Isfahan to Shiraz, Iran
We left in the morning to drive south. I had said goodbye to Alireza reluctantly and had met the guide who would be with me for the next two weeks. It was not to be an altogether happy partnership for either of us; his old womanish, fusspot ways drove me quite insane as I knew would be the case from the moment I laid eyes on him, and he undoubtedly thought I was his worst nightmare come true. Our first stop was Yazdikhast of which Ibn Battuta had written;
".....a small town substantially built, and with a fine bazaar; the congregational mosque in it is a marvel, built of stone and with arcades of stone also. The town is on the edge of a valley, in which are its orchards and its streams. In its outskirts there is a ribat in which travellers are lodged; it has an iron gate and is of the utmost strength and impregnability, and inside it there are shops where everything that travellers may need is on sale."
Bridge over the ravine which if removed, effectively sealed off the town. Ibn Battuta used the Moroccan/Maghreb word 'ribat' meaning "fortified monastery" when usually in Iran he used the word 'hospice' meaning caravanserai. It is possible given the size of Yazdikhast, that this had at one time been the entrance to the ribat he mentions and that the town was further along the edge of the cliff as its ruins still are today.
I found a bridge 'over a chasm' but the door was wooden although there were iron pieces in the stone wall. The door was clearly the only way into the now-ruined village, and indeed had the bridge been removed, the village was impregnable with defensive ramparts having been built around the spur of rock to which the village clung. The door was tightly locked shut so the guide, to my complete amazement, climbed up a rock face and over a gap in the wall and I followed, abaya and all. We then walked through the town, most of which was in a parlous state, and found the mosque although it did not appear to have been built of stone - the village consists of houses built of adobe and those actually hewn from the cliff. The whole time we were there the guide fretted; it was forbidden, we did not know who was watching, he could lose his licence - the litany of dire possibilities that surely awaited him never varied for the next two weeks. I became convinced he had been arrested and tortured either by Savak or by the post-revolutionary 'Robespierres' - I could imagine no other reason for such perpetual fearfulness.