Traveling Nancy

Traveling around the world as far as I can go.

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Village of Abyaneh and Matinabad Eco-Resort – April 20

This was a driving day.  We stopped for gasoline in the morning on the way out of Isfahan.  Our bus is the white one.

I just wanted to document that we did see mountains as we were driving. Taking photos from the bus does not give great results.

We passed a couple very old Caravanserai.  Nadereh said we were near Hagen.

We stopped at the Mosque complex of Sheikh Abd al-Samad.  Abd al-Samad, a shaykh of the Suharwardi Sufi order, died in Natanz in 1299. During the decade that followed, the site of his grave was developed by the vizier Zayn al-Din Mastari into what has survived to be one of the best preserved  of the Il-Khanid shrine complexes.

What a wonderful door.

We wandered through the complex taking photos as Nadereh spoke to us.

I think these carpets were either their as prayer rugs or for people to use for sleeping.

It was fun taking a photo of this couple as he was taking a photo of his friend.

There were many alcoves on multiple floor levels to explore.

The stone steps were very deep.  Karen is slowly getting down this one.

As we walked through one corridor, we saw this interesting poster.

I liked the doorways and archways.

This soon became one of my “Happy Place Days” because we visited the village of Abyaneh and wandered through the streets.  When the Arabs invaded Persia in the 17th century, some followers of the Zoroastrian religion fled to the surrounding mountains and deserts to escape forced conversion to Islam.  Abyaneh is believed to be one of the last surviving villages that were formed in the long and narrow valley of the Karkas Mountains.

The ancient village is a muddle of narrow and sloped streets and mud-brick houses that have lattice windows and fragile wooden balconies.  The houses were built with mud bricks from the terrain around Abyaneh which contains iron-oxide.  That is why they have a reddish color.

The people in Abyaneh are very highly educated.  The young adults go to the cities to work and only come back to the town to visit.   Abyaneh’s permanent population has dwindled to less than 250 people, consisting of mostly older people.  Because of its remote location and isolation, their culture and traditions have been preserved.  Many of the elderly people can speak an earlier incarnation of Farsi that largely disappeared some centuries ago.

It was such a joy to wander through the village taking photos. The women’s wear traditional clothing which includes a long white scarf with colorful floral designs that completely covers their hair and shoulders.  They also wear colorful dresses along with a special pair of pants.

There were many booths where the people were selling creative decorations, dried fruits, jewelry, hats, scarfs, and many other things.  Nadereh was showing something we call fruit leather but I can’t remember what she called it.

This was a shop where somebody works to create jewelry.

The men wear long baggy black pants.

I am not sure I understood this but Nadereh said that the hole in this wall actually is the way they opened the doors.  They stick their hand into the hole and pull on something inside.

I, of course, again took many photos of arches, balconies, and doorways to help preserve my memory of this lovely village.

I even took a photo of a cat.

I think this man wa using prayer beads but I am not sure.

Of course there were other visitors in the village with us. It was touching seeing this woman gently feeding an older woman.

I asked this girls parents permission to take her photo.  She was so cute.

I had a marvelous time in the village and I am sure that others in our group also did.

I think these photos are from another local restaurant where we had lunch.

We continued on to Matinabad where we were staying at an eco-camp with an organic farm.  The bus could not be driven into the area so we boarded a smaller vehicle.  We could see the place in the distance.

There were green houses.

At first we weren’t sure if we were going to be staying in tents, but we all had comfortable rooms.

After we settled in for a bit, we were taken to a local restaurant run by the local Matin Abad locals.  First we were served welcoming tea.

Then we walked around the area to see some of sheep.

We were taught how to make their local bread.

After the dough is rolled out, it is actually thrown into the oven …

… where it bakes against the wall.

We watched the daughter feed the cows.

Soon our delicious meal was ready to eat.  Every ingredient was prepared from natural and organic products.

This is the family who prepared and served our meal.

When we arrived back at the eco-resort, there was a party with music.  There were many Iranian people also vacationing at the eco-resort and  were dancing.  This is Phil getting into the spirit of the party.

I had a blast dancing with everybody.

Later in the evening a couple of us we went up to the rooftop coffee shop to relax for a bit.  We didn’t see many stars because there was  a beautiful full moon.

