The Burning Heart of Zoroastrianism
We made our escape to Yazd by a long and boring bus ride through the desert (one of them, and our first of many), to the aincient town of Yazd. The signs say it has "the oldest old city" that people still live in, and it is the heartland of Iranian Zoroastrianism, with about 7000 worshippers of Ahuramazda (Coolest name for a god).
We're now staying in the heart of the old city, in a converted traditional family home. There's a nice courtyard and everything. But of course, we're in the basement-dormitory. This place is really expensive. In Iran, most tourist things are expensive.
Wandering around the old city is really nice, and the mud-brick buildings are punctuated by Bagdirs, which are basically large squat towers filled with shelves and holes. It's an old Iranian thing, which acts as basic air conditioning by creating a breeze inside, which is necessary, because this place gets pretty hot. Wandering around you can always orientate the labyrinthine streets by the minarets of the Mosques dotted around the place. As usual the mosques are big, blue and have nice tiles.
One of the big tourist draws of Yazd is the still functioning fire-temple, complete with an eternal flame which has been burning since long before Islam even started (470 AD apparently). Its a small building, and packed full of tourists, and it didn't really seem very genuine. The bookshop sold some of the most boring books ever. I bought "an introduction to Zarathusta" published in 1980 by some Indian guy (they don't sell well). Almost fell asleep reading it.
Having seen the sites of the city, we decided to go out of town to visit a deserted desert village. Unfortunatley, it's so deserted no one ever goes there, so there were no buses, and a taxi would have cost a fortune, se we decided to go to Chak Chak, a Zoroastrian pilgrimmage site. After a minibus and a taxi ride through huge, barren, unromantic desert (it's flat and grey) we reached some small mountains, and nestled in them were some modern looking buildings.
The compound of Chak Chak is a large set of empty buildings and open spaces, which are needed to house the pilgrims that come during the pilgrimage season (apparently they have one). We eventually reached the inner sanctum, and were at first turned away by the old caretaker because there was a genuine Zoroastrain service going on. After some waiting, we want through the bronze doors bearing the likeness of Zoroaster, into a small room with a marble floor. I say room, but it was more like a cliff-face surrounded by a semicircular wall. In the middle there was a burning brazier (but the fire had gone out...) and out of the cliff was dripping holy water.
According to legend when the Arabs invaded, some Zoroastrians hid here, and had no water. The local princess threw her staff against the cliff, and water started to drip out (Chak Chak means "drip drip"). This water is holy, and the pilgrims collect it in empty coke bottles and buckets...
It seemed that there were only about 6 people in the service (I didn't know what they actually did though, we weren't allowed to look). Of the 6 people, 4 were Indians (we helped them with their retro-camera). I have no idea how they communicated though. Oh yeah, we also had to wear funny white hats, that made me look like a chinese takeaway chef.
From all the people we have met, it seems that most learn English from bad American films. A student studying English here at Yazd says that they went through Dumb and Dumber in class, and a restaurant owner learnt by copying Chris Tucker. He could quote most of Rush Hour, unfortunatley, it was incomprehensible. He's not really black enough.
Thats it so far. Soon we'll be heading into the desert, the first of 4 on the trip. (Dasht-e Kavir, Karakum, Kyzyl Kum and the Taklamakan). It's going to be hot.