The Zagros Mountains Bakhtiari world | traveling with Nomad in Iran as a Australia woman

Bakhtiari world

Kerri-Ann Smith:  Our three days traveling with Nomad. Tours in the Zagros Mountains was a highlight of our recent trip to Iran. We experienced firsthand the world of the Bakhtiari nomads and the stunning natural wonders of the high ranges. Here, perhaps a million people live a nomadic pastoral lifestyle, moving between summer and winter camps with their flocks of goats and sheep.

Out of Shar-e-Kord, the bitumen soon gave way to dirt road that unraveled across green ridges. Like a child’s drawing of mountains, a zigzag line of remnant snow formed white triangles on grey pyramids. Being late May, the lower altitudes were already sweltering in the heat haze of the high 30s and the nomads had reached their cooler summer camps.  Occasional black goat hair tents and simple stone structures covered with boughs and tarps appeared on the hillsides.

Along the way, we enjoyed a picnic lunch cooled by a fine mist floating from a 30-metre waterfall. We traveled through villages of flat-roofed stone houses where some nomads have settled over the last century.  Our guides quickly became our friends as we talked and they shared their knowledge of the area, its people and the issues facing them.



Later, we were welcomed at a camp to experience a nomad family’s typical day. Their lives are dominated by the care and use of their animals – meat, milk products, and wool. It’s raw and unrefined. It’s physically hard. Women in long, brightly-colored and multi-layered dresses poured milk from the afternoon’s milking into large pans for boiling. A hapless goat was selected from the herd and was led away. A gaggle of smiling children giggled as we swapped words: “goat” – “boz”, “milk” – “sheer”. The Bakhtiari speak a Lorish dialect as well as Farsi.

Later, by firelight, we ate succulent fresh goat kebabs and stew. A blackened teapot sat on the fire; the glasses of tea were filled many times. For hours we chatted and ate with the men. The women worked and ate separately. We slept where we ate, under the woven goat hair tent.

The culture and traditions of the Bakhtiari nomads are under pressure from government settlement policy; the need for better access to health, education and employment; and the simple desire for a more comfortable life. Some years ago, the patriarch Assad Allah had sold off the family’s flocks and moved them all into a village. But, unhappy there, he returned to his nomadic roots, bringing his wife, Batool, and many of their four daughters and four sons and their husbands, wives and children.



The chores were underway at dawn. Two men headed out with a rifle, but returned empty-handed. In a branch enclosure, the younger women caught and milked the goats before they could dart for the exit. One boy set out for a three hour walk to school to sit an exam. Then, as the sun crept higher in the sky, we accompanied one young shepherd and his flock of goats and fat-tailed sheep over rocky ridges in search of good grazing.

Some of the women headed out on their daily 2-3 hour walk to collect water from a spring. When slaughtered, animal hides are carefully preserved intact to become water receptacles and butter churns. Batool started the hours of rhythmic churning needed to turn milk into butter. Hung from a sturdy wooden tripod and decorated with colorful pom poms, skins filled with milk are rocked vigorously and left to hang.

While we could have stayed for much longer, we said goodbye and continued our journey through the mountains, visiting villages and seeing the handicrafts of the local people. Along the way, we gave lifts in our truck to a mother seeking medical help for her child and to two men wanting to visit their cousins in a camp further downriver. Hospitality and generosity is given and expected. A way of life.




Our last overnight stay was at Sar-Aqa-Seyyed, a stepped village yet to be discovered by tourism, where the roof of each house forms the verandah of the one above, grasses are tossed with wooden forks and villagers share common toilets along the creek. From there we walked part of a nomadic route along a steep-sided gorge and visited a salt mine worked in the summer by local women. Our last main stop before heading back to Isfahan was the majestic Koohrang spring where millions of liters of water gush from a slit in a cliff before roaring off as a large river.

‘Authentic’ is a ridiculously overused word to describe experiences. But here, it could not be more appropriate. Be ready to be awed.

Kerri-Ann Smith, Canberra Australia

Photos by Kerri-Ann Smith

The Baluchis (also Baluch, or Baluchi) are a seminomadic people (they travel with their herds on a seasonal basis but also have a home area where they grow some food crops). They live in the southern mountain range and coastal areas of South Asia’s western borderlands. Their traditional homeland is among Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan.

The Baluchis believe they are descendants of Amir Hamza, an uncle of the Prophet Muhammad. They settled in their present homeland sometime between the fifth and seventh centuries AD. Persians, Arabs, Hindus, and others have claimed to parts of Baluchistan, the traditional Baluchi homeland. Conflict within tribes and rivalries between tribes were frequent throughout the region. The reason was often competition for land, money, and resources.

