Traveling Nancy

Traveling around the world as far as I can go.

Towers of Silence, Ateshkadeh, Jame Mosque, Bahg-E-Dolatabad, Amir Chakhmaq Complex, Ghanbar Bazaar and More – April 16


It was so delightful to walk through the gardens on the way to breakfast this morning.  Just before we got on the bus a few of us noticed that there were two pet Macaws perched near hotel office.  Bob, a man on our trip, told me that they were from 2 different species.  We found their behavior very interesting.  One of them was holding the other’s beak his/her beak and wouldn’t let go for a long time.

I read some interesting information about Yazd.  The city dates back to 3,000 BCE. Historically, Yazd was a halt on what was once the main trade route across southern Iran. It was spared destruction at the hands of the Mongols, and Marco Polo, who stopped there about 1272 AD, lauded Yazd as a “good and noble city”, noted for its fine silks.  Its location kept it safe from the ravages of war and destruction for centuries and so its local culture remained strong.

The city is made almost entirely of adobe and mud brick. Beyond its importance as a desert “port” for trade, Yazd was one of the principal centers of the Zoroastrian religion.

The first place we visited this morning was the Tower of Silence.

Since the towers of silence used to be located in the distant places, far away from the village, the family and relatives of the diseased had to walk for a couple of hours to get to the site, they needed a place to stay and rest.  Countrymen of each village built their own personalized buildings called, “Khayleh” to perform their religious rituals and get ready before returning back to their village.  Each Khayleh has many chambers in the The reason why every village had their own personalized building was to prevent interference on communal rituals and annual events while these buildings could be used publicly on other occasions.

We walked down into one.

There are openings in the roof,

We climbed one of the staircases to the top of the raised circular structure that the Zoroastrians built to place dead bodies to expose them to carrion birds.  The process is called excarnation.  It was first attested from the 5th century BCE but the use of the towers is first documented in the early 9th century.  The doctrinal rationale for exposure is to avoid contact with earth or fire, both of which are considered sacred.  Zoroastrian tradition considers a dead body (in addition to cut hair and nails pairings) to be nasu, unclean, with potential pollutants.  Basically the corpse demon was believed to rush into the body and contaminate it.  That is why there is a Vendidad (an ecclesiastical code given against the demons) has rules for disposing of the dead as safely as possible.  We climbed to the top of one of the staircases to where the bodies used to be placed.

The bodies were laid out around the pit in the center. Men were placed in the outer circle, women in the middle, and children in the inner-most ring. Bodies were then left until their bones were bleached by the elements and stripped by the vultures.

.. and after the process of purification, bones were placed in ossuaries or pits in the center.

In the early twentieth century the Iranian Zoroastrians gradually discontinued their use and began to favor burial or cremation.  Graves were lined with rocks and plastered with cement to prevent direct contact with the earth.  In Yazd and Kerman in addition to cemeteries, orthodox Zoroastrians continued to maintain a tower until the 1970s when ritual exposure was prohibited by law.

Before we left Sally and I took photos of each other.

After the Towers of Silence, we went to the Ateshkadeh which is the most important remaining fire temple in Iran.

Ateshkadeh enshrines the Atash Bahram, meaning “Victorious Fire”, dated to 470 AD. It is one of the nine Atash Bahrams, the only one of the highest grade fire in ancient Iran where Zoroastrians  have practiced their religion since 400 BC; the other eight Atash Bahrams are in India.

According to the Zoroastrian religion, this type of fire is consecrated by sixteen different sources including the fire created by a lightning bolt   The name, Atash Behram, more accurately defines the grade of consecrated fire in the temple than it does the temple.  Each of the 16 fires was subjected to a purification ritual before it joined the others.

Zoroastrians do not worship fire.  They are keepers of the fire.  The sacred fire is installed in the temple behind an amber tinted glass enclosure.  Only Zoroastrians are allowed to go into the sanctum area of the fire.  Non-Zoroastrians can only view it from outside the glass chamber.


Nadereh took a group photo in front of the temple.  You can see the Winged Diety, Zoroastrian symbol, on the top of the temple.

Next we went to the Jame Mosque.  The two towering minarets dating back to the Safavid era measure 52 meters in height and 6 meters in diameter. I think they are the highest in Iran. This mosque was largely rebuilt between 1324 and 1365 and is one of the outstanding 14th century buildings of Iran.  The façade is decorated from top to bottom in tile work, predominantly blue in color.


There were shops on the way to the mosque where Nadera purchased band-aids for Sally’s leg.  They were selling blue pots at one of the shops.

I took more photos both inside and outside the mosque.

There were hidden alcoves for women to be able to ask questions of the Iman without being seen.

Then walked through the old streets in Yazd.  Yazd is close to the Spice and Silk roads.  It is a living testimony to intelligent use of limited available resources in the desert for survival. Water is brought to the city by the qanat system.  Each district of the city is built on a qanat and has a communal center. Buildings are built of earth. The use of earth in buildings includes walls and roofs by the construction of vaults and domes.  Houses are built with courtyards below ground level, serving underground areas.  Wind-catchers, courtyards, and thick earthen walls create a pleasant microclimate. Partially covered alleyways together with streets, public squares and courtyards contribute to a pleasant urban quality. The city escaped the modernization trends that destroyed many traditional earthen cities.  The city enjoys the peaceful coexistence of three religions: Islam, Judiasm and Zoroastriasm.

