The ‘friendship alleys’ of Yazd

So narrow that one is obliged to become friends

The city of Yazd is known for its Zoroastrian history and community, its wind-towers, and its narrow streets filled with bicycles or, nowadays, motorbikes. The citizens of Yazd are generally well off, thriving on trade, but their lifestyle is notoriously moderate, and their wealth is not visible to the ignorant tourist.

Like people in most desert towns, they are rather traditional — which is evident in the colourless conservative cloaks of the women and the scarfs covering the heads of the little girls — but they are also very hospitable.

We spent a few days wandering trough the mysterious maze of the old town’s alleys. As you wander around you will need to continually squeeze yourselves in nooks and holes to allow space for the dashing motorbikes that were loudly carrying Yazd’s youth and old men in an inexplicable hurry.

We got lost among a few ‘friendship alleys’ — alleys so narrow that, legend has it, two people coming from opposite directions are obliged to become friends, even if they are sworn enemies, to be able to pass — but it did not matter.

The narrow streets are an attraction by themselves, they will get you a feeling of the daily live in the old town. On our daily walks from the hotel to the Art House and the Jāmeh Mosque we saw kids with big smiles on their faces, were approached by youth trying to practice their English and talked to friendly elderly people curious why we were visiting their country and for how long we would stay in town.

I loved wandering through the maze a lot, it kind of feels mysterious as the whole thing appears completely opposite to what is common in my culture, in the Netherlands everything is so open, most houses have large windows and people do little to conceal their private lives from strangers walking on the street.

In the narrow streets of many ancient Middle-East towns or medina’s, you will find endless walls of adobe or sandstone mixed with the occasional decorated wooden door. In Yazd, it often gave me a sense as if you are alone in the maze, but the feeling would sometimes promptly disappear, mostly when we had to squeeze ourselves in holes again when happy kids riding their bicycles would pass. But occasionally you would also be remembered that you were not alone when someone was cooking the most amazing Iranian dishes behind the anonymity of the walls and doors. The aromas would almost make you run to one of the rooftops to enjoy the tranquillity of this magical town with a great meal and spectacular views.