Thursday, February 11, 2010

Meymand Village

Meymand Village (روستای میمند) is a 12,000 year old village located in Shahr’e Babak, Kerman, 35 kilometers from the town of Babak on the Tehran-Bandar Abbas Road. Unlike other ancient villages, Meymand has retained its culture. Living conditions in Meymand are harsh due to the aridity of the land and to high temperatures in summers and very cold winters. The Village consists of a number of amazing natural and manmade caves that are still used today for housing and shelter. Currently a scarce population of 150 people continue to live there. The origins of Meymand date back to the time when the inhabitants of the Persian plateau had not yet started to bury their dead in traditional graves but rather placed them inside crypts carved in the mountain. This belief has been attributed to followers the goddess Mithra.  

The old houses of Meymand Village are carved like caverns inside the mountain. The internal spaces have corridors and pillars showing a rural architecture. The houses are situated in four or five stories, one on top of the other. There is a stove inside each house used for heating and cooking. The inward spaces are black because of smoke and soot. There is also an area of around 400 square meters in the Village containing 15 circular stone rooms. Bones and other belongings were discovered there, giving the impression that it was used to lay the bodies of the deceased. The discovery of stone engravings, some as old as 10,000 years, around the Village in addition to 6,000 year old pottery reveal the long lived history of the Village. According to the locals, the ancients did not use a hammer and chisel, but rather a type of local, pointed stone which is hard enough to carve images onto the rocks. This method of carving is still practiced in the region today.  

Meymand Village is one of the oldest continually inhabited places in Iran. The inhabitants are semi-nomadic shepherds, some of whom own Village land that is occupied in winter, whereas in summer the population moves to higher pastures. The local language contains many words from the ancient Sassanid and Pahlavi languages, the language barely changing due to the isolation of the Village. The economy of the villagers is based on agriculture, animal husbandry and carpet weaving; but carpet weaving is more important to the extent that Meymand carpets enjoy international fame. Since carpet weaving is prevalent in the area, other related jobs such as dyeing, felt making, weaving of gilims and crochet working are common too.  

Sandwiched between a desert and mountain, Meymand enjoys a mountainous climate with cold winters and exceedingly hot summers and abundant with mulberry and blackberry trees. The area is also home to various animals such as snakes, lizards, hedgehogs, deer, leopards, wolves, foxes and also birds of prey. There are a few seasonal rivers and springs around the Village which fairly contribute in flourishing of agriculture in the area.  

There is a large inn inside Meymand Village which is used to host tourists. Meymand Village obtained the ‘Reward of Mercury’ as the seventh cultural, natural and historical scene of the world in September 2005. This reward is given by the Greek government, in collaboration with UNESCO, to the historical monuments that are unique from the viewpoint of culture, nature and history.

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