Yazd’s Magical Jāmeh mosque
I am not sure what to do with this post really. I must have taken a hundred images of this magical place, and I often think of going back to Yazd one day to explore the old town and the rooftops a bit more. The combination of the brown adobe made structures, its narrow streets, either completely quiet and deserted of full with happy kids, the blue tiles used in their famous architecture and the soft, warm sunlight makes it a magical place. And the best thing of all is that you can experience some of it from one of the rooftops in the old town, sipping a cup of sweet mint tea.
So please let me start with an apology; I have dumped way too many images in this post. This was the first mosque that caused us a neck pain. We stayed in a lovely place in the old town, and for three days in a row, we walked in and out the Jāmeh Mosque, spending much time looking up to observe the beautifully decorated ceilings of the dome (hence the pain in the neck).
The tilework is simply astonishing. All the pieces are made by hand and our guide Mohammed told us that some mosques have such detailed tile designs that the Iranian craftsmen use close to 30.000 miniature pieces to compose a one square metre piece of art.
I actually bought some smaller mosaic tiles made up from these little pieces to bring back home. The pieces are 25x25 centimetres, small enough to transport safely in my carry-on luggage, but it would take one person close to a week to manufacture them.
What made the place so special was the absence of noisy groups of tourists. Yazd is a sleepy little town full of character, and though we travelled in early spring when the temperature is still bearable, there were very few visitors in town. I know for sure that when the sanctions will be lifted this place will be flooded with tourists and, I guess, rightly so. It is good for the local economy, and I would encourage everyone to go and visit this marvellous town. The downside is, of course, that the quietness that we felt will be gone sooner than later. But even if the bans have not been lifted I would still urge you, well if you are from Europe I guess, to travel sooner than later to indulge yourself in its peaceful and authentic vibe before the masses arrive.
It was fascinating to see the mosque in various light conditions. From the rooftops, in the middle of the day, the bright blue minarets seemed to compete with the bright blue sky in the harsh sunlight. In the early evenings, the colour of the adobe buildings surrounding the mosque went from almost white to a pale reddish brown while the skies turned purple. But amazingly the blue still stood out. In the soft morning light, it was astounding to see how the colours would subtly pop without being completely blinded by the harsh light during daytime.
Inside the mosque, the spectacle was similar to the view from outside but in a very different way. The effect of the shades in the vaulted ceiling caused by 3D structures was striking. These so-called Muqarnas are such complex shapes that you just cannot comprehend how they have designed and crafted these ceiling decorations. Their use is simple, the muqarnas were put in place to make a smooth transition from the rectangular basis of the mosque to the vaulted ceiling of the dome. But then in the most complex shape possible 😮. Anyway, when the soft afternoon light hits these 3D structures, and the interacts with the tile designs and colours a real spectacle unfolds.
Each town apparently has its own unique set of colours. The ones in Yazd were base predominantly based blue pastel hues, deep blue symbolising the sky, turquoise blue for water, but later on, we saw a shift towards yellows and pinks in Shiraz and Esfahan. My favourite was clearly the combination of Yazd’s fresh azures in contrast with the sand hues of the surrounding desert, mountains and the low-rising sandstone buildings.
The decorations of Azeri style Jāmeh Mosque are intriguing. The embellishing religious texts and vivid flower-like pieces are mixed with sharp geometric shapes. The shapes are mesmerising, and before you know, you are hooked on and want to know all about it. Mohammed helped us to translate some of the sophisticated texts that at first looked like square geometric shapes.
Some pieces of square Kufic script can be read by the locals. The ceiling of the iwan, that is the vaulted portal to the courtyard, is covered with these Kufic patterns. The text represents a list of the 99 names of Allah. Frankly, not all the names can be deciphered due to miss and alternative spellings, after all, the former Friday mosque was built in the 14th century.
I tried to visualise how it must have been for caravans and travellers following the Silk Road, such as Marco Polo, when they approached the city trough one of the two mountainous deserts hundreds of years ago. After days or weeks of walking in the blistering sun, they could see the two tall minarets from far away. The in blue tiles covered towers, with 48 metres the highest in the country, must have been quite a display.
If you are planning to visit Iran, you cannot miss the city of Yazd. Try to find a hotel in or near the old centre, the rest of town seems rather unattractive, and you will miss out on everything the authentic old town has to offer. When planning to go to Yazd try to spend there at least two full days. Well at minimum that is. There is so much to see in and around Yazd and it simply takes time to get to the more remote places by taxi or with your guide.
Then the Jāmeh Mosque. We were staying literally around the corner and, in hindsight, I was glad that we did. I loved coming back to see the mosque once more and find new details. The light was different all the time although I did not really fancy the bright blue lights they use at night. Also do get on the roofs! There are various places in Yazd where you can drink or eat on the rooftops. Go in the afternoon and enjoy the sunsets with a freshly made pomegranate juice — ours were marvellous.
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