This was certainly quite a fabulous day.  Any traveling day when we have the opportunity to wander and have brief interactions with local people makes me very, very happy.


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Last Day in Isfahan 4/19

Our first stop today was at the Jameh Mosque of Isfahan (Masjid-e Isfahan).  It is one of the oldest mosques still standing in Iran.

The origins of this mosque lie in the 8th century, but it burnt down and was rebuilt again in the 11th century and went through remodeling many times. As a result, it has rooms built in different architectural styles, so now the mosque represents a condensed history of Iranian Architecture.  It is decorated with many, many Quranic inscriptions.

Due to its immense size and its numerous entrances (all except one inaccessible now), it formed a pedestrian hub which connected a network of paths crisscrossing the city.  It was not just a place for prayer alone but actually facilitated public mobility and commercial activity.

We spent a long time at this mosque and I took many photos.

This photo from the web shows the expanse of the area.

I wish I could remember all the things that Nadereh told us about each area but that is definitely not my forte.

One room had many, many pillars and each one had a design that was slightly different.

This is a close-up of one of the designs.

The domed ceiling in another area also had many designs.

Prayer carpets were in a pile ready for people who came to pray.

This was one of the prayer rooms.

The calligraphy on the walls was amazing.


This photo of the calligraphy from the web is wonderful.

Here are some more photos from the interior.


This platform on the outside is where people practice what they do when the pilgrimage to the Haj.

I am again confused about the order of today’s activities.

We visited the Armenian Quarter of the city which is called New Julfa.  It was named after the older city of Julfa (Jugha), Nakhichavan in the early 17th century and it is still one of the oldest and largest Armenian quarters in the world.  They area has an Armenian school and 16 churches including the Holy Savior Cathedral (commonly known as Vank) which is where we went.

We had an Armenian guide inside the cathedral. The cathedral was established in 1606, the cathedral was dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of Armenian deportees that were resettled by Shah Abbas I during the Ottoman War of 1603-1618. He spoke about the religion and the people. Armenians have lived for millennia in the territory that forms modern-day Iran. They have been influential and active in the modernization of Iran during the 19th and 20th centuries. Armenians in New Julfa observe iranian law with regard to clothing, but retain a distinct Armenian language, identity, cuisine,and culture which is protected by the Iranian government.  I learned that the Armenians brought the printing press to Iran.  No photos were allowed but I found these on the web.

We also toured the museum next to the church.  Several of the displays of what is depicted as the geneoside of the Armenians during the Ottoman war.  The Turkish people have written another version of this atrocity.

On the way to lunch we stopped at a the workshop of Reza Abadi and watched him demonstrate how he creates Traditional Ceramics.  He is the 7th generation of his family to study these techniques and he is now training his son.

Many of us  loved his work.  Bob and Kaye were looking at a bowl that I thought was beautiful.  I looked around for another one similar to the one they were holding.  I couldn’t find one.  Several people were buying small tiles and other items.  Bob and Kaye were negotiating the price.  It was given in Euros and by the time they were deciding, the price in US dollars had increased.  I was so surprised when Kaye walked back up to the counter (as the man was wrapping up the bowl) and said that Bob had changed his mind.  They didn’t want it.  I asked her if she was sure about that and she said that Bob had decided it would be too hard to transport.  I turned to the man and said I would take it.  He wrapped it with several layers of bubble wrap.

Here is a photo of it.  One day I will get what I need to hang in on the wall in my house.

When we were eating lunch at Charsoug Restaurant next door, Bob teased me and said that I stole his bowl.  I told him that he could have it back anytime he wanted. For the rest of the trip, we called it Bob’s bowl.  The soup at the restaurant was served in  very, very hot individual pots. They helped us pour the soup into our bowls.  It was one of the most delicious bowls of soup I have ever eaten.

After lunch I went back to the workshop and had a photo taken with the man who created my bowl (oops Bob’s bowl)


There are eleven bridges that cross the Zayandeh River in Isfahan.  Six of these are modern constructions but the other five crossings date from the Safavid period and earlier in the case of the Shahrestan Bridge. We went to the Khaju Bridge which was built around 1650  It has has 23 arches and is 133 meters long and 12 meters wide. It has been described as the city’s finest bridge.  It was a beautiful day and a Friday so many, many people were at the bridge.

