transported the water from the water spring to the surface through the underground channel. With qanat, people in Yazd have been able to plant trees and even to create gardens like the lovely Dolat Abad Garden.
The wind catcher or baagdiir is an ancient Persian engineering for air handling system. It has made possible for people to live in the desert climate of Yazd for thousands of years. Inside the baagdiir, the during the hot day the air was cooled down and at cold night the air was warmed up. This air handling system didn’t need any electricity to work. The people have used the mud and unbaked bricks to construct their houses. Both were the right materials for constructions in extreme climate places.
The Dolat Abad Garden used to be the residence for the Dynasty of Zand rulers. From Dolat Abad Garden, I learnt a lot about the engineering of air handling systems and underground water transportation. The ancient Persian technology that has made people survive living in an arid climate. It was very impressive.
Hungry, I left the Dolat Abad Garden. It was already late afternoon and I asked Gholam to take me to a restaurant. He took me to a small bazaar where a traditional restaurant was located. Walking in the alleys, I saw the entire bazaar deserted. Many shops in the bazaar did not open on the holidays.
I saw a sign of the traditional restaurant and tea house in an alley and followed the directions. Hiding behind the steps, the restaurant was located in the old bathhouse.
White and turquoise were the dominant color of walls, interiors and furniture of the bath house-turned-into- restaurant. From its setting, the restaurant used to serve big groups like tourists or families. An attendant approached me with a menu card as I was sitting on the chair. I wanted to try something different and he was pointing to a menu’s name on the card, dizi. I said that I would order the dish.
I didn’t expect it would take a long time to prepare for the dish. While waiting for the food, I was exploring the room and taking some photos of it. The empty pools, their qanats and the decorated arches on the ceiling were just splendid as always.
I was starving. After waiting more than half an hour, I was glad to see the attendant coming to bring my order. The dish was hot and fresh from the kitchen. The attendant brought with him a mortar and pestle. I was wondering how I ate the dish. Gholam was showing up and I asked him if he wanted to have lunch as well. He just shook his head.
Dizi, the dish that I had ordered, was not a ready-to-eat dish. I had to pound meat with the iron pestle before I ate it. I put the meat on the mortar and started to pound it using the pestle. It was the most unusual Iranian lunch that I have had. I liked it as I could try a local dish in an authentic way.
My late lunch at the restaurant sealed my day trip in Yazd. The trip was not perfect but very monumental. The city itself was unique where I could learn about how ancient technology kept people surviving. My trip was complete to learn some highlights of the city.
Gholam, my driver, was not bad at all. As we were back to my hotel, I paid him and in Farsi he asked for some extra money, I gave him. The ride with him was a distinctive way to see the city with a different cultural touch.