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Zoroastrians, and lots of dried mud

Written on: Saturday April 26th, 2008

A journal entry from: Trails in 2008

Four days in Yazd, one of the oldest cities in the world, and apparently the biggest mud city in the world. 
It has the largest Zoroastrian community in the country, with about 5,000 still left.  Our tour guide one day was a Zoroastrian, and it was a great insight into the religion.  The most interesting bit is their 'silence towers' where the dead are placed for vultures to peck away until their bones fall down into the bottom of the hole.  The caretaker of the bodies keeps a look out for which eye the vultures peck out first to see whether they will make it to a good or bad place for eternity.  This stopped in the 60's (although it still happens in India) and now they pour an acid over the bodies to disolve them.  In theory they live in harmony with the Muslims but unsurprisingly in practice the story seems a little different.  For example, the Zoroastrians can go to the same schools but have their own tap because they are 'dirty' and can't touch the same things as the muslims. 
I digress, back to Yazd - the view over the mud houses is quite a sight, and also the ingenious wind towers that capture the slightest breeze and funnel it down to cool the interior of the houses.  The Iranians also made huge mud 'icehouses' where they collected ice in the winter and amazingly these buildings could keep the ice cool during the hot desert summer for the people to enjoy.  Al is very inspired by all this natural building technology and is randomly breaking into sketch.
It is a very conservative city, with a lot of women wearing the full monty chador.  The young guys working in our guesthouse have been really enlightening as to what it is like to be a young person living in Iran.  Just when we think Iran is all rose-tinted it is a sobering reality check - I'll have to collect my thoughts on that and report back later.
It has been my personal mission to get invited to dinner with Iranians - this is what the Lonely Planet said would happen and godammit I'm not leaving this country till it happens!  We kind of fulfilled the prophecy when we spent one night in nearby mud town Kharanaq.  The hotel had overbooked so we stayed with a nice old couple over the road and had breakfast with them in the morning.  They had absolutely no english, and we currently have about 5 words of farsi which made it a memorable experience.