Afternoon prayer by young muezzin in Iran’s old city of Yazd

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Yazd (Persian: یزد‎‎ [jæzd] is the capital of Yazd Province, Iran. The city is located 270 km (170 mi) southeast of Esfahan. At the 2011 census, the population was 1,074,428 in 270٬575 families.

Because of generations of adaptations to its desert surroundings, Yazd has a unique Persian architecture. It is nicknamed the city of windcatchers (Persian: شهر بادگیرها Shahr-e Badgirha) because of its ancient Persian windcatchers. It is also very well known for its Zoroastrian fire temples, ab anbars, qanats, yakhchals, Persian handicrafts, Termeh (Iranian handwoven cloth), silk weaving, and its high quality Yazdi confectionery.

Yazd has a history of over 5,000 years, dating back to the time of the Median empire, when it was known as “Ysatis” (or “Issatis”). The present city name, however, is derived from Yazdegerd I, a Sassanid ruler of Persia. The city was definitely a Zoroastrian center during Sassanid times. After the Arab conquest of Iran, many Zoroastrians migrated to Yazd from neighboring provinces. By paying a levy, Yazd was allowed to remain Zoroastrian even after its conquest, and Islam only gradually became the dominant religion in the city.

Amir Chakhmaq SquareBecause of its remote desert location and the difficulty of access, Yazd remained largely immune to large battles and the destruction and ravages of war. For instance, it was a haven for those fleeing from destruction in other parts of Persian Empire during the Mongol invasion. In 1272 it was visited by Marco Polo, who remarked on the city’s fine silk-weaving industry. In the book The Travels of Marco Polo, he described Yazd in the following way:

It is a good and noble city, and has a great amount of trade. They weave there quantities of a certain silk tissue known as Yasdi, which merchants carry into many quarters to dispose of. When you leave this city to travel further, you ride for seven days over great plains, finding harbour to receive you at three places only. There are many fine woods producing dates upon the way, such as one can easily ride through; and in them there is great sport to be had in hunting and hawking, there being partridges and quails and abundance of other game, so that the merchants who pass that way have plenty of diversion. There are also wild asses, handsome creatures. At the end of those seven marches over the plain, you come to a fine kingdom which is called Kerman.

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