There are eleven bridges that cross the Zayandeh River in Isfahan.  Six of these are modern constructions but the other five crossings date from the Safavid period and earlier in the case of the Shahrestan Bridge. We went to the Khaju Bridge which was built around 1650  It has has 23 arches and is 133 meters long and 12 meters wide. It has been described as the city’s finest bridge.

This sculpture of a lion was near the bridge.

It was a beautiful day and a Friday so many, many people were at the bridge.

As we crossed the bridge we stopped to listen to a group of men who were singing.  Others were standing around listening.

I could have spent many hours hanging out around the bridge greeting people and enjoying the beautiful weather but, of course, we had to stay with the group.

We also went to see Hasht Behesht which literally means eight pavilions in Persian.  It is a palace building that has two stories with four corner rooms around a central dome space.  The corner rooms are octagonal.  This creates 8 divisions.  These structures represent the 8 levels of paradise for Muslims. This paradigm is not confined only to Islamic antecedents.  The Chinese have the magic square for numerous purposes including crop rotation.

At some time today we strolled through the Isfahan Bazaar.   Many people were shopping for gifts.  There was a lot of waiting when people were shopping.

I think this is where Jane found a wonderful bag and Lance purchased a woven tissue box cover.

We had a great day.  I have no memory of where we ate dinner so I am assuming that it was in the hotel restaurant.

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Day in Isfahan 4/18

We felt relieved this morning when we learned that Bob had convinced Lance to go to the doctor to check out his leg. Many of us were concerned that there may have been a clot formed from being on the long plane ride 5 days ago.  Sami and Forod took him to the hospital when the rest of us went to Masjed-e Emam (The Shah Mosque).  Forod was the interpreter. Jumping ahead to mid day on this story, Lance joined us at lunch and we learned that they did an ultrasound and told him that he was fine.  We were all relieved.  An interesting part of this is that Road Scholars Assurance Program paid for his treatment and he just needed to pay them back.  I believe the cost was about $50.

I took a morning panoramic view from our balcony at the hotel.  We learned that the people of Isfahan are happy that the Zayandah River has water in it right now.  I read that the Zayandeh used to have significant flow all year long, unlike many of Iran’s rivers which are seasonal, but today runs dry due to water extraction before reaching the city of Isfahan. In the early 2010s, the lower reaches of the river dried out completely after several years of seasonal dry-outs.  Last night Farden told me that when the river is dry, the city feels dead.  We are lucky to be here now.

I think that Nadereh decided to rearrange our schedule so we could arrived at the Shah Mosque in the before the crowds.  But when we arrived,  there were people everywhere and we had to wait our turn to enter the mosque.  I may very well have my photos mixed up since we changed the order of what we visited and I clearly did not take careful notes on this day..  I am just going to attempt to list the places we saw and perhaps record some facts I read.  Then I will just put the photos at the end of this post.

The Royal Mosque and the Square are both registered as a UNESCO World Heritage sites.  The  splendor  of the mosque is mainly due to the beauty of its seven-color mosaic tiles and calligraphic inscriptions.

The Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is one of the four monuments that dominate the perimeter of the square and was one of the first to be built. The purpose of this mosque was for it to be private for the royal court (unlike the shah Mosque which was meant for the public).

The dome was  spectacular.


I beleive that this may be the Chehel Soutum because I did record that there were  many pictures on the walls.   

I do remember that the Naqsh e Jahan  Square was amazing.  It was quite the attraction with horse-drawn carriages available for rides.

We walked around in the square.

What a beautiful entrance.

This is another view of the square.  They used to play polo in the middle of this square.

These are some more photos I took today.


These are not just designs.  They actually are calligraphy and Nadereh could read some of it

I think this may be a tomb.

I think this is the Ali Qapu Palace which is on the west side of Naqsh e Jahan Square

I think that the polo games were viewed from the balcony of this building.

We climbed a spiral staircase up to the 6th floor to the music hall where deep circular niches are found in the walls, having not only aesthetic value, but also acoustic.

We were able to take photos of Naqsh e Jahan Square from above it.

