The hanging town of Yezdikhwast

Yezdikhwast is between Isfahan and Shiraz – or, for Vita Sackville-West in 1927, from Isfahan on the way across the Zagros Mountains when she visited the Bakhtiari.

Photo of Yezdikhwast in 1902, by Pierre Loti

She described the town as: “that fantastic grey eyrie overhanging a chasm. Pierre Loti compared it to the abode of sea birds [click here and scroll down for his photo]; Gobineau, to a beehive. On one side it is flush to the plain, but on the other it rises sheer up from a dry river-bed, a skeleton-coloured cliff of a town, pierced with windows like the eye-sockets of a skull, and beetling with wooden balconies and platforms that threaten to fall at any moment into the canyon below. It is difficult to see where the natural rock ends and the houses begin. The whole structure seems to be hooked and hitched together, in defiance . . of all the laws of equilibrium and common sense . .”

Sackville-West stayed in a house in the town, but when EG Browne visited over forty years earlier (click and scroll down to p.245-6), he was told that that the inhabitants “do not care to have strangers dwelling in their cliff-girt abode”.

Instead, he was sent down the gully to the local caravanserai.

There he found “a very fine edifice, built, as an inscription over the gateway testifies, by ‘the most potent king and most generous prince, the diffuser of the faith of the pure Imams . . the dog of the threshold of Ali, the son of Abu Talib . . Abbas the Safavi, may God perpetuate his kingdom and rule!’.  The inscription is very beautifully executed, but unfortunately it has been greatly injured, many of the tiles having been removed, and others broken. I asked the villagers why they did not take better care of a building of which they ought to feel proud. They replied that it was not their fault: thirteen or fourteen years ago a ‘Firangi’ came by and, wishing to possess some of the tiles, offered one of the men at the post-house two or three tumans if he would remove some of them. The temptation was too strong for the latter, and accordingly he went the same night with a hammer and chisel to carry out the traveller’s wishes. Of course he broke at least as many tiles as he removed, and a noble monument of the past was irreparably injured to gratify a traveller’s passing whim.

3 thoughts on “The hanging town of Yezdikhwast”

  1. There’s a short chapter about Yezdikhast (sic) in Fred Richards’s “A Persian Journey”, and this firangi, unlike the vandal you refer to, gives a charming pen and ink drawing of what he describes as “The Island City of the Desert.”

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