Clearing an already high bar
Iran has plenty of mosques and almost all of them are pretty spectacular but by the time we got to the Jami (or Jameh) Mosque in Yazd we'd only seen two other mosques, neither of which was particularly typical of the Persian architectural style. The first had been the massive and as yet unfinished mausoleum to Ayatollah Khomeini in Tehran which had resembled a concrete abatoir crossed with a Carpet Warehouse and the second was a tiny old and rather decrepit mosque to the Twelve Imams which we'd visited in Yazd that morning was largely undecorated. Neither had prepared us for the visual onslaught of a top notch city mosque.
The Jami Mosque or Masjed-e Jameh is such a great mosque that it appears on the back of the Iranian 200 rial banknote. It is what's known as a congregational mosque which means that is one which is designed for worship on a large scale and it would normally be very busy for Friday prayers in particular. Our visit naturally took place outside the main worship times so we found it almost empty except for several groups of identically dressed school girls. It's a strange aspect of tourism in Iran that you frequently come across school groups but almost always groups of girls and I can't recall that we ever found a group of schoolboys. Perhaps art and history are considered to be more 'pink' topics but I hate to think too deeply what the 'blue' pupils are doing whilst their sisters are our looking at architecture and museums.
It's an old one but a good one
The mosque as it stands today is about 700 years old but it stands on the site of an earlier mosque which in turn was built on the site of the ruins of a Zoroastrian fire temple. Such is often the way in these countries. We parked our bus in the square outside and headed towards the tall and highly decorated gate of the mosque with its pair of tall thin minarets which reach up to a dazzling height of 48 m, making them the tallest in Iran. Standing before the immensely tall doorway you can look up at the blue tiled decoration of the minarets or step under the doorway and admire the intricate tiling inside the arch. Once through the arch there's a domed roof with a fascinating pattern of interlinked sand-coloured bricks, lit up by small holes in the roof.The tiling in the mosque is spectacular with both painted tiles in which the decoration lies beneath the glaze, and tiles that have been cut and placed together in an elaborate form of mosaic. There are panels of single coloured turquoise tiles, tall panels of geometric lego-like patterns, beautiful panels of floral and geometric patterns intertwined and of course panels of exquisite calligraphy. If you've ever asked yourself "What's the fuss about tiles?" this is the place to see why some of us get so excited about historical ceramics.
The mihrab where the holy man who leads the prayers would stand had a fascinating acoustic effect in which the preacher's voice is magnified by reflection and vibration so that it can be heard clearly at a distance without the need for artificial amplification.