I still close my eyes and imagine myself in Yazd smelling the saffron and cardamom of the gheymeh Yazdi stew. Jameh Mosque was our first destination. Mesmerised by the blue tiles and the sound of the call for prayers Fariba, my childhood friend, sat on the floor in front of the mosque and I could not stop my tears of excitement. The calmness of the city and the beautiful architecture of the mosque took my breath away at first glance. My friendship with Fariba was passed on to us by two generations before us. Our grandmothers, then our mothers and now us.
Surprisingly, after 30 years of friendship, we do not have much in common but food is what connects us the most. As always we had been advised to try this and that restaurant. I just followed the smell of saffron and cardamom and it took us to a humble roof-top restaurant. Gheymeh Yazdi is an aromatic lamb stew with split chickpeas and lots of saffron, ginger, and cardamom served with saffron rice.
Yazd is the capital of Yazd province, south of Tehran. If you drive 270 km southeast of Isfahan you'll reach the beautiful and sunny Yazd. We stayed at a beautiful old garden hotel in the center of Yazd. People of Yazd are warm, friendly and hospitable. Yazd is also the center of Iranian Zoroastrianism to this day.
Just like Qazvin, Yazd is synonymous with baklava. Although I prefer the baklava of Qazvin to that of Yazd's, Yazdi baklava is a treat of its own. Filled with almond and cardamom sliced neatly in beautiful red tin boxes, Khalife is one of the best bakeries in the center of Yazd. Yazdi cake is also a delcious rose water and cardamom-scented type of cupcake that once you take the first one you can barely stop yourself going for the next one. I love mine best with cold milk or hot Persian tea.
Apart from food and sweets, Yazd is the city of culture and history which lots of Yazdi people are proud of. Yazd is one of the hottest and driest cities in Iran but on the rooftop of almost any old house you can see a traditional windcatcher that creates natural ventilation in buildings. If you go there make sure you do not miss its beautiful and dazzling gold bazaar, water museums, Escandar prison, amazing rooftops and a walk in the quiet alleys with thatch walls. And if the sun hits you make sure you can always find a corner with sweet and cold Persian-herb-scented drinks or Yazdi faloodeh, which is something like thin rice noodles in a sweet herb-scented cold water.
On your way back Kharanagh - a 4000 year old mud brick mountain village in the heart of the dessert - and Meybod are certainly worth a visit. Meybod is the city of pottery and colourful tiles, so check into one of the local shops to create your own handywork.