The Towers of Wind

Many things made and still make Persia famous today. Going along the line of Persian inventions, today we find the Towers of Wind 🙂 AKA the mother of air conditioning devices.

The towers of wind are found all over Iran. And they have to be! Desert weather, unbearable temperatures and the inhospitable heat has always made it imperious to find a solution since ancient times.

How did ancient Persians survive the torrid heat?

The Tower of Wind is basically a ‘wind catcher’, a building designed to refrigerate hot air. These towers, normally connected to water channels, are capable of storing water so efficiently that even during summer water can feel nearly freezing.
The invention proved so effective that it rapidly spread out in many Middle-eastern and Asian countries.

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(c) wikipedia. This is a very simple scheme of how a tower of wind with qanat works. Basically, hot air, thanks to wind pressure, is pushed down the tunnel where the contact with water cools it down and then pushed inside the building through its basement. Always due to pressure, hot air is naturally expelled out of the high tower. There is never dust in these towers because the sand is carried outside by the underground water flow.

Their invention is certainly credited to the Persian Empire but we are still not sure today if the first Tower was actually built in Iran. What we know is that one of the oldest of these magnificent towers is about 3,000 years old and located in the city of Yazd.

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The Dolat Abat Garden in Yazd. The tallest tower of wind in Iran.

Yazd is a desert city which has been able to maintain its ancient architecture, and as such, it represents today a beautiful example of Iranian planning engineering.

The Towers of Wind may come in different designs. The ones you find in Iran all come with a qanat, meaning underground water flows, which aggregates an even better cooling effect.

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These Towers made it possible for very hostile environments to become fit for residential use. Inhabitable.

Its invention was widely applauded in the region, becoming an integral part of sacred temples and palaces.

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Always because of the arid conditions, gardens in Persia were extremely important and taken care of.

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India: a Cow’s Paradise?

Dear Reader,

If you think about it, the life of a cow is something incredible to describe.
If you’re in the American continent, central and southern Europe, then I would say ‘poor cow!’… Inevitably, beef is part of our delicious diet. Go to Argentina and you will find that eating beef is a religion just as important as soccer.
Good for us but sad for them. Short life, lived in a farm if lucky, fed with chemicals most times and then slaughtered for our pleasure on a plate.
Now imagine for one second, dear Reader, as a cow going from this…

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At Parrilladas El Gaucho you will find a beautiful map of a cow’s body. Each part of the cow has its special taste and obvious difference in price. I came here for lunch with my colleagues few years ago.

… to this

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A woman worshipping a decorated cow during a Jainist festivity.

You’d probably think the second option is best for a cow.
In Hindu tradition, a cow is honoured and worshipped for many reasons: due their agricultural uses like tilling and fertilising the fields, due to their gentle nature, because they are a major source of dairy products. In a way, cows represent a form of caretaker and maternal figure for Hindus.

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As a result, cows are found literally everywhere you walk in India, ambling unmolested in traffic-choked streets, stationed at crossroads, stationed in front of markets and stores completely undisturbed.

In case of car accidents resulting in a injured cow, normally the latter should be taken to a hospital if a vet is not nearby. Truth is, most times they are left to die or starve.

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Fond of this pond. Water buffalos enjoy just as much pleasure as their bovine cousins.

 


Calves, cows and bullocks may enjoy similar privileges but only the cow is sacred.
For example, bullocks are a minority and they are fed well because of that and used for agriculture purposes and mating as well as to preserve their inferior number. However important calves will be at some point, they are not useful until they reach maturity.
Healthy cows have to starve or feed on rubbish. Bullocks, not so sacred, are fed because India has too many cows and not enough bullocks.

However sacred these animals are, there are times where you really question it.

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These are cows I saw eating garbage. Most of cows in Rajasthan, i.e., are owned by dairy farmers who let them loose in the streets to look for free food instead of feeding them regularly. Some family can afford feeding their cattle only once a day. This way they ingest plastic bags, rotten food and garbage, resulting in a potential reduction in their milk production ability, poisoning and even death.

