The ancient village of Abyaneh is the perfect answer to Iran’s bustling, traffic-clogged cities. Serenely situated at the foot of Mt Kar- kas, Abyaneh’s steep, twisting lanes of mud and stone wind through a maze of red mud-brick houses with lattice windows and fragile wooden balconies. It is testament to both the age and isolation of Abyaneh that the elderly residents speak Middle Persian, an earlier version of Farsi that largely disappeared centuries ago.
The village is at least 1500 years old and faces east across a picturesque valley. It was built this way to maximise the sun it receives and minimise the effects of howling gales in winter. In summer, it’s refreshingly cool and Abyaneh is most lively, filled with residents returning from winter in Tehran and tourists haggling with colourfully clad, toothless old women over the price of dried fruit.
Abyaneh is best appreciated by just wandering, but do look for the 14th-century Imamzadeh-ye Yahya with its conical, blue-tiled roof, and the Zeyaratgah shrine with its tiny pool and views.
Probably the most beautiful building is the 11th-century Jameh Mosque (Masjed-e Jameh), with its walnut-wood mihrab and ancient carvings. Abyaneh’s houses are mainly two-storey; people live downstairs in winter and upstairs in summer.