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January 11, 2003

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Today we explored Yazd, a central Iranian town that's famous for a wind tower skyline and the world's foremost center of worship for Zoroastrians. Zoroaster founded this religion around 500 BC and it came to be the state creed until the Arabs almost extinguished it with their conquest in 650 AD. Zoroastrians worship fire as a symbol of God. Their method of handling the dead interests us most. Rather than 'pollute' the earth by burial or cremation, they placed their dead in 'towers of silence,' an open space enclosed by a wall on top of a mountain. Here the body waited for the vultures. A priest watched to see which eye the vulture ate first: the right eye meant a smooth ride for the soul, the left eye meant trouble. Few Zoroastrians practice today. Of the 150,000 left in the world, one-fifth of them worship in Yazd. Besides the interesting religious views, this city has a wonderful old city of mud brick alleys. At night it's fun to get lost in the labyrinthine streets. The mud bricks throw off heat and small lights play off the earthen walls.
A Zoroastrian place of worship in Yazd (the tower of silence stands atop this low hill). I lie down and wait for vultures while Jill does the hoochie-coochie.
Grinding henna, a dye for red heads, temporary tattoos, or cloth. All of the henna factory workers have turned into green elves from henna dust (the dust is green yet henna dye is red).
A caravanserai, once a way station for camel trains, now a comfortable tourist hotel. It sits in the center of Yazd's covered bazaar and the mosque next door makes sure you won't sleep past daybreak.
Windtowers crowd the skyline. These ancient air conditioners capture the slightest breeze and funnel the cool air to mud brick homes below.
Zoroastrians see God in fire. They claim this holy flame in Yazd has been lit for over fifteen hundred years, fed by generations of dedicated priests.