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.
The Armenian & Iranian border where people and animals cross by foot.
Strangely the Armenian border controls office has a picture of a Putin on the wall
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.
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 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
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.
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
Where chickens roam free
And the present does not question the past.