There are several celebrations, rituals, and traditional ceremonies in Iran that create opportunities for tour operators to take travelers on tours that will familiarize them with ancient Iranian customs and rituals.
Sadeh, or Sada is one of the ancient Iranian festivals which is celebrated 50 days before Nowruz. Although, it is an ancient Zoroastrian ritual, it draws the interest of all sorts of tourists.
In Persian, Sadeh means “hundred” and refers to one hundred days and nights following the end of summer. Sadeh is a mid-winter festival that was celebrated with grandeur and magnificence in ancient Iran. It was a festivity to honor fire or light, and to defeat the forces of darkness, frost, and cold.
Sadeh tours usually operate in Yazd from 23 to 30 January, but the increase in the cost of travel has deterred many travelers, and made tour operators to think twice before organizing the trips, ISNA reports.
“To witness Sadeh festival and celebration, we take people to ‘Pir-e Rahgozar’ in Taft, Yazd Province, on January 23. In certain places such as Khur and Biyabanak, Isfahan Province, the celebration takes place on January 25. The ceremony is similarly celebrated in Uraman, Kurdistan Province, as Pir Shalyar,” said Hormoz Mehrbod, a tour operator and guide who has run Sadeh tours for over 20 years.
This year, Mehrbod only has 30 travelers signed up to see the festival, whereas in 2010, they needed three buses to take the passengers to Yazd. He cites the increase in prices as the main reason for the decrease in the number of travelers.
He also points to some limitations facing tour organizers, adding that Yazd police only grant visitor permits during two time periods; one from 7 to 11 AM and the other between 2 and 7 PM “This is while all historical sites are closed during these hours, as ordered by Yazd traffic police, so no tours can be run then.”
Mehrbod believes tourists travel to relax and have fun, and should not be ‘shoehorned’ into specific timeslots and made to wake at 6 AM to be able to visit a site before 11 AM. He adds time limitations of hotels and the ban on driving buses during certain hours of the day and in certain areas to the long list of obstacles.
Officials talk about developing the tourism industry and the need to attract more tourists, but efforts seem to be targeted at international tourists only, because the regulations for domestic tourists are too restrictive, he emphasizes.