Thursday, February 20, 2014

Zoroastrian Make Up Alleys

Zoroastrian neighborhood Yazd Iran

*Updated 6/2* In previous posts, I wrote about the Zoroastrian neighborhood in Yazd and the concept of being ghahr with someone. Now let's combine the two. The opposite of being ghahr with someone is making up with them, āshti kardan. Now mix this concept with Zoroastrian architecture, and you have kooche āshtikonun, or make up alley. 

Khooche āshtikonun are alleys with walls that are very close to each other. They are called make up alleys because it's said that if two people were ghahr and passed each other in one of these alleys, they would bump into each other and therefore be forced to speak and make up. Love thy neighbor, right?


Zoroastrian neighborhood Yazd Iran

The arches serve a few purposes: 

1. They connect two areas/walls together.

2. They help create shade, which in a city like Yazd is a blessing.

3. They symbolize two hands reaching out and holding the other for support. Without the other, we are alone and fall apart. 

4. They make the distance of the alleys appear shorter; therefore you are more inclined to walk down the alley and visit your friend. 
Zoroastrian neighborhood Yazd Iran

Zoroastrian neighborhood Yazd Iran

Some of these alleys were a little wider and cars could pass through them. I noticed that as soon as two cars faced each other in one of these tight spots, one driver would simply back up and let the other through- no fuss. A thank you honk and a wave seemed to be customary. 

This kooche āshtikonun had a winding path symbolizing the fact that life isn't always a straight road, but it has its twists and turns. 

Zoroastrian neighborhood Yazd Iran
To give you an idea of the distance.

I don't know about you, but I absolutely loved this architectural concept. I grew up in a country where there was always this idea of personal space (completely non-existent in Iran!) and not knowing your neighbors is quite normal. Even now, some neighbors can barely bring themselves to say "hello" in the elevator. But I love the way the Zoroastrian community has designed its neighborhoods to encourage not only daily interaction and a relationship with your neighbor, but also āshti kardan should you find yourselves at odds. Whether or not
people really believe and do these things is another story. I find the thought process behind it fascinating. Now if only there were a way to send the world's politicians down these alleys...

Pontia

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