Yazd: Windcatchers of the Desert Oasis

The top two things that come to mind when I think of my stay in Yazd are Windcatchers and its ancient Qanat water systems. Further confirming that I am a travel geek.

Amir Chaqmagh Complex (edited)

Amir Chaqmagh Complex

Just off of the Ancient Silk Road Highway

It survived Mongol invasion and its famous visitors include explorer Marco Polo in the 13th century and later in the 19th century British writer/traveler Robert Byron.  Byron wondered why others hadn’t noticed its beautiful architecture and asked the question, “Do people travel blind?”  Seems strange that one could visit Yazd without noticing its unique Windcatcher filled cityscape.  But,  it’s something I have asked myself more than once.  Marco Polo probably would have begged to differ since he found Yazd to be “a very fine and splendid city and a centre of commerce” when he traveled through it earlier in the 13th century.

Yazd Water Museum

The water that cools below the windcatcher above.

It’s possible that most were merely distracted by the hustle and bustle of the streets and just safely going about their business.  There are many things to contend with when walking the streets of Yazd.  The locals going to and coming from daily prayer, car and pedestrian traffic, lack of safe crossways, potentially hazardous centuries old water channels, and narrow sidewalks – just to name a few.  I imagine Yazd was just as bustling centuries ago as it is today.   It also as become a stop-off for modern-day explorers who participate in the Mongol Rally in the dead of summer.

Amir Chaqmagh Complex (edited)

Yazd – Amir Chaqmagh Complex

Windcatchers and water

The first thing that stuck me as a visitor in Yazd was the field of windcatchers which rise out of almost every structure in the city.  There are hundreds of them to be seen here. Many are not in use today but are reminders of Yazd’s industrious past.  They along with the qanat helped keep the city’s residents cool during the summer months when temperatures can get above  100 F.

Schoolyard in Yazd

Windcatchers in the Schoolyard in Yazd

Yazd is thought to be the oldest inhabited cities of Iran thanks to the qanat water system made during the Sassanian Period (224-651 AD).  The qanat along with the windcatcher systems keep the lower levels of many buildings and homes cool. This gives residents comfortable rooms to escape to during the steamy summer months and provides a safe place to store food within their home.

Doorway in Yazd

Doorway in the older section of Yazd

These water systems made centuries ago is the main reason this city still remains as it does today.  Water is scarce in this area found in the heart of the persian desert.  The climate is contradicting in the fact it is so dry but it’s full of pomegranate and date trees and fresh water streams still flow from the mountains.  The locals take pride that they and their ancestors have managed to have a water supply without the help machines and modern technology.

Today, Yazd is just as popular stop for travelers on the Silk Road as it was centuries ago. It remains the center of the Zoroastrian faith in Iran even though the numbers have dwindled. They are allowed to continue to worship as they please since Zoroastrians are ironically considered a religious minority even though they are the oldest known organized faith in the world.  The basic three tenets followed by Zoroastrians are: Good Thoughts; Good Words and Good Deeds.  Very good tenets to live by.

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