Saryazd caravanserai + fortress

Not too far from Yazd is located the Saryazd village. We found there a relatively new caravanserai (first picture) dating from the Safavid era (XVI – XVIII centuries). It was used as a resting place for caravans. The central area was for storage, the rooms on the side were for the people and in the corners there is an area designated for the animals.

But the main attraction was the fortress, originally built during the Sassanid era (III – VII centuries). It was used mainly for defensive purposes and for storing goods, animals and valuables during invasions. In the meantime, some of the roofs have collapsed, but most stairs and corridors are still accessible. The fortress was locked but our new Yazdi friend, Mostafa, found the key holder. He opened the gate and we enjoyed mostly unrestricted access to the maze – like structure. Exploring it was truly exciting, bringing back memories from a great classic game, Prince of Persia.

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We spent 3 days in Yazd. There is a nice old part of town worth visiting, with mud brick hotels, museums and narrow alleys.

We stayed at Pooya and Goli, a wonderful couple that, although very busy, found time to chat with us late in the evenings as well as cook delicious Iranian dishes.

We choose to return the favor by preparing “tochitura cu mamaliga”, a traditional Romanian dish. Due to lack of key ingredients (pork and sausage) we decided to serve “mamaliga” with cheese and egg and then prepare a second dish that was more like the Mexican fajitas.

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After Na’in we stopped at Tak-Taku Homestay (09139165752) in Toodeshk. Riding the bus in the Iranian heat got us really exhausted and we decided to chill for two days in the friendly environment of a desert family.
Mohammed, the homestay owner, acted also as a guide, showing us the village and explaining facts of daily life in this harsh environment. The top of the mud brick buildings are domed to allow the use of bricks for roofs, since wood beams are expensive and hard to come across.
Of great interest was the Persian carpet manufacture. We learned about the different types of carpets, materials and patterns.
Without Palomina, we decided to explore the area with the bicycles, provided for free by our host.
Two more people arrived. Sebastian, from Potstdam, on the way to Mumbai, and Michel, from Neuch√Ętel, en route towards China via Iran, Turkmenistan etc. with his fancy bike.
It seems like Iranians have always been concerned about gender separation. In this case, a traditional door is equipped with different bells for men and women, so the people inside the house know to send a person of the same gender as the visitor to open the door.
We spend the second night on the sand dunes, camping. Apart from the wind, it was very relaxing and much milder than Atacama.

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Shipping ETA

The word on the street is Palomina might be in Iran on the 18th. But, as a tour guide in Peru taught us, “everything is possible but nothing is certain”. So we shall see. In the meantime, we are chilling in Toodeshk, a former camel trading post on the silk road in central Iranian desert.

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Ancient water management

For millenniums, the size of communities was determined by the amount of water readily available, which in desert is limited and inconsistent in quality and flow. To overcome such problems, early in the 1st millennium BC, Persian engineers developed a system called qanat: a series of wells which have the bottom ends connected through a slightly inclined underground aqueduct.

The wells situated near a mountain reach bellow the ground water level and the underground canal prevents evaporation and contamination en route to the community. Other wells are built along the way to be used during construction and maintenance. While some qanats are only 7 km long, some can extend over 70 km.

In Na’in, Mahmood facilitated an underground visit. Through a tunnel we descended to 30 m bellow ground level.

Sometimes, the force of water is used to power mills. This was the case at the place which we were visiting. The mill has been out of commission for at least 30 years but the millstones were still present.
The drinking water is usually stored in egg shaped structures named Ab Anbar. Most of the tank is under ground, to keep the water cool and safe the structure from earthquakes. Additional cooling and ventilation is provided by wind trapping towers. I can assure you that, despite being a very hot day, the water was kept really cold without the use of modern technology.
Other use of the water is for household washing and public baths.
And finally for agriculture, through a network of surface aqueducts and dams.
This is a “fenjaan”, a water clock used since year 500 BC to determine the amount of time each of the families sharing a qanat would be allowed to tap the water source for their own land use. It is a pot with a small hole. When placed on water it will slowly sink and it will be fully submerged after a constant amount of time.
The closer you are from the point where it surfaces, the cleaner and colder the water is, so wealthier people tend to live near that place. From a nearby hilltop, you can easily see the benefits the water brings to agriculture. The green area is the one serviced by the system above.
This Persian invention spread to other arid areas from Morocco to India. There are tens of thousands still in use today, although many more have been left in decay during the past 50 years. The oldest qanat still in use is in Iran and it is 2700 years old.

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