I was not sure what I was going to see this time in Yazd. The Yazd of my childhood looked and felt dry as I stepped down the airplane. My cousin Mohammad was there to pick me up. He apologized profusely for how bad his car looked. His car was at least 20 years old and very dilapidated. Mohammad started throwing nasty jokes about the government. I was not paying attention; I was looking at his white hair and the wrinkles on his face.
As he was driving to my sister's house, I looked to the right and left of the main road to Yazd proper for signs of green. No. it all looked dry and khaki. Mohammad mentioned that since past winter, not even a drop of rain had fallen on the ground.
Once we got to my sister's, all disturbing feelings had gone away. It was cool inside and smiles everywhere. It felt like a miracle: I was back seeing my father, sisters, brother, and cousins.
My cousin Mahmoud works for the ostandari (governor's office ). In my last trip two years ago, he introduced me to Yazd's governor Mr. Sefid — or “Mohandes” Sefid as he is known everywhere. He greeted me with kisses on my cheek! He looked thirtysomething and was well dressed. His Yazdi accent was charming. He invited us into his office and over tea and “shirini Yazdi”, got a hold of several people in Yazd and Tehran so I could have a chance to meet scientists in my field.
This time, Mahmoud said there was a “rozeh” program at the old ostandari building where Mr. Sefid, was the host. It all sounded interesting. It turned out that the man who once owned the house many years ago had donated it to the public provided that the governor would host an annual 10-day “rozeh-khaany” during the Islamic month of Safar.
We arrived around 8 at night. The entrance, like that of most well-to-do Yazdis, opened to a huge courtyard with a shallow rectangular pool (“hoz”) in the middle. The courtyard was surrounded with many residential halls and rooms. You could not miss the long “sepidaar” trees in the “baagh-cheh” circling the pool. The courtyard was decorated with white globes of light on long columns.
As we walked along the middle path I could see women sitting on the left side of the courtyard. The path led to a wide carpeted area where Mr. Sefid was expecting us. He rose from his chair to greet us. He recognized me. I immediately noticed two large portraits on two adjacent chairs next to the governor. Later Mahmoud said those were pictures of former governors who had been killed or passed away. Of the two, I knew Mr. Hamidia who had been killed in a car accident.
We sat down not far from where the governor greeted people. Soon after, a man brought us tea in the tradition of a large “rozeh-khaani”; he carried 5-7 glasses of tea with their saucers in one hand. He used his right hand to place the tea glasses in front of the guests.
I looked around to see if there were any soldiers or police. I could not spot any. The sight was remarkable; the governor was sitting among ordinary people very much exposed to danger. As people trickled toward the only entrance to the men's section, Mr. Sefid would rise from his chair to greet them. I thought that was great that the governor of Yazd was mixing with people!
Meanwhile I tried listening to three mollas who addressed the crowd for about half an hour each. They had different styles of speech. One for example took a Qoran and immediately began interpreting some verses. Another molla made a comment during his speech which did not seem logical. He said because Jaber Ibn Hayyan made big discoveries in chemistry, his teacher Imam Jafar Sadegh, must have known chemistry too.
Mahmoud and I got up to leave after two hours but we were told dinner was coming up. A group of men unrolled a long “sofreh” and very quickly a large plate of rice with meet was in front of me with a spoon! In the old days, a tray of rice would have been shared by three or four people without a utensil.
At the end there was again the governor. This time he was part of the chain of men who handed over plates of food to the farthest corner of the sofreh.
I left the beautiful house with good memories. Later I was told Mr. Sefid has the habit of meeting with the public at large on a certain day of the week; people simply sign in to meet him. In fact, anytime his name was brought up, people had good things to say about him. Other than his duties as the governor, he oversees an organization that converts old historical sites for public use.
I'm glad Yazdis have a good man on their side. President Khatami is a Yazdi too. Is it just coincidence? Or is it Yazd?