I was even able to take a panoramic photo.

We enjoyed the decor at the restaurant where we had lunch.


We went to the Chehelsotum Museum. where we saw more than 300 instruments from around Iran.  Since  I didn’t  take  any  photos  while  we  were there  I am  using  this  one  from an  article  in  the  Guardian  on  the  web.  

On the way into the museum we passed these photos of  the Iranian President, Hassan Rouhan and  Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Their photos are depicted on posters everywhere in Iran.

We stopped in a shop where a man was demonstrating how he hand-block printed designs onto material.

As we walked from place to place I engaged in my favorite activity, taking photographs of the local people and even having brief interactions with some of them.

These young adults were playing soccer

These people invited me to come sit with them but I had to follow the group.

We stopped to rest for a while and get something to drink.

Sheila was having a conversation with this man who spoke english.

I love to take photos of people.

We were taken to a carpet store where they gave a lecture about the different Iranian carpets.  We had tea and were shown many different carpets.  Sally was inspecting one.

Bob did not find this very exciting.

I thought about buying a very small silk carpet to hang on the wall until I found out it was over $500.  Some of the larger carpets were amazing with a different pattern on each side.  A couple of people did find carpets to buy.  So how do you buy carpets with a credit card in Iran? Let me just say that there are ways around the system and the sanctions.

We returned to our room at the hotel and had time to relax. I took a few afternoon shots from our balcony.

I went down to the lobby a bit early to wait to go to dinner and I saw 4 of the women in our group coming back into the hotel,  I learned that they had gone out for a walk across in the park and across a bridge while Jane and I were in our room.  I didn’t understand how they managed to do that but I felt so jealous and really wished I had been included.  I certainly would have gone with them.

We were driven close to the restaurant tonight but the street was too narrow for the bus to get there so we had to walk down the narrow street and passed a very old mosque.

We also passed another beautiful doorway.

We ate at Malek Solton Jarchibashi, a beautiful museum restaurant with live music.


It is kind of strange but I took a photo of the rectangular water bottles.

As we left the restaurant, we were given chocolates.  II opened the chocolate and there was a face on it.  When we got back to the hotel, I took a photo of the wrapper and the chocolate.

The face is Shah Abbas.  He is honored.  One thing he did was to move the capital of the Empire from Qazvin in the north to Isfahan in the center where it was better protected against the Ottomans.  The chocolate was delicious.

It was another day packed with activities.

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Meybod Area 4/17

This morning we drove to Meybod,, an ancient city (dating back to 3rd century BC) notable for its remarkable handicrafts. Meybod goes back to pre-Islamic arena and, hence, is the home to many ancient points of interests. It is part of the Tentative List to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.

Unfortunately, some of its historical points were demolished by local authorities who did not understand the archeological values. Yet, it hosts many tourists from every corner of the world every day.

We stopped at the Narin Citadel, an important historical castle dating to pre-Islamic times before the advent of Islam to Iran.

It is one of the oldest castles in Iran and dates back from the Sassanian period (224 to 624 AD) . This ancient castle has been constructed on the top of Galeen hill and overlooks the city. Although built some 2,000 years ago, it contains what seems to be a type of plumbing system (made out of a kind of mortar called sarooj) which was built into its massive walls.  It is too bad that we weren’t able to explore the castle more.  These are photos from the outside.

You could see the city in the background.

Of course, Sally and I took photos of each other.

When we got back to the bus we discovered that Forod, our driver, had found a man selling pistachio nuts flavored with saffron and many of us purchased a bag.

They were a treat to eat.

Off we drove to the Shah Abbasi Caravanserai,   It was a roadside Inn which supported the flow of commerce, information, and people across the network of trade routes covering Asia, North Africa, and southeastern Europe especially along the silk road. The mud-brick structure is named after Shah Abbas the Great who ordered construction of such roadside inns across the country.  This is another photo from the web.

The building is made up of covered passageways, exterior verandas, vestibule, central yard, and 100 rooms. Today, there are many shops inside and in the courtyard.  We wondered through the complex and several people in our group made purchases.


We exchanged traditional greetings with an Iranian woman and took photographs.

