Hot spot – mountains approaching Yazd.
As you crank up the cooler this hot summer spare a thought for the early citizens of Yazd, in central Iran, who had to endure temperatures in the mid-50s C in pre-Air-conditioned discomfort. Not only was Yazd stinking hot, being in the middle of the desert, water was very hard to come by. Luckily the early central Iranians were a resourceful lot adopting ingenious solutions to both problems, thus making some semblance of a comfortable life possible.
To deal with the water issue they adopted the innovative technology of the qanat, underground water channels, said to have originated in the area around 2,500 years ago. The outward manifestation of these qanats is bricked domed structures, examples of which dot the Yadz landscape like brown clay igloos.
Modern-day Qanat and bagdirs.
Old bagdirs awaiting restoration in historic Yazd.
Inside a bagdir, looking up.
And the solution to being a couple of thousand years away from AC development? Bagdirs, ingenious directional wind catchers, usually comprising four shafts, which cleverly guided outside air downwards in one shaft and upwards in another, with wind currents formed by the difference in inside and outside temperatures. The bagdirs were often built over cellars and underground water reservoirs with such a cooling effect that food could be kept “refrigerated” and water cooled. The technology remains in use today and numerous examples of this wonderful desert air conditioning, ancient and new, sprout like crazy chimneys from rooftops across the city.
Narrow laneways and high walls provide shade and protection.
Everything old is new again – restoration work.
Both badgirs and qanats are among the many tourists fascinations of Yazd, another of Iran’s World Heritage-listed sites, one of the oldest towns on earth and a key stop on the timeworn trading routes. Others include the old town of sun-dried mud bricks, a veritable maze of high walls and laneways, all part of the cunning plan to create shade and deflect dust storms to make desert life possible; Zoroastrian sites reflecting Yadz’s pre-eminence as a leading centre of that religion; and the Amir Chakhmaq Hosseinieh complex, one of the largest such structures in Iran. Celebrating the plucky town’s ascendancy over the hostile environment is the Yadz Water Museum while the Qajar-era Khan-e Lari, a fine example of a merchant’s house, now houses architectural students and cultural heritage offices.
Historic Zoroastrian village in Yazd.
Zoroastrian Fire Temple in Yazd said to have been burning since AD 470.