This is the reality. Can we really call it paradise?

 

 

Canneto di Caronia: a Poltergeist town

Dear Reader,
Remember Sicilians and superstitions saga on this blog?
Well, mystery and curiosity struck again and Stanito & staff are right there on spot.

It all happened one day, when I receive this piece of news via e-mail:

The mystery of Caronia’s fires, a 10 year long-lasting nightmare. 
A trip to Canneto di Caronia, in the province of Messina, through people and houses burnt down by mysterious fires that have stricken the area since 2004. 
TVs, fridges, washing machines and even couches and sofas catch fire seemingly without an explanation… 

And then the video:

As part of my Sicily plan, Canneto di Caronia was set towards the end of the trip.

What Happened?

First incidents are dated back to 2004 so it’s been going on for about 13 years now. This bizarre phenomenon revolves around spontaneous combustion of mattresses, beds, cars, and devices like fridges and mobile phones, even when these are switched off. Quite obviously, the events couldn’t but attract the attention of physicists, geologist who gave all sort of explanations. Villagers were not convinced though…

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Theories:

Grounded theories vary. It could have been simply arson or old devices and poor electrical cables simply gave up.
Well, arson was ruled out when the devices that caught fire were unplugged. Then something happened: in 2007 an Italian newspaper published a leaked report from Civil Protection, concluding that aliens were the only plausible explanation as the result of the two investigation led to ” 15 gigawatts high power electromagnetic emissions that were not man-made”. Investigation remained open attributing the causes to simply “unknown electromagnetic radiation”.

And then something even more incredible happened! The Vatican’s chief exorcist, Gabriele Amorth, backed the villagers true fears by saying the following: “these fires are caused by the Devil. I have seen incidents like these before. Demons occupy houses and appear in electrical devices”. The interview in Italian is right here.

Another report also detailed a possible UFO landing close to the village, citing “burnt
imprints which have not been explained were found in a field.”

What’s Canneto di Caronia like today?

Years have gone by and eventually the town emptied considerably. Don’t forget that this is the region where superstitions have a big role in people’s lives (read my post on Sicilian superstitions for more on the subject). The episodes have attracted the attention of geologists, physicists and volcanologists, NASA experts without providing an accurate scientific explanation so far or a logical real conclusion to the case. Naturally, the villagers are blaming supernatural entities like UFOs, poltergeists, or other demonic forces, prompting them to evacuate the town.

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Some of the villagers came back but the town still remain in ghost state…

 

 

Iran: Veiling and Unveiling Women

Dear Reader,

Let’s continue our long and incredible adventure in Iran. We said it before, Iran is a land of contrast and probably defies what most people think of it. And even more to this, women in Iran strongly belong to this notion. In fact, it is because of Iranian women that I truly believe that contrasts are a vital cog of any Iranian experience and those same contrasts are leading the ladies and others to keep quiete no more.

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Women’s movement in is peaceful yet powerful. Historically, women have lived in a relative progressive society and enjoyed more freedom and equality than any of their neighbours. Women were workers, owners, sellers and tax payers.
With the arrival of Islam, women rapidly saw a decline in their position at every level.
Then things changed again. In the 1930’s, Reza Shah started legislating for women by granting them the right to seek divorce. He also encouraged them to work outside their homes and abolished the veil, a move that polarised opinion among progressive and conservative women. Finally, women gained the right to vote in the 1960’s.
But when in 1979 Iran became an Islamic Republic following the fierce Revolution, the adoption of the Sharia Law affected women enormously. Legal age for women plummeted from 18 years old to 9 years old (for boys is 15). Women were obligated by law to wear the headscarf (‘rusari’ in Farsi) and were not allowed to appear in public with a man to whom they were not related to.