The next place we visited was fascinating.  It is called Yakhchal which means “Ice pit.” It is actually an ancient type of evaporative cooler. Above ground, the structure had a domed shape, but had a subterranean storage space. It was often used to store ice, but sometimes was used to store food as well.  By 400 BC, Persian engineers had mastered the technique of using yakhchāls to create ice in the winter and store it in the summer in the desert. In most yakhchāls, the ice is created by itself during the cold seasons of the year; the water is channeled from the ganat (Iranian aqueduct) to the yakhchāl and it freezes upon resting inside the structure. The yakhchāl was built using a unique water resistant mortar called sarooj, composed of sand, clay, egg whites, lime, goat hair, and ash in specific proportions, that is resistant to heat transfer and is thought to be completely water impenetrable. This material acts as an effective insulation all year round. The sarooj walls are at least two meters thick at the base.

This is the outside of Yakhchal in Meybod.

This is where the ice was stored.  You can see a staircase going down into it..

Again today our driver, Forod, found a treat for us.  He was waiting at the bus with watermelon.

We all enjoyed at least one piece – especially Sami.

On the way to the Pigeon House we passed a man who was weaving.

When Nadereh said we were going to the Pigeon Tower, we didn’t know what it was. In the past, pigeon towers were built all over Iran for the purpose of collecting the birds’ droppings. The farmers of the past knew how pigeon droppings are a very rich and effective fertilizer for growing plants and crops. What a great idea.

Several of us climbed to the top of the towers.

As soon as we entered it, I remembered the pigeon houses that the farmers near Cappadocia in Turkey built into the walls. Due to the modern-day global culture of industrial farming and agriculture, these are actually no longer being used in Yazd or perhaps anywhere in Iran. I spoke to Sami about this and he said that the ones in Cappadocia are still being used.

Bob took a photo of me coming down the stairs.  The steps were very steep.

We sat around a bit in the pigeon tower.

We visited was the Pirnia Traditional House.  It is a traditional house which we were told is perfect example of this region’s desert houses in terms of architecture and art. It was constructed in the Safavid Period but I am not sure when.  The period is listed from 1502 to 1736.

The house consists of an exterior, an interior, a deep garden, a silo room and all of the facilities that a lord’s house needed to have at the time it was constructed.

 I think Nadereh said the gardens were created as a place to keep cool in the summer.  I sure enjoyed them.

Lastly we visited the Jameh Mosque of Nain.  It is one of the oldest mosques in Iran.  It dates back to the 9th century with  interiors dating back to the 11th century and it is still in use today.  Jameh Mosque does not have the tiled dome that is common to many mosques due to its age and style.

There are a series of tunnels which historically delivered water to this mosque.

This is one of the water pits.

There was a  man weaving heavy coats

and  Nadereh tried on this coat which is made out of camel hair.

Someplace near the mosque there was a soldier.  We took photos of Bob and Kay with him.

Then Sami took one of me.  The soldier called me, “Grandmother.”

As we left the mosque area I spoke with this beautiful woman and took her photo.

We drove to Isfahan.   I took a few photos through the bus window as we drove into Isfahan.

I sure wished I was out there walking through this park.

I think this is the day that we also visited the Hasht Behesht located in the center of the Garden of Nightingales.  Hasht means 8 and the name translates to Eight Paradises. I could not find my photo so I am taking one from the web.  It is from a different season.

This is a photo of the ceiling inside the palace (also from the web).

We were suppose to have leisure time to walk over the bridges in Isfahan but that did not happen because it was too late.  That was disappointing.

This was the night that I had arranged to meet Fardin, a Servas member who lives in Isfahan.  Nadereh had not contacted him yet and right after we checked into the hotel, I reminded her that we had to contact him right away because it as already getting late.  I stood there with her as she tried to call his phone number.

Then we went to dinner.  At dinner we found out that Lance’s leg was swelled.  That was very concerning because he told us that it started after he got off the airplane on the 12th.  We voiced our concern with him.

This is the view from our room at night.

After dinner Nadereh called me in my room and told me that Fardin had returned her call and would arrive at about 9:30.  I was excited about meeting with him.  It turned out that Nadereh had to stay with us the entire time. I don’t want to write down our conversation but Nadereh’s questions certainly affected our time.  Fardin recognized how tired Nadereh looked so we didn’t meet for very long.  I was disappointed not to be able to talk to him alone and for a longer time.   She did take a photo for us.

