We loved the laid back atmosphere of Yazd in Iran. Wandering around the small streets of the city and discovering hidden places and beautiful mosques, we felt like going back in time.
We took the bus from Safashar to Yazd. It’s time to say that the driving habits of the bus drivers in Iran are just terrible. Let me just tell you what happened in our bus: there are always two drivers that relay each other to drive the bus. It’s good to have two drivers… except when they shift and the bus is moving at 90 km/h! Here is their technique: first the driver stands up still holding the steering wheel, then the other one starts holding it as well and sits on the driver seat, and finally the first one stops holding it. All of this trying to keep an eye to stay on their line in the highway. We were so astonished by this surreal scene that I didn’t react quickly enough to immortalize this moment in a picture.
Arrived alived in Yazd, we found our little paradise in Kalout Hostel, an old guesthouse with buildings made in mud surrounding a very refreshing inner court, and with a furnished open air rooftop offering an incredible view on the old city. Only a few steps away, we discovered the magnificent Masjid-e Jame, a mosque with stunning colored mosaics.
Our hotel was a good one to meet other travellers. We met Aurélie, Juliette and Marie-Eva, three French girlfriends on holidays with whom we had interesting conversations. After one hour talking, we realized Juliette had been in the same high school as Alex in Rouen! In Yazd, we also met Claire and Jérémy, a French couple cycling along the Silk Road! Finally we had an insightful conversation with a nice Swiss couple in their fifties. He was a pastor and he encouraged us to look for happiness by praying. Thanks to them we also heard that for the birthday of the 12th Imam, there was a free celebration held just for tourists. We thought that it was worth attending it. Tourism starts to grow in Iran but still not enough to transform a nice place with mass tourism.
And indeed the celebration organized by an association linked to the tourism board of Yazd was a success. First we went to cut a traditional cake for the birthday of the Imam. The Shiite Muslims believe that the 12th Imam is alive and will return like a messianic figure to put peace and justice. After eating a piece of cake and some fruits and listening the speeches of the Iranian people organizing the event. We walked around the city to try Iranian delicacies and end up in a market. I had the chance to talk with the responsible of the event about tourism in Iran. He told me that they really want to promote a tourism which respects the local places and cultures. However it is not easy because with the opening of Iran, tourists tend to come more and more quickly and there is not enough accommodation for them. Hence the risk is that big international hotel chains build big resorts to accommodate all the tourists. We really hope mass tourism will not destroy the atmosphere of Iran as it has done in some places we went through during this adventure.
Yazd is such a great city in terms of tourism that we had the chance to attend a free tour of the old Yazd, organized by the same association! (more info about this tour in our practical article about Iran)
Yazd was also a good base to visit old historical places around. We shared a tour with other tourists from our guesthouse. We usually don’t take tours but it was the only way to discover the surroundings of Yazd. We went to the village of Kharanagh which was built 4000 years ago in mud. It is impressive how well conserved it is. In front of the village there was a caravanserai: a place where travellers on the Silk Road would stop for the night in the middle of the desert.
After visiting Kharanagh, we drove to Chak Chak, a Zoroastrian temple nested in the mountain. It is the most sacred place of worship for the Zoroastrian religion, like the Mecca for Muslims or Amritsar for the Sikhs. To reach it, the road crossed impressive mountainous areas. Then we had to climb stairs very high to reach a cave where an eternal flame burns.
We ended the tour by a short visit of Meybod and the Narin Qale citadel which is a mud-brick castle built some 2000 years ago.
On our last evening, we attended a sport session, called Zurkhaneh, at the Saheb A Zaman Zurkhaneh near Amir Chakhmaq Complex. The men carried some kind of heavy baseball bats and turned them around. We expected to see some fights with the bats. But for one hour, the men only exercised individually with them while a man played music.
A last wander to contemplate the stunning buildings enlighten at night and we were off to Isfahan, the cultural heart of Iran!