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Colourful ladies of Abyaneh, Iran

Whilst staying in Esfahān in Iran I heard about an ancient village near Kashan where the villagers still spoke ‘Old Persian’. I had a day to myself, so as soon as I got up, I went straight to the tourist information place at Ali Qapu Palace to see if I could organise a guide to take me out to Abyaneh. A really nice young woman called ‘Zina’ explained that it was quite a way from the city, but she found me a guide and we agreed I’d return at 11am.

Abyaneh is the name of the village and it is built into the side of Mount Karkas. Abyaneh is thought to be at least 1500 years old and retains its distinct red mud-brick houses. The people here still speak Middle Persian, an early version of Farsi from centuries ago. In the past the village people were Zoroastrian and came to Islam quite late for this part of the world.

I met Zina at 11am and she walked me to where the guide was waiting. Mohammad turned out to be an interesting man – retired air force Colonel, proud family man who spoke very good English and an all round great guy. He drove and we had some great conversations along the way… Islam, politics, sex, marriage, courting, the Iran / Iraq war, religion. He even told me how his parents took him around other families looking for a wife when he was a young man, and how when he first saw his wife he knew she was the one.

In fact we chatted far too much and we missed the motorway turn. This turned out well though as it meant driving on the old road (newly tarmaced) through the Karkas foot hills – beautiful scenery. The Karkas mountains as we approached the Kashan/Abyaneh turn off were stunning in the late afternoon light.

We also passed quite a few anti-aircraft gun emplacements and I was warned to keep my camera hidden – how anyone would have seen it I don’t know, but Mohammad simply said “you won’t see them, but they’ll see you”.

Further into the journey we drove along the long tree lined valley road that leads to Abyeneh – passing what looked like an old citedal high on a hilltop.

Aside from the fascinating history of this village I was interested in capturing some images of the colourful traditional costumes.

The people of Abyaneh still keep the old traditions and wear their traditional clothes.

The village is a popular tourist destination for both Iranians and foreigners, but it is a little off the beaten path for most – it is well worth a visit though as it shows a different side to Iran.

The women dress in traditional flower patterned coverings which contrast starkly with the black hijab style dominant in the rest of Iran. It is quite difficult to take photographs of the women – I was told that they have been told they should not let tourists take their picture. If you’re polite and smile some will let you take a photograph – epsecially if you agree to go into their shop!

Here are some more photographs of the village of Abyaneh, Iran:

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such an interesting website you have .. what a shame I have not visited this village though I live in Iran ..
good luck


Thank you Sarah. Another little corner of the world I’m thankful I’ve been able to visit…

Sarah Wu

What an interesting village and a great photo essay

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