I loved taking photos as we walked through the old streets

We passed by the Kohan hotel which belongs to Mr. Taslim who lived in this house for twenty five years. and After doing some repairs on it in 2004, it was turned into the  Kohan Traditional Hotel

It was my friend, Rachelle’s grandfather who built this hotel and her father grew up in it.  Rachelle had suggested that we stop there for tea, but we only had a few minutes for me to take photos.  It would have been a nice place for the group to relax for a bit on this busy day.

We stopped for lunch and most of us tried camel meat.  It was quite delicious.

After lunch we continued to wander through the streets which was so much more fun than being transported in the bus.  I took so many photos and was again fascinated with narrow passages and doors.  I just couldn’t stop taking photos.

This poster is just one example of hundreds of posters that are displayed in each city we visited.  They depict the “Heros” who died in the Iraq/Iran war and are being honored in the place where they lived.  Some places have large individual photos lining the streets.

We stopped at a place called Weaving Koshti to see how they wove fabric.

Then we went to Bahg-E-Dolatabad – an octagonal building.

The unique and interesting thing about it is the existence of a 33.8-meter long Windcatcher, the world’s tallest Windcatcher. I had never even heard about windcatchers. The garden is on the UNESCO World Heritage List and is considered one of the most valuable attractions in Iran.  Sami and Nadereh demonstrated how the windcatcher works to cool the inside of the building.  It was fascinating.  I had never even heard about windcatchers.

We still had more places to visit so on we drove to the Amir Chakhmaq complex.  Amir Chakhmaq Square was constructed in Timurid era by Amir Jalal Addin Chakhmaq. He was a Timurid ruler of Yazd and completing the project was not possible without his wife’s – Seti Fatemeh Khatoon – help and advice. The square and the mosque were then called Amir Chakhmaq Square and Amir Chakhmaq Mosque by the people respectively.

The square includes old structures such as a bazaar, mosque, water storage, and a mausoleum that are all listed as National Heritage Sites. It is the symbol of Yazd province and is also known to be the center of social gatherings and manifestations.

The 3 story mosque complex dominates the main square of Yazd and is said to be one of the most extraordinary structures in all of Iran.  It also contains a caravanserai, (roadside inn where travelers (caravaners) could rest and recover from the day’s journey), a tekyeh ) a place where Shiite gather for (mourning of Muharam), a bathhouse, a cold water well, and a confectionery.  I read that during the Iran-Iraq War and the Iraq wars with the United States and Afghanistan, many Iraqis and Afghans came to inhabit the Amir Chakhmaq Square.

When we finished visiting the mosque, we chose to stop in the outside area to have tea or ice-cream.  I, of course, had a chocolate cone. A couple of Iranian women and children were sitting near us.  One of the women from our group offered to buy ice-cream for the children.  We took photos of them.

Then we went to the Haji Ghanbar Bazaar.  Sally and I each purchased what we call tunics, but I am sure the Iranians have a different name for them.

After shopping, we returned to the Moshir Garden Hotel.  I dressed in my new tunic and walked around the gardens again.  I heard music playing so I followed my ear.   It was coming from the place where we had breakfast and a man was singing.  I asked the man who was sitting outside the dining room whether there was a party.  He said it was a birthday and invited me to go inside.  There was a group of people who worked at the hotel celebrating 2 people’s birthday and I was asked to sit with them.  A group of men were dancing and we were all clapping.

Then they asked me to dance.  Do I ever say, ”No” to dancing?  Of course not.  But I only danced for a few minutes because I quickly noticed that I was the only woman dancing.


Then they asked me to stay for cake, but I had to leave to be in time for dinner.  They wanted to know my room number so they could send cake to me, but I couldn’t remember.  It was fun wearing my new tunic tonight and I was glad I had it on for the party.

During diner I was telling Sally and Jane about the party and the cake.  We decided to go back over to where the party was being held, but it was all over.  The room was set up for tomorrow’s breakfast.  A man asked if he could help us and I said that it was too bad the cake was gone.  He went into the back and brought out a container with cake and forks for us.  We each had a small piece of cake.  When we finished, he was gone so we left.

This day was jammed packed with activities.  Again the ones that involve the Iranian people are the best.

Author: Nancy Panitch

Traveling has been a passion of Nancy Panitch's life and she loves seeing how people in other cultures live. Her travels have taken her to many places within the United States, Asia, Europe, South America, and Africa. Being around people inspires her and she has much gratitude for the kindred Souls that are joining together with her in body, mind, and heart. She moved from Chicago to Portland, Oregon in 1982. It was one of the best decisions of her life. While in Portland she stays very, VERY busy. She volunteers (Inter-Religious Action Network, Human Rights Council, & ushering for various theaters); attends a Unitarian Universalist church; goes hiking with groups (Cascade Prime Timers & Trails Club of Oregon) and also with individual friends. Book groups, movie group, and bridge groups occupy her time as well. Her quiet activities include yoga, knitting, Sudoku, and reading. She enjoys all of these activities, but making time to see her wonderful 4 grandchildren takes priority over it all. She is happy to share this blog and hopes to encourage others to travel.

2 thoughts on “Towers of Silence, Ateshkadeh, Jame Mosque, Bahg-E-Dolatabad, Amir Chakhmaq Complex, Ghanbar Bazaar and More – April 16

  1. Absolutely fascinating day


  2. Incredible, Nancy. Thanks for sharing your gorgeous photos.


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