Iran Life – Yazd, Towers Of Silence

Every journey begins with the first step’ – or words to that effect. So said Confuse Us a smart Chinese guy from the Lu dynasty about 450BCE. With that in mind we took our first ‘steps’ right over a couple of mature, laid-back Istanbul street dogs of our acquaintance. As we did so we whispered a quick ‘Thanks, SDs’ for the info that gave us the push we needed to get on with this particular ‘trip-of-a-lifetime’. That said, with so much to cover, where to begin? The toss of a coin, and the ancient desert city of Yazd it is – which suits very well because it was one of our must see places.

Our young friends from Tehran, who we first met in Istanbul, met up with us here and we spent a brilliant couple of days together exploring the city. (l-r guide Feraidoon, Siavash, Bahman, Shardi and J)

Yazd has been around for a very long time – sustained and made tolerable by life-bringing qanats and cooling wind towers, of which, more later. Often referred to as the longest permanently occupied place on Earth (a claim that Damascus might dispute), there are some who say it has been occupied for more than 3000 years – others 6000. Whatever, it was and still is the beating heart of Zoroastrianism – fire worshippers who revere the four elements. These days they are not allowed to leave their dead out on the Towers of Silence for the vultures to pick-over, they are buried in concrete lined graves to avoid any contamination of the earth, air, fire or water.


Zoroastrian Fire Temple and Eternal Flame

Zoroastrian eternal flame yazdIt is claimed that this fire has burned continuously since 720CE – Zoroastrians make up a significant minority of the Iranian population at around 5-10%. They, along with Jews and Christians are recognised religious minorities who are free to carry on their faith unmolested.

Zoroastrianism was a major influence that lay at the heart of the once mighty Sasanian Empire that spread from India in the east to Egypt and Turkey in the west between 224-652CE. It was the last Iranian empire before the advent of Islam. Two of the Towers of Silence, open to tourism, can be found on the edge of the city together with the modern Zoroastrian cemetery.

Zoroastrian Tower of Silence Yazd Iran

Yazd Tower of Silence

At the top of the towers there is a flat area with a stone-lined pit all surrounded by a high wall to prevent contamination of earth and wind. Here the bodies were laid out for the birds of the air to consume before the bones were dissolved. All was dealt with by a dedicated ‘volunteer’ who never left the place for fear of ‘dirtying’ the elements or people outside. An early example of a ‘job for life’! It is an eerie, other-worldly place.

Yazd Zoroastrian Tower of Silence and complex

view from the top – the complex and modern cemetery with Yazd in the background

On the subject of religion, which looms large in this country, we learned that there are only three calls to prayer for Shi’ite Muslims (dawn, noon, dusk). The calls are gentle and pleasing on the ear (compared to the raucus, over-amplified bellowings from mosques in Turkey) but are all-pervasive and can be heard everywhere including the metro! Religious texts are plastered everywhere in towns and cities – a sort of in-your-face subliminal indoctrination.

I could go on, but let’s bring this post to a close with a view of the magnificent Amir Chakmaq Square and Mosque. More about this fascinating ancient city soon.


Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

ps there are still problems with WP after they made yet another version upgrade – I’d have loved to give you some links to the content but at least the photos are here. Onwards and upwards!

19 thoughts on “Iran Life – Yazd, Towers Of Silence

  1. The Iranian student sitting next to me in my first Turkish class told me that her family were of the Zoroastrian persuasion. I, who thought himself rather worldly, had no idea what that was. After visiting Iran it really struck me that this ancient religion and religious philosophy had influenced Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

  2. Lovely picture and story Alan. It looks a beautiful country. So glad you both enjoyed your visit. Best wishes. Mary x

  3. Most interesting to read and I look forward to the next instalment. Glad you managed the pictures, especially the last one which I think is quite spectacular.

  4. Oh Wow!

    I want to see this….

    As a side note, they turned the Ace Cinema in Rayner’s Lane into a Zoroastrian Temple. We lived about three blocks from that at one time. And, despite a certain amount of local opposition, it caused a great deal less problem than the nightclub that preceded it.

    But it didn’t look like your photos…

  5. Thank you for this fascinating post. I must admit my total and complete ignorance about the Zoroastrian faith — it is amazing. (As you know I’ve gotten a bit bogged down in Catholicism being here in the shadow of the Vatican). I love the idea of worshiping the four elements, but I definitely do not like the idea of letting birds eat up my remains.

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