Yazd – the City of Badgirs

I usually like to find attractions along the way which are overlooked and ultimately not overcrowded. My interests are more than checking off a list which usually means seeing what many don’t stop and see. I found many things in Yazd which may seem to be boring because of their name but ended up being quite interesting. Here’s my top things to see in Yazd list:

Yazd Heidarzadeh Coin Anthropology Museum:

It’s a museum that isn’t listed on most group tours going to Yazd which says to most “Don’t Go” but to me it goes on my “Must Do” list.

Yazd - Coin and Anthropology Museum

Sounds geeky right? It’s really in name alone. This museum is home to a large collection of coins which date back to the beginning of the first century.  A jewelry shop assistant and part time teacher named Mr. Hussein Heidarzadeh collected 5,000 pieces of different items including coins, banknotes, scissors, lantern, rosary, seal, scale, knife, samovar, silver ornaments, etc over his lifetime and donated most of them to the Cultural Heritage Organization here in Yazd. The coins and bills are not the only attraction here.  The interior of the building has been well attended to and is much more attractive then the water museum.  This could partially be because they get less traffic then the Water Museum.

It was late in the afternoon when we set out to find the Museum located in the old quarter of Yazd. The LP guide to Iran has the museum listed as a part of there walking tour of Yazd.  It was one of the few things open at 2:30pm on a Saturday afternoon. We followed the LP map and discovered a helpful english sign once we got past the closed tourist office. It’s easy to get lost in the labyrinth of covered alleyways of the old city but we finely made it to the museum. A young man and another friendly armed gentleman dressed in military fatigues answered the door when we knocked. It’s good to know we and the coins are safe.  It was just us, the coins and our minders.  How wonderful – we had the place to ourselves.

Yazd Coin and Anthropology Museum
Display accidentally taken inside the Museum

The Coin Museum located inside in a similar building which includes a well-kept central courtyard minus the crowds. The only draw back is that you can’t take pictures. I managed to get some because I accidentally hit my camera and wellah..I got a couple of shots. No harm done.


Yazd Water Museum:

Yazd Water Museum

I happened to visit in mid-day along with a large group of rather loud Castalian retired and hearing impaired visitors. Let’s say I was a bit put off by the crowd inside the narrow chambers. It was hard to hear what Mahmoud had to share with us while the group passed us by and spoke amongst themselves. At least the museum had a few visual aids to help explain the museum and the building it occupied.

Yazd Water Museum

Yazd Water Museum

Many go to the Water Museum so they can check out how wealthier Yazd residents lived 100 years ago. The former home is in excellent condition and it’s great to see how the cooling system worked in the home, but there was one big drawback. It gets crowded. I would suggest to skip it but try to find an off-peak time to visit. Possibly when it first opens and large groups are still having breakfasts or late in the day when they are on the bus and rushing on to their next destination.  It’s located just across from the Amir Chaqmagh Complex and Hajj Khalifeh Rahbar Confections Shop.

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.

First stop in Yazd: Dolat Abad Windcatcher

It was a friday so things were pretty quiet in Yazd when we arrived.  The fire temple is a popular spot for families to visit on the weekend and it was busy but the stores were closed and only a few doors were open for visitors.  The Dolat Abad Windcatcher complex was one of those open doors.

Dolatabad house
Dolatabad house – Yazd

Yazd is famous for its many windcatchers. The malqaf or tall tower has an opening at the top which faces the prevailing winds. The tower catches the wind where it is cooled by flowing over an underground water source called the Qanat. The combination of the water and cooler walls located in the lower parts of the building cools the air and provides natural air conditioning.  It seems like a pretty green technology right?  I wonder why we don’t see more structures like this in use today.

Dolatabad House Windcatcher
The tallest windcatcher in Iran – 34 meters in height

The tallest wind catcher standing in Iran is the one here in the Dolatabad Garden in Yazd.  It’s 34 meters in height.  The building was the residence of Mohammad Taghi Khan in the Zand era.  The interior contains a pool which is under the windcatcher. The water seems to connect to the long rectangular pool that is outside and in front of the windcatcher.  The outdoor pool is surrounded by fruit trees, flowering plants and of course several traditional cypress trees.

Dolatabad house
Gardens of the Dolat abad House
Dolatabad house
Exterior wall and gardens of the Dolat abad house in Yazd

The building is very attractive and contains beautifully designed ceiling plaster work and colorful glass pained windows. It’s a great site to end the day and begin the days we will have in Yazd and the surrounding area. Time to finally check out our hotel and have a late lunch and tea.

Dolatabad house
Inside the windcatcher at the Dolat abad House – Yazd
Dolat Abad windcatcher area
Ceiling and surrounding plaster work of the windcatcher
Dolatabad house
Beautiful windows of the Dolat abad House – Yazd