Asia / Iran / Middle East

Yazd. The raw beauty of a desert city.

Your body is craving for some shadow but there are no trees around. You struggle to open your eyes dazzled by the ruthless light. It’s a hot, dry day. One of many in Yazd. The city is beautiful, but it’s beauty is somehow uneasy. It’s raw beauty of a city raising from the desert plains.

Surrounded by deserts on all sides, Yazd seems colourless. It’s a dull mix of brown and beige but, if you climb onto one of its rooftops, you will find the bluest sky ever. Stay longer and watch turquoise domes of mosques dazzling on the horizon and wait to see brown and beige mud-brick maze turn into gold.

We are staying at Kalouts hostel. It’s a traditional Persian house with all the rooms facing a small patio. In the strong mid-day Sun we retreat back to there, to relax lying on carpets and sipping tea. In the evening, together with its owners, we dance to the rhythms of Persian pop.

Welcome to Yazd!

First thing we want to see in the city is the famous Amir Chakhmaq Complex. There is a small bazaar to explore, but most locals prefer to sit around the fountains in the evening chatting and enjoying the view of the imposing three-story facade. If you are a kebab-lover just like us, come here in the evening for the best (and probably the cheapest!) kebab ever.

Amir Chakhmaq Complex best visited in the soft afternoon light or in the evening when it is perfectly illuminated.
The old town.
Inside one of Yazd’s souvenir shops.
Beautiful maze of alleys in Yazd’s old town. 

Follow the two spiky blue minarets to get to Masjed-e Jameh. Looming over the old town of Yazd, this stunning building is worthy of a visit just to see the incredible tile work and restoration the mosque underwent in the 1960’s. There are also many interesting calligraphic patterns of note and colorful designs – we loved them! One the way back we are approached by a local guide who offers to show us some sights around Yazd. That’s next day officially sorted.

Two twin minarets of this mosque and its facade are really impressive.
Calligraphic patterns of note and colorful designs of Masjed-e Jameh.

We love a good cuppa and as you remember it’s not so easy to find one in Iran. We pop into Cafe de Paris – a small cafe next to Masjed-e Jameh mosque before hitting the Old Town. They have amazing aubergine sandwiches! Yum!

Yazd’s Old Town is a mix of residential palaces and homes surrounded by tall walls and winding alleys, creating a pleasant labyrinth. You can’t get enough of all the hidden courtyards, beautiful wooden doors, photogenic spots and light shafts. We liked it so much that we stayed in the city longer than we planned.

One of the local businesses in Yazd.
Another icon of Yazd are definitely badgirs  – traditional Iranian architectural element to create natural ventilation in buildings. 

One of the quirkiest experiences during our trip to Iran was visiting Zurkhaneh (House of Strength). It’s the ancient Iranian gymnasia where traditional martial arts and music come together. The workout takes place in an octagonal pit (re-purposed water reservoir) where some men exercise using equipment, modelled on medieval weapons, that has existed for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years: huge wooden clubs, clanging metal contraptions or a huge shield. A bespectacled man sits in a booth with a large drum on his lap, beating out a rhythm with his fingers, occasionally clanging a bell and calling out mournful pleas to Imam Ali – the beat no less energetic, but doused in ancient history. What a show!

The workout is about to begin…
Even little boys participate! Women are only welcome to watch.
I tried one of these wooden clubs – they are incredibly heavy!
Live music at Zurkhaneh.

Yazd is a magic city. A city from Thousand and One Nights. Wandering around its streets feels like you can stumble upon Aladdin and his flying carpet at any time. Beautiful architecture, mud-brick houses, rooftops with incredible views and the most peculiar gyms ever. What else do you need to make Yazd your must-go city in 2019?