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Posts Tagged ‘fire temple’

Esfahan Bird Garden (Paq-e Parandegan) is not far from the Koh Ateshgah Sasanid fire temple which I climbed on a previous visit and first impressions were that it didn’t look much but initial impressions belied what we found inside the extensive grounds.

 

Founded in 1996 the garden covers more than 50,000 square metres, most of which is enclosed by a net suspended high off the ground giving the 125 or so species of birds plenty of room to fly around freely whilst making sure that they don’t escape their environs.

We saw parrots, budgies, cockatoos, ostriches, owls, pheasants, peacocks as well as the aquatic birds in the large pool; pelicans, flamingos and storks and cranes all balancing on one leg and black and white swans paddling smoothly along in the clear water.

 

My favourites were the toucans which reminded me of those Guinness adverts of long ago and in Farsi they are known as Fala-Fala. Two toucans perching on the branch; Fala-Fala, Fala-Fala.

Esfahan Bird Garden made a perfect outing on a beautiful sunny and warm early spring afternoon. The trees were just breaking into leaf giving the hedgerows and woodlands a lovely hazy-green appearance. The Zayandeh-Rud however was extremely low as there was a drought in this area threatening the production of those gorgeous melons and other orchard fruits that we picked in abundance at the end of last summer. I can now report in May 2012 that the drought conditions have eased and the melons are just as sweet and juicy as ever!

  

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I am by nature an early riser but it has to be something pretty special to coax me out of my bed at 4.00am and I was hoping that today wouldn’t disappoint as I rolled out of bed and into the shower this morning. We were off to Abyaneh, a famous Iranian “historic village” and UNESCO world heritage site, then skirting the central desert via Natanz to Kashan. I was not to be disappointed.

 

Abyaneh is a remote settlement nestled high in the Karkas mountains and it’s red. The houses are built from the red-ochre coloured mud which gives them their distinct appearance and they butt into the steep slopes so that there are no back gardens and the emphasis is very much on the house fronts. We didn’t get to see inside a house but apparently there are no stairs because they use the natural slope of the mountain to climb between stories. 

Most of the original carved wooden doors remain intact and when you look closely you will see that most doors have two knockers-one for men the other for women. This enables the person indoors to tell by the knock whether the visitor is a man or a woman (rarely is the “wrong” knocker used).

     

Unusually for an Islāmic community, women enjoy equal rights with men and traditionally this has meant that many have not married until they are at least thirty and no more than three children are born to a family. Perhaps this emancipation is why the ladies of Abyaneh are famous for their bright coloured clothes an unusual feature for Islāmic women and something which the colourful women of Abyaneh have resisted despite several attempts by the government to change this.

     

Sadly most of the houses are deserted now and the younger villagers have moved away, many abroad. Tourists flock in droves to see the village and its remaining residents, especially the colourful women and whilst when we arrived at 7.30am there were few other visitors by the time we left at 10.30am hundreds more had arrived and there was nowhere to park. It was clearly good planning to get up at 4.00am and I was pleased that we had done so.

Some of the women are more willing to be photographed than others and I always asked before taking a photo respecting those who did not want to be. I fully understand their reluctance. At best it’s a nuisance, but it can be invasive and inappropriate so asking first is a must even if you don’t like the answer. One particularly bright and bubbly lady happily posed for photographs and even insisted that we join her on some of our pictures. Her enthusiasm became clear when she asked if we could send the pictures by email to her daughter who lives in Europe! I had to laugh but gladly we wrote down the email address and tonight I will be sending her pictures to someone, somewhere in Italy! She was also a little cheeky when she thought that my husband was in fact my travel guide, and when I showed an interest in purchasing a souvenir, she told him to “inflate the price” so he could make a bit of profit too! So beware the sellers and be prepared to barter…….you’ll save yourself a fortune.

Other attractions in the village include the Congregational Mosque with a fabulous inlaid door. Sadly the mosque was closed so I was unable to see the painted ceiling which I had read about. The mausoleum ( “Holly Shrine” per the road sign) is also worth a visit if only for the views across the mountains from the verandah and its blue mosaic cone roof also shines out among the mass of red.

Another fascinating feature of the surrounding countryside were the sheep holes which are carved into the hillside so that the sheep can shelter from the extreme heat in the summer months and I presume huddle together for warmth in the winter.

Abyaneh is an interesting place to while away a few hours and I was surprised to learn that we had been there for three hours. I was sad to leave without seeing more of the buildings further up the hill but it was getting very busy and we had places to go and things to see in Karshan.

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The two mountain ranges of Sala and Sofeh shelter the city of Esfahan which nestles in a verdant plain irrigated by the mighty Zayande-Rud as it winds its way through the province. The plain itself is well developed. The city of Esfahan, described by Fitzgerald as Nesf-e Jahan “Half the World” because of its wonderfully varied history and culture, has been built up over many centuries and there are now signs that the smaller towns and villages are themselves becoming suburbs of Esfahan rather than remaining individual settlements.

Driving into Esfahan from the town of Sede you are suddenly faced with a rocky outcrop. There is no gradual build up to this 13th Century citadel, and it rises from the plain with a suddenness that takes you by surprise. This bastion includes the remains of a Sasanid Koh-Ateshgah Fire Temple at the top, and once seen from the road below, the urge to climb the dusty, rocky mountain to sit in the Zorastranian temple becomes an irresistible challenge. I recommend an early start to ensure that you make the most of the cooler conditions and there are fewer people around to interrupt the peace, quiet and photography. The dry heat however does not sap your energy nearly as much as the humid damp that we experience in the UK and I found the climb, which rises to 1600m above sea level, much more comfortable than I anticipated.

The views from the top of Koh-Ateshgah make the sometimes tricky and earthy scramble well worth the effort and there are plenty of flat rocks along the way where you can admire the ever-widening views, drink some water, enjoy the cooling breeze and catch your breath. It takes surprisingly little time to reach the top, whereas the trip down I found much more hazardous and time consuming.

A fascinating couple of hours well worth spending at this historic monument and all for 65p for the both of us. 

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