is largely desert with the great salt desert known as the Kavir in the north merging into the great sand and stone desert (the Lut) of southeastern Iran The province has lead and zinc deposits many of which are sites of major commercial mining operations.
The city of Yazd was an important Zoroastrian religious center during the Sassanian dynasty (226–642 c.e.) and has remained a stronghold of Zoroastrianism up to the present although adherents of this faith comprise less than 10 percent of the city s population In the early 2000s, about one-half of all Zoroastrians in Iran lived in Yazd, and the fire temples there and in some surrounding villages had become historic pilgrimage sites. Between the thirteenth and nineteenth centuries, the city was internationally renowned for its silk cotton and woolen textiles but these handicrafts declined dramatically after 1850 as the volume of European manufactured textiles imported into Iran increased. By the mid-twentieth century entrepreneurs had established modern cotton and woolen textile mills in the city and Yazd gradually recovered its status as a regional commercial and production center. The railroad from Tehran to the Gulf of Oman port of Bandare Abbas completed in 1995 passes through Yazd its construction helped stimulate development in and migration to the city. Between 1976 and 1996 the population of Yazd increased more than 140 percent (an average of 7 percent per annum) from 135/925 to 326/776. Originally founded in the Sassasian period (AD 224-637) Yazd s heyday as a commercial and trading city was in the 14th and 15th centuries followed by a subsequent decline. The railway from Tehran only reached the town in the days of the last Shah.
The ancient city of Yazd can lay claim to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited places on earth. Rising out of the desert, the winding alleys and high mud walls of the houses of the town are straight out of the pages of a fairy tale.
Yazd is famous for its ancient ventilation system of badgirs (windtowers) designed to catch even the faintest of breezes and channel them to the buildings below. Yazd is also famous for its skilled qanat or water-channel diggers and the Yazd Water Museum pays homage to their ingenuity Yazd is said to be the oldest living city on Earth This might be a difficult claim to verify but it is widely believed the site has been continually inhabited for about 7000 years Its position on important trading routes and a tendency towards diplomacy go some way to explaining Yazd’s longevity The fact that commercial prosperity never really translated into real political power is probably another reason. When Marco Polo passed this way in the 13th century he described Yazd as a very fine and splendid city and a centre of commerce It was spared destruction by Genghis Khan and Tamerlane and flourished in the 14th and 15th centuries with silk textile and carpet production the main home-grown industry Like most of Iran Yazd fell into decline when the Safavids were defeated and remained little more than a provincial outpost until the last shah extended the railway line to Yazd.