We arrived in Yazd around 5.00AM, and it immediately became obvious that this was a very sleepy and quiet town compared to Tehran. As my guide Hamed and I headed by taxi to our hotel, we didn’t see a single soul. Every street was deserted.
Arriving at the Silk Road Hotel, we had to knock on a securely locked door until a sleepy member of staff opened up for us. However, arriving before sunrise had its advantages. The hotel is next door to one of the landmarks in Yazd – Bogheh-e Sayyed Roknaddin – and the subtly lit dome roof was on its own well worth the 8-hour train journey down.
Hamed and I decided to have a look at the 14th century Jameh Mosque while waiting for Yazd to wake up. The 48-metre minarets looked impressive.
The gorgeous tiled walls looked great in the dark, but it was really the generously heated mosque that offered the most immediate attraction for me. I think it was around 4C when we arrived. I saw exactly four worshippers in the mosque for morning prayers. No crowds yet in the city of Yazd.
After breakfast, Hamed and I carried on with our exploration of the Old Town of Yazd. Even after 9.00 AM, the streets were still deserted. We didn’t even see any of the “wild asses, handsome creatures” Marko Polo spotted when visiting Yazd in 1272. However, we saw plenty of windcatchers – these marvels of ancient A/Cs of Persian origin.
Sadly, we had to give the 11th century Tomb of the 12 Imams a miss since it was closed for renovation. However, Alexandre’s Prison next door was open for business. Whether Alexander the Great actually built this prison is debated. There is a reference to it on a poem by Hafez. But the dungeons had been nicely freshened up and Hamed and I decided that this was a good place for mid-morning tea and Yazd cake.
Our next stop, Lari House, was also gorgeous. It’s a traditional 18th century Iranian house with one of those oversized Iranian dinner tables/sofas in the middle of the courtyard.
Now, this is the stop when it became really interesting having a guide fluent in Farsi. There were several letters and documents on display in Lari House, and they told the story of how the women in Yazd protested against the idea of making it forbidden to wear the hijab. This was about 80 years ago, when Reza Khan, the King of Persia, had visited Turkey and become impressed by Ataturk’s secularised approach to Islamic dress. When Reza Khan forbade the wearing of the hijab for women, the women of Yazd wrote a letter of protest and simply carried on wearing the hijab. Next to this letter was posted a letter from their husbands, where they swore they had told their wives not to wear hijabs, but without success. The husbands had signed the letter with their thumb prints.
As lunch time was approaching, we made another quick visit to the Jameh Mosque to see it in daylight.
Even though the streets of the Old Town were still pretty quiet, the courtyard of the Jameh Mosque had become quite lively. There were several tour groups of Iranians – Hamed quickly spotted which tour guides told fibs and which ones kept to objective facts – and while in the stunningly beautiful south-eastern part of the courtyard, we were overrun by a group of school girls.
We had lunch at the Malek Al Tojjar restaurant. Sitting on the dinner table is a marvellous idea in my opinion. It’s growing on me. Maybe I should start doing that at home?