I treasure my time with people.


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.


Pasargadae and Tomb of Cyrus 4/15

Our driving distance today was 440 km. which took about 6 hours.  Our first stop was at Pasargadae which was the capital of the Achaemenid Empire under Cyrus the Great. He ordered its construction beginning in 546 BC or later.  It was unfinished when he died in battle. Now it is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The most important monument in Pasargadae is the limestone tomb of Cyrus the Great (c. 600-530 BCE).  The tomb has six broad steps leading to the sepulchre, the chamber of which measures 3.17 m long by 2.11 m wide by 2.11 m high and has a low and narrow entrance. Though there is no firm evidence identifying the tomb as that of Cyrus, Greek historians say that Alexander the Great believed it was.  He paid his respects here because Cyrus was one of his role models as an ideal ruler. When Alexander looted and destroyed Persepolis, he paid a visit to the tomb of Cyrus. Arrian writing in the second century AD, recorded that Alexander commanded Aristobulus, one of his warriors, to enter the monument. Inside he found a golden bed, a table set with drinking vessels, a gold coffin, some ornaments studded with precious stones and an inscription on the tomb. No trace of any such inscription survives, and there is considerable disagreement to the exact wording of the text. There are reports that it read,

“Passer-by, I am Cyrus, who gave the Persians an empire, and was king of Asia. Grudge me not therefore this monument.”

Another variation, as documented in “Persia: The Immortal Kingdom, is,

“O man, whoever thou art, from wheresoever thou cometh, for I know you shall come, I am Cyrus, who founded the empire of the Persians.
Grudge me not, therefore, this little earth that covers my body.”

These are words of Cyrus written in Persian, Elamite and Akkadian.  I used a photo from the web.

There were open sided vehicles which took us around the area.

In addition to the Tomb of Cyrus, the archaeological remains of its palaces and garden layout are an outstanding example of the first phase of the evolution of royal Achaemenid art and architecture  and an exceptional testimony to the Achaemenid civilization in Persia.  We had to really use our imagination to visualize what the actual structures looked like from what was left.  Here are some of my photos of the area.

I loved being able to view the mountains behind Pasargadae.  I was wishing that our trip included hiking in those mountains.

The restaurant where we had lunch was named Hoobareh.  We were served an absolutely delicious chicken dish covered in a sauce made with sour plums.  Yum.

After lunch we drove on to see the Zoroastrian Sarv (also called the Cypress of Abarkuh.  It is protected by the Cultural Heritage Organization of Iran.  It is 25 meters high and 18 meters in circumference and is estimated to be over 4 millennia old.  That means it is likely the 2nd oldest living thing in Asia.

This is my new friend, Sally, in front of the tree.

After viewing the tree we walked over to a little shop where they served ice-cream.  Of course I had to have some chocolate and berry ice-cream.  In this photo I am wearing a cap instead of a scarf.  I had asked Nadereh if that was acceptable since my head was covered and she said, Yes, except when we go to Qom (a very religious community).  I wore it all day.  By the end of the day, I decided that it may have been acceptable but it just wasn’t appropriate for me.  All of the other women were wearing scarves and that just felt like the right thing to do.

After lunch we had another treat.  The man who owned the shop told us a story.  He was so very animated and it was quite the performance.  What a treat.


As we were leaving, we passed a man who was cutting the grass by hand.

We drove to the town of Taft which is near Yazd.  Nadereh said that she had arranged for a special treat for us.  We were taken to the home of a Zoroastrian couple. We walked through narrow streets to get to their home.

… and I started taking photos of doors.

We were greeted at the front door by one of the owners.

We sat around in an entry room were served tea and a snack.  I started taking photos of many things in their home.  This is a wall of things that people who stayed there have sent to them.



This is like a sun roof but the cover had blown off in the wind just before we arrived.  It took 6 men to bring it back up to the roof.

I loved this area with the jugs and cups.

Dried pomegranates which grow abundantly here.

