High on a Hill

On the slopes of the Alborz mountain range in northern Iran  a remarkable village dating back to 1006 ,  Masuleh , still bustles with life today.

The unique ochre-brown structures of Masuleh resolutely follow the steep 60-degree slope of the mountain that the village nestles on—or rather, grows from—giving the village its most unusual quality – an ingenious use of limited public space.

With no marked boundaries, all rooftops double as courtyards, gardens and public thoroughfares for the inhabitants on the level above. Meandering stairways, narrow alleys and paths link one terrace to the other, and the village rises as one massive interconnected, multi-levelled public space shared by the whole community.

This is a village built not by trained architects, but by the inhabitants themselves, over the centuries, out of a combination of wood, adobe and stone.

Guided primarily by climatic concerns, the choice of location and height, and hence the spatial layout, is far from arbitrary. Building on levels lower than this would have brought with it the ever-present danger of flooding, and the Iranian winters would have made it too cold to occupy.

The landscape surrounding Masuleh is lush and mountainous with a frequent covering of dense fog, so much so that many of the homes in the town are covered in bright ochre clay so they can be seen better through the haze.

Here are a few pictures of a way of life possibly not found elsewhere.

1. The Armenian & Irianian border where people and animals cross by foot

The Armenian & Iranian border where people and animals cross by foot.

2. Oddly at the Armenian border controls office a picture of a young Putin hangs on the wall

Strangely the Armenian border controls office has a picture of a Putin on the wall

After waitng 9 hours to clear into Iran we get our first glimpse of it. It is a mountanous region steepd in conflict

After waiting 9 hours to clear into Iran we get our first glimpse of it. It is a mountainous region steeped in conflict.

We ride along the Aris river. On the other side are deserted ruined villages as a result of the still unresolved 1989-1994 Armenia-Azerbijan war.

5. on the other side of the river deserted villages as a result of the unresolved Armenia & Azebijan war from 1989 - 1994

The rivers route crosses two globally forgotten “front lines” and minefields. Although there has not been active fighting for over a decade

 

guard posts , bombed out villages and barricaded tunnels add a considerable geopolitical frisson to the beauty of the Aras river valley .

After a long day we get to glamp in our first Iranian village

and experience the first of overwhelming Iranian friendliness.

En-route to Masuleh we come across many many beekeepers. Later we discover what a sweet tooth Iranians have.

 

Gas lighting from another time

 

Road side postboxes that could become inter-galactic

 

Road side concrete table tennis tables

 

Road side traditional wear

 

Nearing Masuleh the forest becomes dense and mist draped

 

Our first sighting of Masuleh

 

Ancient steps guide you to the top

 

And down

 

And down again

 

A roof of one home is the terrace of another

 

Or a walkway

 

As there is limited space a lot of living happens on the terraces

 

Including cultivation

 

Local community meetings

 

And simple contemplation over the valley below

 

 

Along with the odd water pipe

 

Maintenance is an ongoing daily task

 

The village market

 

Offering soups and broths

 

With a bitterness we find hard to digest

 

Even under the watchful eye of the locals

 

Those water pipes would have been a better choice

 

Or even Chi in in this mens only restaurant.

 

Or this restaurant on an incline

 

Head games- the official currency is the Rial. This is a 100 000 Rial note. Locals however prefer to use Toman which requires dropping one zero i.e this note would be 10 000 Toman. The problem however lies in that the two are used interchangeably making it difficult to know if one is dealing in Rial or Toman and how many zeros to deduct or add.

 

For a village set against a steep 60 degree backdrop

 

walkways have evolved over time.

 

 

The market has a surprising array on offer-either made on site or carried up.

 

The local blade smith plies his trade as did generations before him.

 

Jewellery to dazzle.

 

Pots galore

 

 

 

E = mc2 lives on in the local artist.

 

 

 

Most of the Joinery is hand made on site

 

 

Tombs form part of walkways

 

And are integral parts of homes

 

 

 

Musoleah

 

Where chickens roam free

 

And the present does not question the past.

 

7 Responses to High on a Hill

  1. Anonymous

    Interesting little market they have with different wares they sell from pots, jewellery,knives etc. i guess you have to eat what ever is on their menu for the day, soup and broths. We can be thankful how we live in our own country,despite its problems. Continue on your wonderful journey. Debbie – Durban

  2. Anon

    Thank you !!!!!!

  3. Colin

    Interesting country. Love the jewelry and knives making. A Nine hour custom clearance was a real bummer Iran looks like a page taken out of a history book Keep the post coming. Keep safe Colin from Durban.

  4. Les Penny

    Looks like a very simple and honest way of life, thank you for the very interesting insight into other cultures and ways of life. Les Penny

  5. Ron

    Great to see how different parts of the world live, then we can appreciate what we have as in lifestyle. Keep up the the fantastic photos. Travel safe and enjoy.

  6. Anonymous

    Brilliant, it is wonderful to get a glimpse of a past world we know nothing about. I always imagined Iranian food to be delicious. Was relieved to see a plastic cover over the rug on the table in the second photo. Lots of love, us two.

  7. gail van der mey

    These must be very special people to live like that.Wonderful photos to show what is only seeing is believing.I presume you only visited and did not overnight here. I loved the stalls at the local market with such a lot of wares. No these steps and slopes are not for me.

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