In addition to the pristine nature, awe-inspiring architecture, and ancient history that Iran has to offer, visitors can’t seem to get enough of its quaint villages. One such place is Meymand (also spelled Maymand), Iran’s troglodyte village carved deep in the heart of the mountains, 2,240 meters (~7,300 ft) above sea level. Here are 10 incredible facts about the UNESCO-listed village of Meymand.
It’s been continuously inhabited for 3,000 years
Though artifacts and inscriptions found around the village date back some 12,000 years and are therefore indicative of life here at that time, the village itself is said to have been continuously inhabited for 2,000-3,000 years.
Ancient inhabitants were raw vegan
Yup, we heard this directly from locals themselves. While meat is more common these days, locals claim that the ancient inhabitants were raw vegan. And that makes sense considering one of the traditional dishes of Meymand is ghâtogh-e beneh (or âb beneh), a raw vegan, cold soup prepared with beneh (wild pistachio).
The original inhabitants were sun worshippers
Prior to the advent of Islam, Meymand was a Zoroastrian settlement, and before that, it’s believed that the people worshipped the sun. In fact, Tire Khorin, a peak that receives the first rays of the sun at dawn, remains an important site for locals today.
The local dialect differs from standard Persian
While locals speak Persian, you’ll notice that their speech retains elements of Middle Persian, or Pahlavi.
There are 2,500 hand-dug rooms rooms
Approximately 400 kicheh (alleys) have been dug out to reach enough depth to dig out rooms. Inside each alley, there’s a terrace leading to 1-7 rooms, some with higher ceilings that serve as living quarters and others that serve as stables or storage. Currently, of these 2,500 rooms, about 80% are uninhabited.
The rooms have been dug out of volcanic rock
Much like Kandovan (another rocky village in the northwest East Azerbaijan province which is about 700 years old), the rooms in Meymand have been chiseled by hand out of volcanic rock. Thanks to the open stone fireplaces in the verandas, the smoke from the fires coated the ceilings and walls, creating a thick black soot which not only prevented the rock from crumbling, it also deterred mosquitos and other insects.
Water was sourced from qanât
In the past, people got their water from qanât, ancient underground aqueducts, but now neighbors share a source of running water just outside their kicheh.
The population is about 30-40 people
Can you imagine living in a place with only 40 residents? Or even less because only about half of that number lives here year-round.
The people migrate 3 times a year
Sustainability is important for locals which is why they live alongside nature and migrate three times a year, spending approximately four months in each location. They spend the winter months dwelling in the caves in Meymand, the center of the cultural landscape. In the spring, they migrate to the south in a plain area suited for animal husbandry. This is also where they harvest wild almonds. In the warm summer months and beginning of autumn, they move once again to the gardens in the north known as Âbâdi where they harvest wild pistachio, pears, grapes, walnuts, and wild olive/Persian olive, among other things.
There are ancient petroglyphs
North of Meymand, you can find ancient graffiti- petroglyphs and pictographs, the oldest of which is said to be 4,500 years. In fact, UNESCO states that this pictograph, one of the only of its kind in Iran, appears to be a birth scene.
Have we piqued your interest?
So, are you interested in visiting Meymand? If you want to travel back in time, get back to nature, and spend the night in an ancient hand-dug cave, we can’t recommend any place better. We can help arrange your stay so that you get to experience an authentic, traditional way of life alongside locals. Feel free to contact us with any questions!