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On 8 March 1979, more than 100,000 women gathered on the streets of the Iranian capital to protest against the new Islamic government’s compulsory hijab ruling, which meant a compulsory use of a headscarf when away from home. The protest was held on International Women’s Day. Photo source: @ Rare Historical Photos

Many things changed for women, freedom of travel, expression, family law fell under religious jurisdiction which means that for a woman to seek a divorce became almost impossible.

What do women dress and look like today in Iran?

Nowadays, and given the diverse background, it is safe to say that most women have had a taste of what emancipation is. Still, under the law women who venture outdoors must wear a headscarf, known as the “rusari”, and a long overcoat, known as the “manteau”; alternatively, they can wear a black cloak known as the “chador”. These are legal requirements, punishable by fines or imprisonment for repeat offenders.

Traveling through Iran, from north to deep south, I noticed that the strictness of this law depends on many factors. Number one is where you happen to be. I noticed that in Tehran women tend to be more rebel. They push back their rusaris, wear heavy make up and like to reveal their hair in abundance.

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How strictly the law is enforced depends on many factors. Partly, it is down to where you happen to live: in affluent north Tehran, women tend to push back their rusaris to reveal an abundance of hair. Their “manteaus” are multi-coloured and stylishly nipped in at the waist.

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Young people I met at the Sad’ Abad Complex.
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Girl I met at a shisha bar in Tehran.

As soon as I left Tehran towards south, everything became more conservative. In conservative rural Iran, women tend to abide by the rule significantly more. They wear drab black “chadors” and wear little make up to avoid standing out.

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Foreign women are not required to wear it, however, there have been few are very few circumstances where I had to wear a chador and it normally happened at a few holy shrines, such as the Imam Shrine in the outskirts of Tehran.

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My friend Alicia is wearing the white chador as required to enter the Imam shrine.

Everywhere you go, though, I could simply wear any headscarf I had.

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My friend Marina on the left and myself are wearing headscarves of varied colours and length.

How women are allowed to dress also depends on which political faction it’s in power at the moment. If hardliners are in the ascendancy, it might be wise to conceal every lock of hair on the streets of Tehran; if reformers are in office, like it was when I was in Iran, you might try wearing your rusari so far back as to render it almost invisible.

These women have pushed a silent rebellion against the laid back government with such power that it has reached international recognition almost everywhere. From the rich Iranian teenagers of Tehran (known as The Rich Kids of Tehran) to the more women-oriented My Stealthy Freedom.

Then finally, a different faction of women that are neither reformers nor conservative. The nomad women. These beautiful women have a complete different mindset, background and even religion, being true holders of the Persian Zoroastrian belief. We will talk about them in my next post so stay tuned to continue our discovery of more incredible women…

 

 

 

Rebellious and Fashionable Iranian ladies

Dear Reader,

time to break the backward image most people get from just hearing the name “Iran”.
There are many things to say on this regard but this time I will start with a small preview on women fashion…

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Too modern and too conservative at the same time. Fashion in Iran is more than The Rich Kids of Tehran and highly linked to a strong feeling of rebellion. Stay tuned for my story.

 

How to get A free coffee: the Pending Espresso

Dear Reader,

Italians are masters of many noble inventions and deeds, most of them taken from unnoticed customs in other countries where they did not receive much attention evidently. Truth to be told, we did not invent pizza, pasta, coffee but we certainly invented the way the rest of the world conceives, serves and drinks coffee, starting from the linguistics of it (espressocappuccino, latte macchiato, etc) to the steam-driven espresso machine (first pioneered by Angelo Moriondo in 1884), to the more stylish brands (Illy and Lavazza, my favourite). If coffee has a spiritual home, this is it. Italy.

Today 🙂 let me delight you with some Italian coffee culture.

“Work is that annoying thing that we do between one coffee break and another” – by Maurizio Crozza

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The Espresso-macchiato:  an espresso literally “stained” with a light amount of steamed milk. This is my friend Riccio‘s favourite although she might have transitioned to the more tasteful marocchino, another great invention from north of Italy, which carries a mix of espresso, cocoa powder and milk froth.

