As promised I’m taking you on a new journey, exploring Yazd as it should be done, walking slowly, taking time to admire its beauty. Under a glaring sun and getting warmer as the day progressed, we were on our way to the Jameh mosque or Friday mosque.
In a city like Yazd, it is difficult not to get distracted by what you find on the way and I stopped many times to admire all sorts of things. Be it these wonderful nuts and fruits or to take a peek at yet another alleyway with beautiful carpets on display.
And then finally there it was in all its glory with one the highest entryways in Iran, its minarets sizing almost 50 meters high, the impressive Jameh mosque.
Coming closer we could get a glimpse of its beautiful tiled dome. Vaults of heaven is how domes are often symbolically referred in Iranian Islamic architecture.
Mankind has been creating layers upon layers of buildings and cities throughout the times. Often we don’t get to see what was there before but we know it existed. Worship sites are an example of that, the crede can change over time but often places retain their original purpose.
The Jameh mosque is no different. It is the result of the union of three different mosques that had been built consecutively at different centuries. In turn these mosques had been built over an older site, a Sassanid Fire temple. Rebuilt extensively in the 14th Century, the Jameh mosque was considered one of the finest buildings at the time.
Once we passed the threshold, we could understand why. It is difficult not to be overwhelmed by the intricate tile patterns and colors. The Swastika is represented extensively symbolizing the timeless infinity of life. There are also verses of the Koran written in kufic on the walls.
The tiles are arranged like a mosaic, each individual colored tile is cut into small pieces and then assembled together like a puzzle that fits perfectly together. It is a difficult technique that requires time and patience. Some individual pieces take months to complete. The same techniques used 800 years ago are still replicated today and the result is this.
Wherever you look, you can’t help but admire the skill, artwork and the spectacular colors.
There is also a Shabestan or prayer yard mostly used in the summer.
Before leaving and admiring once again its impressive architecture and design, I can’t help thinking this was one of the most beautiful mosques we saw so far. But of course having so much more to explore in Iran, it is possible this will change.
It was now time to follow the wonderful maze of narrow passageways and alleyways of the old city and admire the mud brick buildings that make Yazd so unique.
And don’t forget to look up, not only will you be able to admire the wind towers but it is possible you discover you are also being watched attentively.
You could really spend hours walking in this street labyrinth and always find something that calls your attention.
But now we were heading to Alexander’s prison. On approaching we could see the intricate dome, a style used in the Mongol period in Iran.
Despite the legend, probably due to a poem written by the great Iranian poet Hafez (1315-1390), the story of Alexander the Great building a prison here to hold his enemies is probably just that, a story told to charm travelers. What we know is that the main building dates from the 15th century and it was known as the Ziai-ye islamic school or madrasa.
Inside under the dome we found a small Islamic museum.
Crossing the courtyard afterwards I noticed an iron grid on the floor and looking through it, it seemed like it might have been used as a dungeon.
Going down the stairs I wondered if we would finally find proof of an ancient prison but instead we were pleasantly surprised to find a small art gallery.
And there were other galleries and workshops on the grounds of the old school. We took the time to peek and even saw some of the artisans and artists busy working on new pieces.
Looking at pretty colorful birds suddenly I heard a bird’s song just above me. And there it was, either having a dialogue with the colorful birds or showing us he wasn’t made of ceramic.
It was time to leave and continue our journey. We tried to visit the Seljuk 11th Century 12 Imam Mausoleum nearby but it was closed so we decided it was time for a coffee and cake instead.
Getting back into the labyrinth of the old city streets, we came upon a sign pointing to a rooftop cafe and art gallery and on a whim decided to follow it.
When we got to the door and read the sign I knew we were in the right place!
And what to say about the Art House, the coffee and cakes were great and the art was really nice. We laid on those beds, relaxed and yes, we even talked!
The view from the rooftop was incredible, it was difficult to know where to look. I could see part of a courtyard of a beautiful old house next door that was being restored. At a distance, like mushrooms sprouting from the rooftops, the wonderful wind towers cooling the houses from the desert sun. And the domes of the mosques gave a bit of color here and there against the fading lining of the mountains.
On the other side I could see the layout of the streets and sunbaked rooftops. There was a small breeze picking up and I felt I could have stayed there forever, admiring the view, enjoying the moment and relaxing with my family.
But soon, it was time to move on. The sun was slowly setting, it had been a long day. Walking towards the main square I thought we had had enough cake but then there was this freshly baked scent that came out of a building. It was a mixture of cinnamon, sugar, maybe saffron, whatever it was, it made us stop and look.
We saw the baker wrapping what looked like a giant sweet pancake and people already lining up inside waiting for the next warm batch. We could not resist, lined up as well and bought one. I’m happy we did, it tasted wonderful. We were even sorry we hadn’t bought more. There was a sign saying Sourok, traditional bakery so if you happen to pass by, have a taste, try something new.
It had been a long day, the streets were starting to be busy again, Youngsters and families could be seen enjoying each others company and the cool air of the evening. As for us, we were happy for the day we had, exploring more of Yazd. Tomorrow would be another day, a day we would follow in the footsteps of the Zoroasters and discover more about this ancient religion and tradition. Until then, I bid you a good night.