Sistan and Balochestan

Sistan and Balochestan


Living Place

The Baluchis population today estimates at 7.5 million. In addition, many people are Baluchis in culture but have adopted the language of their neighbors. The Baluchis could total over 11 million in number.

The traditional homeland of the Baluchis extends west from the borders of the Punjab and the Sind (a province of Pakistan in the valley of the Indus River), across a small section of Afghanistan, to the areas of the Iranian Plateau southeast of Kerman. The southern boundary defines by the coast of the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman.

The Province of Baluchistan, in which some 6 million people (80 percent of the total Baluchis population) live in Pakistan. Just over 1 million Baluchis live within the borders of Iran, and there are 300,000 more in Afghanistan.


The Baluchi language is an Indo-Iranian language of the Indo-European family. Modern Baluchi language is a kind of combination of Persian, Arabic, Sindhi, and other languages. No written form of the language existed before the early nineteenth century. Persian was only used for official purposes until that time.


The Baluchi are known as bravery and courage. Also, Many tribal heroes are honored in folk songs and ballads.


The Baluchis are Muslim, mostly Sunni.

Major Holidays

The Baluchi observe the festivals of Eid al-Fitr, which is at the end of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice that falls at the end of the Islamic year. On these occasions, people wear clean clothes and begin the day with prayer. The rest of the holiday spends in gambling, horseracing, and general merrymaking.

Eid al-Adha is celebrated with the sacrifice of goats and sheep. The meat is distributed among relatives, friends, and the poor. Alms (donations) are given to beggars. The tenth day of the month of Muharram is observed by visits to the graves of relatives, followed by prayers and the giving of alms to the poor. In general, the Baluchis pay less attention to celebrating festivals than do other Muslim peoples in South Asia.

Rites of Passage 

The birth of a child is greeted with rejoicing, music, and singing. Food and sweets are prepared and given out. The birth of a boy is cause for greater celebration, and some groups barely recognize the arrival of a girl. Names common among the Baluchis include Lalla, Bijjar, Kannar, and Jihand.

Other ceremonies mark occasions such as the circumcision of boys, the time when a child begins to walk, and the first wearing of trousers. This last event, occurring around the age of fifteen, was traditionally an important stage in a boy’s life. It shows his becoming an adult and the time when he took up arms and joined his people in warfare.


Baluchi nomads live in tents (gidam) made of palm matting stretched on poles. A coarse goat-hair carpet forms the floor of the tent. There are permanent settlements to live in during the summer months. More recently, houses build of sundried brick. They are scattered along narrow, long village lanes. Both old and newer houses have an open courtyard in front, enclosed by a low mud wall or palm fence.



Traditional clothing for the Baluchi man is a long, loose shirt (jamag or kurta) that reaches below the knees, worn with baggy trousers (salwar), and a turban (pag). The turban is a long cloth wound around a turban cap on the head. Leather shoes or palm-leaf sandals are worn. A shawl or wrap (chaddar) provides extra warmth in winter but can also be used as a towel, sash, or head-cloth; it can be used to carry things.

Balouchi Dress

Balouchi Dress

Women wear a long shift (pashk) reaching to the ankles, with a wrap used to cover the head, shoulders, and upper body. The wearing of pants under the shift has been restricted to women of high status. Bright colors are usually avoided, but scarlet is popular among girls of married age. Widows wear black. Women wear an assortment of jewelry, including rings (nose rings, earrings, rings on fingers and toes), necklaces, bracelets, and hair ornaments. Jewelry is made of gold or silver, depending on what a person can afford.


The Baluchis have two meals a day, in the morning and evening. The food for the whole family is cooked together, but men and women eat separately. The most important grain is wheat, but millet and rice are also eaten. Grains are ground into flour and made into unleavened bread (flat bread, without any ingredients to make it rise), which is baked in mud ovens.



Meat is an important part of the Baluchis diet. Sajji is a favorite dish that is mostly served to honored guests. A sheep is killed, skinned, and carved into joints. The meat is sprinkled with salt. The pieces of meat are spitted on green twigs, which are stuck into the ground in front of a blazing log. Once cooked, this dish is eaten with a knife, although Baluchi usually eat with their hands.

Milk is drunk and made into fresh cheese, buttermilk, and butter. In summer, a sherbet (lassi) is made with milk, molasses, and sugar. Dates and wild fruits and vegetables also form an important part of the Baluchi diet.

Nomad Tradition

Part  1:  Sar Agha seyyed Village

Between the nomad’s tradition (migration by season)(summer and winter quarters) and settlement.

