BBC – Journey – An Iranian village designed on rooftops



I gazed out the window on to a series of yellow, mud-brick cottages designed on a slope, surrounded by verdant hills engulfed in a blanket of swirling fog. In the village of Masouleh, nestled deep in northern Iran’s Alborz Mountains, each individual look at is a rooftop look at.

Masouleh was designed partway up a steep mountainside to maintain the village harmless from floods in the valley below and shield it from frigid winds that whip the summit higher than. But to conform to the steep incline prompted by a 100m elevation modify, people had to come across resourceful strategies of optimising place. Without a doubt, the architecture of this roughly 1,000-year-aged village is this kind of that the front backyard garden of just about every property – as perfectly as dining establishments, outside cafes and even components of a bazaar – sits on the rooftop of the property below it.

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For hundreds of years, the roofs of these residences, manufactured from clay, stone and wooden, have had to not only endure the soaked weather (the area sees all over 150cm of rain and snow just about every year), but also the pounds of continual foot website traffic – women hanging apparel to dry and merchants advertising colourful scarves and handmade dolls from little stands alongside the alleyways. The guesthouse wherever I was keeping, like numerous other homes in Masouleh, had a large window that spanned the front wall of the area to enable in sunlight and heat – one particular of the traditional approaches to contend with chilly winters. (Lots of of the older Masouleh homes also have a winter season area at the back of the constructing, insulated by the thick, clay walls.)

With a cup of tea in hand, I peered down into the slender passageways fashioned by the interconnected rooftops. I noticed a person carrying groceries from the bazaar up a winding staircase between two residences to his property in the upper concentrations.

“One by no means receives exhausted of this look at,” my host, Mr Safayee, stated as he joined me by the window.

Each look at is a rooftop look at

Masouleh has long been a buying and selling hub for hundreds of years, men and women arrived from all all over the area to market their wares. And in the early 20th Century, the village was made use of as a stronghold by the Jangali Motion, which opposed the occupation of Iran by Ottoman, British and Russian forces. But even though we sipped our tea, Mr Safayee lamented the gradual emigration of villagers to Iran’s more city spots.

“When I was a kid, there made use of to be an elementary faculty here. We by no means had a large inhabitants, but we have been all really shut,” he instructed me. “Now, younger men and women leave the village to other metropolitan areas for perform. Now we really do not even have the elementary faculty.”

Those people who remain have profited from tourism. “It permitted us to have a very good residing, and to mend our aged residences to the way they have been,” Mr Safayee stated.

With the rise of Masouleh as a popular tourism place in Iran, the slender streets can from time to time experience more reminiscent of a large metropolis than a tranquil village. With the more substantial lodges found at the decrease concentrations around the village entrance, numerous travelers feel content to stay around the bazaar, which is surrounded by rooftop cafes and dining establishments. Nevertheless, the increased concentrations are likely to be more tranquil.

I finished my tea and established out to discover Masouleh. As I made my way up in the direction of the leading of the village, I glanced down to the valley, wherever a tour bus was slowly making its way up the inclined street to the foundation of the village, the point at which readers would have to stroll, as Masouleh’s alleyways do not assist motor vehicle website traffic.

Absent from the crowds, I walked alongside the Barf-Andaz spot, that means ‘place to toss snow’. “Here in Masouleh, we shovel our snow on to the rooftop of the neighbour below us,” Mr Safayee had instructed me before that day, chuckling at my shock. Mainly because it is closest to the slope of the mountain, the 1-2m spot at the back of just about every roof is the strongest portion of the framework. This is wherever the shovelled snow is saved in the winter season, so minimising the probability of a roof collapse.

I made my way back down into the village in the direction of the bazaar, a compact alley crammed with shops advertising handcrafted knives, mountain goat horns and an assortment of bracelets. Vacationers perused the wares even though locals went about their evening grocery buying, halting at sellers providing baked items, dried fruit, home made jam and mountain herbs this kind of as chamomile and mint. I passed an elderly woman, who was winding yarn into the condition of a doll to add to the colourful bundle following to her.

“Would you like a doll?” she questioned as her fingers expertly twisted the yarn to type the condition of a head. She instructed me that after her daughters had moved to the metropolis of Rasht 70km absent, she now can make the dolls that she when made for her daughters for readers. I politely declined, and she bid me farewell.

I adopted a stairway to the level higher than the bazaar, took a seat at a cafe patio and purchased mirzah ghasemi, a flavourful Persian dish of squash, aubergine, garlic and egg served jointly like a stew. Listed here, I liked an early meal even though the evening fog rolled in when more, permeating the streets and shrouding the village in mist.

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