Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Zoroastrian Neighborhood of Yazd

Yazd is known as the city of Zartoshti, Zoroastrians, in Iran, and the first place I visited was the Zoroastrian neighborhood. It was incredibly helpful to have a Zoroastrian tour guide who was able to explain some of the wonderful features and traditions of this neighborhood, both of which really seemed to establish a sense of a close-knit community. 

Before explaining anything, my guide loved quizzing me to see how clever I was (and both he and I were frequently disappointed.) My first quiz was this: Judging by the door, how do I know if the residents are Muslim or Zoroastrian? Well, surely there was some kind of a sign, but after looking and looking, I just couldn't find it. 

One of the very first posts that I wrote was about the "his and hers" doorknockers in Iran. The sound each one makes tells you whether a man or a woman is at the door, something that is important for Muslims to know. Houses with Zoroastrian residents, on the other hand, have only one knocker on the door because they welcome anyone. So the door above is actually a "Muslim" door, but one of the handles has been stolen- something I noticed that was quite common in this neighborhood- because the iron fetches quite a bit of money. 

Zoroastrian door
Zoroastrian doors

Another feature of the Zoroastrian neighborhood is the high walls and benches outside the doors. The benches are for sitting in the evenings and chatting/spending time with your neighbors. 

A morning ritual is to spray water in front of your door signal to your neighbors that everything is fine at your house. Should someone not do this, it's a sign that something is wrong, maybe the person is sick (or worse), etc. Don't you love the sense of community already?

I don't know if this picture does it justice, but these walls were high.

Modern Zoroastrian house- see the Ahura Mazda left of the window?

Quiz number 2: Is this a Zoroastrian house or a Muslim house, and how do you know? 

Well, since we were in the Zoroastrian neighborhood, I knew it had to be Zoroastrian, but I didn't know why. The give away was the sarv, cypress trees, which play an important role in Zoroastrian traditions and wedding ceremonies. 

Along the way were also many short doors and what seemed to be holes in the walls. The doors led directly to the bāgh, garden, stable, or basement where wood is stored. The holes in the wall held oil with a little string to ignite a flame (which is why they are blackened) and light up the alley

According to the guide, Muslims are allowed in all Zoroastrian places except for one: guest houses/hotels. This is because they don't go by the Islamic dress code there and men and women are together. 

A stop in this neighborhood doesn't seem to be very popular on the Yazd tour. My cousin only passed through here on her way to the Ātashkadeh the first time she visited. But both she and I were so glad to have gotten an explanation. I loved the sense of community that was evident in the design and traditions of this neighborhood. But I'm dedicating a post to the one feature that I loved the most... stay tuned!



  1. Hi Pontia,
    Which part of Yazd is this neighborhood located? Fahaadaan?
    Is there any Zoroastrian village around Yazd we can visit if we are in that city?

    1. Hi! Unfortunately I don't know the name of the neighborhood, but everyone would know it if you just mention the Zoroastrian neighborhood. As far as villages, there is Chak Chak just outside Yazd. Unfortunately I didn't get to visit while I was there, but it has one of the most sacred shines for Zoroastrians.


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