In the seclusion of Zagros, which known as a famous mountain range of Iran, the habitation of the settled Bakhtiyarian rises, that still undiscovered by the world.

Like honeycombs, one house get related to each other as they offer one of the country’s greatest sights. Living in this village called “Sar Agha Seyed” is a very traditional way of giving up nomadism. To reach there, we have to pass along a meander bumpy gravel road that leads us through the massive mountainous landscape of the Zagros straight into the heartland of the Bakhtiyarian, one of the country’s traditional way of living of nomadic populations.

Cattle herds already passing by and the pitched camps are seen and testify a different life of a traditional tribe; Bakhtiyaries, which seems to have been conserved here over the centuries.

Against the vertiginous view into the frightening abyss and the never-ending curves only focusing on the magnificent mountain landscape with the over 4,000-meter-high Zard Kooh as the coronation of the Zagros would be attractive. And now, a small settlement of Bakhtiyarian still tries to outstare the unique beauty of the landscape and show its influence on the nature.

Qashqai Nomad

After hours of driving, the destination is waiting for us as the most beautiful villages in the world.

Everyone can confess that the world does not seem to have become attentive to this secluded manifestation of Bakhtiyarian culture and architecture.

Thanks to this picturesque village, which little houses seem to spring from the mountainside, the Bakhtiyary tribe that decided to settle down with the foundation stone of this settlement has been very prosperous.

The local people proudly and enthusiastically tell the story of how this decision came about. The nomadic life of the Bakhtiyarian meant that every spring they pulled their herds to the high-altitude summer pastures, before returning to the lower winter camps in the fall. One summer, in the midst of the lush pastures of Zagros, the head of the tribe died. In the place where this old and holy man has rested in peace, the members of the tribe began to build a sanctuary and consequently more and more houses.



They didn’t tend to leave the resting place of the holy man they worshiped so much, and from now on, this settlement has become their year-round homeland, and all the people living here today are deeply connected to the deceased saint, who is supposed to be their common ancestor. History pervades and is omnipresent in the village and the sanctuary is cherished and maintained by the whole community. Each year, every family resides with each other to go there to worship also to protect the key to the holy of holies.



Breakneck Migration

The Bakhtiyarian belong to the Lor tribes and their Bakhtiyari dialect is of the Lori language.

Also we can witness a province of the country Iran, still bears the name of this nomadic population group. Chahar Mahal and Bakhtiari is the heartland of the Bakhtiyarian. Around 50,000 nomads of this tribe still live like their traditional nomadic life of their ancestors but the tendency is dropping. But the obvious point which we can see on the way to the village is that we will meet those Bakhtiyaries who continue to maintain their nomadic culture.

The great crossing of the Zagros passes is considered one of the most spectacular migrations in the world which is done twice a year by the traditional and nomadic Bakhtiyarian. When the pastures in the Zagros Mountains are covered in snow, the cattle herds have long been in the more southerly plains of Khuzestan between Lali and Izeh. The fact that the pastures of the winter camps, is being used more and more for agriculture, causes increasing some conflicts between the last nomadic and the peasant populations. The traditional nomads, marched on the Zagros, which lasts three weeks, are already largely a point of the past. The great dangers of such a migration for humans and animals happen for most Bakhtiyarian. After all, there is now also the opportunity to manage the route with an eight-hour drive. Nevertheless, a few families dare to march each year with packed donkeys and little sheep in their arms. Even the youngest ones will join in the hike. Wrapped in cloth, so babies on the back of their mothers are worn the long way.

Flock of sheep in the Zagros Iran

Conflicts and everyday life

Every morning, when the locals gather on the rooftops of the houses and nestled in each other, the little village comes to life again to do the first works of the day. Then the consistent strong women carry heavy loads across the whole village and the elders sit together and talk about upcoming village decisions.

The mayor, himself who has not be an old gentleman and not more than his mid-40s either. This fact that in his younger years he was honored to make decisions for the whole village, he has done it with his elementary education. It was a main condition that all the village community had agreed that the mayor should at least have a basic school leaving certificate in view of his committee. The slightly too modern-looking man, who now officially has the last word, is in the duty to solve this trekking conflicts within the village community. A newly built house in the middle of the dense settlement is somewhere once cause for displeasure. A whole order of structure gets mixed up, when there is a new house and roof there, where the snow covered everywhere.

Child in the zagros

With the harsh winters in the Zagros, the burden of snow is a hard work and the all the people trying for the elimination of the danger but easy given the densely interlaced houses. While the families quarrel at one end of the village, bread is made in other houses in a dark bakery. There is a lot of work behind the idyll of the village facade. Yoghurt is made, wild animals are hunted and houses are maintained.