In Italy having coffee is a form of art: is a ritual that may be practiced more times in a day depending on the need, before a meal, after lunch, a work break, etc. Come to a bar and live the full coffee experience. A bar, normally very crowded and noisy coffee house, is where people gather to have coffee and meet friends, discuss politics and sports. It’s where they start their day and, at times, where it ends along with an aperitivo.

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This is a typical bar in Rome, more specifically in Ostia Antica, my home town. Normally crowded, this bar is located right outside the train station.

The barista, the man or woman behind the bar who prepares the coffee is key element to this tradition. He joins random conversations, debates, he or she is normally friends with the regular customers. Coffee gives us morning boost, helps digest our food, avoid nappy desire and open the evening together with aperitivos. In few words: coffee rules our lives.

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Cappuccino, my absolute favourite: 50% hot milk, 50% espresso with foam to the top usually had for breakfast. Traditional Italians would curse me if they knew I have cappuccino also after meals, even if I ate fish. I don’t care because it’s just too good.

But let’s go deeper into Italian culture and tradition and explore a very unknown term to most foreigners: a pending espresso, or caffĂ© sospeso or caffĂ© pagato (paid coffee).

The caffé sospeso is a concept mostly unknown to rest of the world, a very old Italian tradition that enchants many because of its romantic simplicity: gifting an espresso to somebody.

Born in Naples during Second World War, this habit came to symbolise solidarity in a very critic moment in Italian history. Those who could afford an espresso at the bar normally would pay for a second coffee to pay for a coffee many times they would pay for another one which would be left pending. This pending coffee would later be given to anyone who wished to have it (normally it would be someone poor or homeless).

In that very moment of our history, coffee became a sympathetic and philanthropic gesture made by any happy person entering a bar.

Precisely because a person was happy, he or she would decide to have an espresso at the bar and pay for an additional one to be assigned to anyone. In few words, an espresso was offered to a stranger, any stranger coming into the bar later on.

This person, aware of the tradition, would go to bartender and ask if there were any pending coffees.

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Nino Manfredi on the most classic Lavazza Caffé ad of 1986.

Sinking Buildings: a curse or consequence?

Dear Reader,

Mexico City could have an entire collection of strange facts and curiosities. Here is one. Sinking buildings are a curious phenomenon occurring in Mexico City affecting mainly Hispanic churches.

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The Ex Teresa Arte Actual museum is inclined over its right side

The ground is slowly giving up as most of these buildings were erected on an already built up Aztec city.
The Aztec’s legacy people of today dare to suggest the phenomenon to be a silent vengeful curse…

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The leaning Metropolitan Cathedral on the right side.

The city is sinking on a daily basis, so far it has gone down of about 10 metres in the last few decades.

One theory explains that underneath the city is located the aqueduct which sustains the thirst of over 9 million people. As millions of people drink its water, it slowly becomes less sustaintable and more prone to degradation and debilitation of the structure.
Another explanation dates back from the Aztecs and the Spanish arrival: during the Aztec period when the city was known as Tenochtitlan, the town was initially built on a Lake Texcoco by creating islands using dumped soil right into the lagoon. When the Spanish arrived they erected a second city on top of the Aztec ruins after been demolished. A city atop of another, basically.

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Templo Mayor Ruins (Main Temple), or the remains of it.

The base, however, was a lake. Drained and all, but still a lake.

This has caused buildings to lean and sink into the ground at a rate of up to one foot a year in the most extreme places.

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This is the pendulum hanging inside the Matropolitan Cathedral right on main aisle. If you look carefully, the pendulum shows you how the foundations of the cathedral have been shifting since it’s conception.

And last, a balcony that has suffered from unevenness of the ground and shows a wavy effect as a result of the ground’s debilitation.

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