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Dark and Light in Yazd Central Iran

Dark and Light in Yazd Central Iran

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Published by bde_gnas
Mysticism
Mysticism

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: bde_gnas on May 10, 2013
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Dark and Light in Yazd Central Iran
By Barbara Cunliffe Singleton
 JAFFAR, THE GUIDE, waves his arm at the wind tower, scowls his black eyes atthe groundskeeper, andinsists, "We'll go up in the tower!" Below his scowl, hisnose arches until it angles steeply and stops with good form. His mouth firmsabove his cleft chin.The groundskeeper says, "I
told 
you the tower's impossible." Dry brush strokes ofhair cross over his sunburned bald spot. He grips the handle of a garden rake."The engineer says we can't go up anymore."Around Jaffar's face the sun glistens his thick black hair, and his voice builds,"
Don't be lazy! 
Go tothe guardbox and get the key!"The groundsman barely raises his eyebrows and placates, "I swear on the Koran.It's forbidden to go upstairs." He shuffles off into the park.All this is said in Farsi, but Jaffar obliges and translates for me. He teachessculpture in a university in Tehran, but since sculpture is forbidden in the Islamicrepublic, he has to call it "volume-making."Jaffar, still angry, starts toward the building. "Look! Even without a key we can goas far as the roof." We climb the steps and stand on the flat surface. His angergone, his voice becomes soothing, intriguing. "This is ancient Iran's natural formof air conditioning. See, the wind blows through those four slats in the tower.They drive the air down to that pool in the room below us. With three sides of theroom closed, the wind cools over the pool and blows through the rest of thehouse." His hands swoosh with feeling, to show air moving through the house."The city of Yazd is known for these old towers, which collect the prevailing wind—when and if it prevails." Even when I took a walk this morning in the newerresidential section, I saw wind towers, sixty feet high, attached to several houses.We take the steps down from the roof and walk through the garden. The morningair is freighted withthe green smells of plants and earth. A man in a uniformbicycles by, his face like a heavy drop, fullat the bottom, and peers at me witheyes set close together. He turns to ask in Farsi, "Where are youfrom?" By now Iknow a few Farsi phrases and answer,
"Amrika." 
 
"U.S., very good," he responds with a smile and bikes on."Is he a soldier?" I ask Jaffar."No, a member of the Disciplinary Force. It used to be called the
'Komité.
' ""You can't mean it," I say. "Attitudes are changing, when
he 
of all people says,'U.S., very good.'"We step through the park gate to the street. "He and the rest of the local forceare quartered over there." Jaffar points to plain adobe buildings with treesgrowing aroundthem. In front, more guys in green uniforms play soccer on thestreet. We wait until the ball is kickedout of bounds and then hurry across theimprovised field."Isn't soccer too western a sport to be allowed in Iran?"Jaffar's voice draws me in. "It's an exception. We beat the U.S. in the World Cupmatch. Remember? Muhammad approved of archery, hunting, swimming,horseback-riding, and chess, provided the people don't gamble.""What about the women? What sports for them?"Jaffar laughs. "Baby-sitting is the most popular sport for women, thoughRafsanjani's daughter helped organize the first Islamic Games for Women in1993. Tell you what, let's drive out to the Zoroastrian Towers of Silence, beforeit’s a furnace out here. Yazd is surrounded by desert."We find the car and drive south on Kashani Street, speeding beside Peykan cars.In fact, we're
in 
a Peykan car. It's made in Iran under the Hillman label. It feelscomfortable and light.After two kilometers, we turn off onto a dirt road and climb into the stony hills, drywith noweed or blade of green. At the top rise the Towers of Silence, shaped liketwo round adobe reservoirs. Zoroastrians, like their cousins, the Parsees inBombay, after three days of rituals in the home, would file up into these hills tooffer the body to a Tower official, who would prepare it for the vultures.We get out of the Peykan, slam the doors, and stand near the high-walled Tower.Before us lies a vast view of the flat city of Yazd under sheer blue sky. Bare
 
mountains in the desert beyond the city slice the horizon into haphazard darkshapes. No birds circle in the sky."Where are the birds?" I ask Jaffar."The birds? Long gone. It's not like the Tower of Silence in Bombay, whereParsees still give the bodies to the birds. Reza Shah [reigned 1925 -1941]stopped all that. He called the custom ‘barbaric.’ When he came to Yazd, wherehe was having a railroad built, he told the Zoroastrians, 'You either bury the deadas Muslims do, or go join the Parsees in Bombay.' Some left. Those who stayedbuilt a cemetery. You can see it just over there."Three boys in smudgy clothes wander up and watch Jaffar's mouth, curiousabout the strange sounds of his English.Below us, a graveyard of several acres filled with shade trees has been walledoff. Jaffar continues, "Zoroastrians think burying a body pollutes the earth. A bodyrepresented a defeat of their God of Light, Ahura Mazda, and a victory of the Godof Darkness, Ahriman. Therefore, Zoroastrians here bury the bodies in concrete-lined tombs, so they don't pollute the earth."Jaffar flings his hand toward earthen buildings roofed with cup-shaped domes."Over there arethe rooms for ceremonies, where relatives used to stay until therituals in this Tower were complete. According to a folk legend, if a bird took theright eye first, the person went to heaven—if the left, he went to hell.”Jaffar takes out his city map and several children gather around. I think of E. G.Browne's experience outside of Yazd in 1888, when he, too, was looking at amap. Some of the children he talked with that year had never seen maps.Browne showed them the lines for mountain peaks and their names, the dots forvillages, and a larger square with lines to represent the streets of Yazd. One childtold him, "It's too bad you didn't bring a microscope. We could see what's goingon in the streets of Yazd."As we drive back into the city, I have the feeling that I like Yazd, its dry air, its lowbuildings built of the color of the earth, its leisured pace. We pass many parksfilled with trees and flowers. Houses with tanks of water on the roof face thesunny south, their bricks arranged in protruding designs to form shadow patterns.Before lunch the waiter brings to the table a plastic covering backed by a fuzz ofcotton. Its folds hold the intense smell of scrubbed vinyl until, with a snap, the

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