We sat outside near the pomegranate grove and the owner talked to us about their home.  They are the 4th generation of owning this house.  He and his wife had returned to his family home after many years.  He had to talk his father-in-law into believing that they could make it work in Taft where many people had left and abandoned their homes.  I believe he said that there are presently 7 Zoroastrian families living in Taft.

He taught us the principals about Zoroastrianism.  Good Thoughts, Good Words, and Good Acts are the basis of their lives.  The internet says that Yazd means God.  He said that Yazd means praying.

During his talk he told us a story about when the Zoroastrians were trying to get into India. This is what I remember.  One of the leaders was told that it was full.  He was given a cup of milk that was filled to the brim and told that if he could add to the cup without spilling any, they would allow more people.  He added sugar to the cup.  More people were allowed.  1/7 of Indian people are Zoroastrians.  This story sure made me think about the current policies about immigrants in the U.S.  Our immigrants add to our lives in a positive way.

What a pleasant place to rest.

They were setting up for dinner.

A sleeping area.  It would be so nice to stay here.



Vents in the rooftop.


A view from the roof.




Dinner was being served


I was clearly in my “Happy Place,” and at dinner I said, “I am 5 years old right now.”  That is one of the ways I express when I am feeling pure joy.  This was absolutely one of the highlights of my trip.  People are the most important part of my travels.

After dinner we drove to Yazd where we checked into the Moshir Garden Hotel.

The Garden of Moshir Al-Mamalek is the first Persian Garden hotel with a completely traditional architecture and equipment, yet equipped with all amenities at the site of the old Moshir al-Mamalek. There were gardens, flood water jets, pools and fountains all around. The hotel’s rooms on the side of the garden  have desert architecture.  I was sure glad we were going to stay here for 2 nights.

Obviously this has been my favorite day so far.


Nasir ol-Molk Mosque, Eram Gardens, Tomb of Hazef, Market, and Quron Gate April 14

This morning at breakfast I noticed a woman who was wearing her headscarf as a turban instead of around her neck.  She taught me how to wear my new read scarf that way.  It seemed like it would be much cooler without having it wrapped around my neck so I put my new red scarf that way.

We drove to the Nasir al-Mulk Mosque this morning.  The The Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, also known as the Pink Mosque, is a traditional mosque in Shiraz.  It was built under Qajar rule of Iran. Construction began in 1876 by the order of Mirzā Hasan Ali (Nasir ol Molk), a Qajar ruler and was completed in 1888. It is famous for its extensive use of stained glass and is still in use under protection by the Endowment Foundation of Nasir ol Molk. The designers were Mohammad Hasan-e-Memār, an Iranian architect, and Mohammad Rezā Kāshi-Sāz-e-Širāzi.


Nadi took a group photo but it didn’t come out so great.  Oh well, it is a memory.

Near the Nasir al-Mulk Mosque there was an building where people used to be able to come for water.  A bucket was lowered into a well and a cow would be used to pull the bucket up from the well.

Two girls walking around on the outside of Mosque wanted to take photos with me.  I loved the brief interactions with these girls.

Jane took photos of me with my scarf in turban style.

Then we went to the Eram Gardens which means heaven in Islam’s holy book, the Qur’an. This garden is one of the most famous and beautiful Persian gardens in all of Iran.

The garden belonged to the leaders of Qashigai tribe ion the 13th century before being confiscated by the central government.  They are a World Heritage Site and are protected by Iran’s Cultural Heritage Organization.  A fact which makes these gardens significantly remarkable is the knowledge of technology, water management, engineering, architecture, botany and agriculture that was applied on them. Persian gardens can be a symbol of Paradise on the earth and you can realize how their notion permeated in Iranian life and art, especially affected literature, poetry, music, calligraphy and carpet design.

The Persian garden has been a principal reference for the development of garden design in western Asia, Arab countries and even Europe. The geometry and symmetry of the architecture have influenced design in other gardens as well.

It was built between 1879 and 1886 by Mirza Ibrahim Khan. The Qavam family were merchants originally from Qazviin.  But they soon became active in the government during the Zand dynasty, followed by the Qajar and Pahlavi dynasty as well.

It was so peaceful wandering through the gardens. I just love the space around us and the quiet time in the gardens.

