After days of enjoying a variety of lovely Persian food, Leo's Rabbit felt a bit uneasy trying to fit in to his jeans. He first thought that the jeans must have shrunk somehow, but after trying on few different pairs, he had to face the truth and admit that he probably put some weight on. He immediately decided to go on a 'one carrot a day' diet (well... we’ll see how long he will be able to sustain the regime; considering his previous attempts, it will be a success if he lasts till the lunch-time :-)) and join a gym, so he embarked on a search for one.
The day in Yazd was piping hot, with temperature of 33°C and our little Rabbit got really tired and thirsty. He almost gave up his search for a gym, when in the city centre, he came across a water reservoir, an impressive 29m-heigh building dating from 1580, with elliptical roof crowned with five magnificent windcatchers (tower-like elements creating natural ventilation known also as badgirs). Rabbit has heard that many traditional water reservoirs built with windcatchers are capable of storing water at near freezing temperatures during summer months, so he quickly hopped towards the entrance to get some cold water. There was no water inside however, but he wasn't disappointed as today the building houses ‘Saheb A Zaman Club Zurkhaneh’, a traditional Iranian gymnasium for men (he assumed that male rabbits are also welcomed and he wasn’t mistaken). He suddenly felt invigorated – he found a gym and was ready for a workout!
Rabbit purchased a ticket (it costs 100,000 rials – sounds a lot, but in fact it’s only about £2) and entered the gym. He thought that the doorway was very low as he had to fold his ears to go through it. He was told that it has been made this way intentionally to force one who enters to bow his head in acknowledgement of a higher power. In the centre of a circular room, symbolic of the sun and unity, he saw a round exercise area (the Gowd) located below ground level (apparently to remind the practitioners of humility). He learned that Zurkhaneh is thousands of years old and has its roots in battle and warfare. These physical activities were supposed to make warriors out of ordinary men and not only prepare them for unarmed combat, but also develop their endurance, concentration, flexibility, and speed. Practitioners of the Zurkhaneh are expected to display a sense of duty for their country and community, be brave, humble, and of high ethical virtue and integrity. They should be Gentlemen (javan mard). Our little Rabbit certainly considers himself to be a Gentleman (GentleRabbit), so he was ready to start practising Zurkhaneh. He noticed a vast selection of wooden club bells, shields, chains and boards. He spotted a large painting on the wall, showing exercise techniques. He studied it carefully and planned his exercise routine. He smiled as he already imagined himself swinging around two large club bells, feeling powerful, strong and very masculine, like the strongest rabbit in the world. He vigorously hopped towards the weights and tried to lift one of the club bells. As you would probably expect (unlike our Rabbit, who views himself much stronger and bigger than he really is), he failed miserably.
After his failed attempt to use the gym equipment Leo’s Rabbit felt even more respect for the Gentlemen practising Zurkhaneh. He admired photographs of the old champions and watched men perform their exercises to the rhythmic beat of the drum (zarb) that helps the whirling individuals to reach almost religious heights of concentration.
Leo's Rabbit didn't manage to film the exercise session, but he can recommend a YouTube video by Piotr Teleon (below) showing the Zurkhaneh practitioners in Yazd.
Zurkhanehs Clubs are traditionally only for men, but the one in Yazd visited by Leo's Rabbit, is the only one in Iran that admits women (and rabbits) as spectators. It has workouts that are just over an hour at 6am, 6pm and 8pm.
Rabbit enjoyed his visit to Saheb A Zaman Club Zurkhaneh and although he didn't lose any weight nor was he able to follow the though exercise routine, he was fascinated by the unique traditional Iranian system of athletics. Although he often complains about having to exercise to keep in shape, today he felt grateful for his high-tech treadmill at his local gym, where he can even watch TV or browse the Internet while gently jogging. Tired just from watching Zurkhaneh exercise session, he ended up his visit to the gymnasium with a traditional Iranian coffee and sweets and decided to buy a bigger pair of jeans.
Leo's Rabbit 'lives' in my handbag and he travels with us everywhere we go. He has pictures taken at various locations, tourist attractions and places we visit. As a part of this blog we will describe Leo's Rabbit Travels to share our personal experiences from these visits. Hopefully couple of people (apart from us :-) ) will find it interesting and may even feel encouraged to visit one of Rabbit's destinations.