There were two people (perhaps a mother and daughter) taking photos of each other.   I offered to take a  photo of both of them together  in front of a tree with pink blossoms.  I just noticed that she was not wearing a head scarf.  Interesting.  How did I miss that when I took the photo?

Somebody also took a photo of me near the tree….

… and near the pond.

It was also fun to photograph twin girls who were posing for their mom.

We had a group photo taken at the gardens.

The garden also boasts a graceful mansion built in the early 18th century. Qavam House (also widely called “Narenjestan e Ghavam”) is a traditional and historical house.

I could have spent hours and hours in that garden.

As we were walking back to the bus, we passed a man selling sour plums. I watched him put salt into a small bag of them.

I purchased a bag to share with the people on the bus.  They really were sour but tasty.

We at lunch at Saray-e-Moshir.  The salads and soup were wonderful.  We were given a choice of main courses and several of us at Lion Fish from the Caspian sea.  There was also a dessert buffet with a variety of choices.

The restaurant is across from the Vakil Bazar which is the main bazar of Shiraz, located in the historical center of the city.  It is thought that the market originally was established by the Buwayhids in the 11th century AD, and was completed mainly by the Atabaks of Fars, and was renamed after Karim Khan Zand only in the 18th century.  Like other Middle Eastern bazaars, there are a few mosques and Imamzadehs. Imamzadeh means “offspring” or descendent of an imam) constructed beside or behind the bazaar.

This is the entrance to the Bazar.

This is a mosque near the bazar.

Nadereh walked with us through the Bazar past many artisans selling local textiles and handcrafts and into beautiful courtyards.  We stopped at a spice shop where she told us that turmeric is known to prevent Alztimers.

Then we were allowed to explore the area on our own.  Several of us went with Nadereh shop where I purchased a scarf and others also made purchases of scarfs and tunic like tops..

Here are some more photos from the bazar.

I loved watching this man at the bazar.

Then we visited the Tomb of Hafez who is Iran’s greatest lyric poet, and whose poems and tales are still known to every Iranian. It is said that there is both a Quran and a book of Hafez’s poems in every home. Nadereh read 2 of his poems both in Farsi and in English to us as we stood at the tomb.

This is the dome over the tomb….

… and the underside of the dome.

Many people stood around the tomb and touched it.

I liked this tree near the tomb.

This is the calligraphy on the tomb.

Our last stop was at the Quran Gate at the entrance of Shiraz.  It was originally built in the 10th century. During restoration in the mid-18th century, a small room was added on top of the gate to house handwritten Qurans by Sultan Ibrahim bin Shahrukh Gurekani. The two Qurāns are know as Hifdah-Man.   It was believed that the Quran would bless every person who passed through the gate.

During the Qahar dynasty, the gate was damaged by multiple earthquakes; it was later restored by Mohammad Zaki Khan Nouri. In 1937 the two Qur’āns were removed from the gate and were taken to the Pars Museum in Shiraz, where they remain today. In 1949 the arch of the gate was restored by Hosein Igar, a merchant also known as E’temad Al-Tejar.

Today the gates are part of a city park where Shirazi’s relax and picnic during their leisure hours.

We walked under the gate and were going to walk up to an area where we would have a wonderful view of Shiraz but it was closed because the rains last night made it unsafe.  They were worried that people would slip off the trail.

There was a sculpture near the gate.

The gate was very close to our hotel so I asked permission for us to walk back to the hotel.  Sally, Lance, Jane, and I walked back but, of course, Nadereh walked with us  We were not allowed wot walk on our own.  It was only 1 block and we arrived before the bus.  I just shook my head at the supervision requirements.

Dinner tonight was at the Haft Khan Restaurant.  The décor of the restaurant is filled with parts from a Mercedi Benz factory.  We watched the men make Sangak Bread. Samgak which means little stone is the name of the Iranian tnational bread and is baked on a bed of small river stone in an oven.

At our table there was an American Flag.  Each table had a flag representing the people who were dining at that table.

We were served a variety of traditional Iranian dishes and drinks – family style that were absolutely delicious.  I had to photograph some of them.


There are a few people in our group who chose not to go to dinner.  I know we are eating too much food.  Three meals a day is a lot.  I can’t imagine staying at the hotel instead of having this cultural experience.

This was quite a day.  I hope I have captured the essence of it.