Outlook – A question of the generation

As so often elsewhere, Iran has a large gap between the nomadic / semi-nomadic and urban populations. The position of nomadic people in the Iranian society is something we can talk about, but the satisfactory for the Bakhtiyarian is a question. Especially the people from the big cities like Isfahan face the Bakhtiyarian with a certain dismiss. Their simplicity and their low level of education are important, they say. It is undisputed that two completely different worlds of life clash and the world-wide common urban-rural contradiction is intensified when they believe as a nomadic tradition in the background. And indeed, these different kinds of living worlds meet more and more often, because many of the younger Bakhtiyarian break with the nomadic or even traditional life and move to the city. After all, this younger generation not only faces the nosy city population, but also has a strong headwind from its own family. A certain generation conflict is not avoidable when the older family members insist on nomadic way of life or at least small-town life and the younger tend to live in the city.

The new opportunities now which young people face, make the conflict more exacerbated. Since the 1960s, nomadic children have also been taught by teachers, some teachers drive long distances to teach reading, writing and arithmetic to children. Due to the elementary education they receive, many of them dream to continue studying or even study in urban schools in cities. Whether it will already be possible for the dreaming children, who still guard goats today or jump from roof to roof in the village, to remain on this path, make the children uncertain. And especially the girls are not allowed to make this decision alone, at most they have the luck to marry a man who wants to follow the same path as they do, given the strictly patriarchal structured society. All these questions and developments take place behind the idyll of the village and the mountain landscape. This fact that at least the building inside of the village remains as it is, and does not keep up with the times, is already provided by Iranian authorities. The Iranian preference for lovely mountain villages and the appreciation of the cultural assets of the country, it is probably due to the fact that the Bakhtiyarians traditional image of the village (more) may change. Therefore, more modern and larger houses are built only outside the village center. Thus, for the next few years, the uniquely beautiful view of the village is seen.

BAZOFT, Nature And Culture Treasure of Iran

A trek to a not so far goal could possess your psyche for a while. In the event that you are daring and an eco-tourist, we have an uncommon offer for you; go to Bazoft arrive.

Because of its delightful and interesting nature, waterfalls and oak woodlands brilliantly chronicled landmarks and itinerant life, Bazoft is an extremely excellent and a legitimate goal for whom looking through a unique land and a place loaded with experience.

Bazoft area is a locale in Kuhrang County, Chaharmahal, what’s more, Bakhtiari Province, Iran? It is situated in 190 km separation of Shahre-Kord, a focus of Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari Province, furthermore, by the Shahre-Kord Masjed Soleiman Road. The name of this area begins with a name of a stream go through this locale.

Precisely, Bazaft is a river starts from Monte Zard-Kuh, and go through Shahre-Kurd and Borujen Counties and toward the end scopes to Karun River. In its way stream, BakhtiaryBazoft River makes intriguing and appealing scenes; it goes through meandrous valleys and backwoods and water numerous towns; because of legitimate atmosphere and vegetation, this locale has dependably been the fundamental street of wBakhtiari () movement.

Nomad Life:

In the event that you need to understanding and touch Bakhtiari migrant life and make the most of their neighborhood sustenances, it would be brilliantly pulling in to be with them amid their relocation time; in light of the fact that their movement street of Bazoft region is from Monte Zard-Kuh, nearby individuals call this street “Mal Ro”. Time of relocation is toward the start of April and it begins from Khuzestan fields and finishes in fields of Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari; for the most part, movement takes around 15 to 20 days. Amid relocating, Bakhtiari Nomads go through high and towering mountains and thundering streams.

Oak Forests:

In the event that you adore ecotourism, you would appreciate oak woods of Bazoft locale. These timberlands were made by extraordinary atmosphere conditions, and as indicated by Mehr News Agency this region has the most lovely vegetation assets in Zagros Mountains.

Zard Limeh (Boieneh) Water-fall:

Come waterway stream and appreciate hearing its thundering sound is a standout amongst the most pleasurable encounters that you can have in an excursion to place that is known for Bazoft. Zard Limeh Waterfall is one the most lovely water of Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari Province, and obviously our nation Iran, that consistently draw in numerous mountain climbers to this land. With around 50  meters height , around 200 meters width, Zard Limeh Waterfall is one of the most stretched out waterfalls of Iran.

Keeping in mind the end goal to achieve the waterfall you need to climb a lengthy, difficult experience and it requires a long and overwhelming climbing with 66 high physical capacities and climbing hardware.

There are two get to streets to the waterfall. One is from upper statures and from Rostam-Abad Village, and the other one is from bring down statures and from Gazestan Village. The two headings

have a similar level of trouble; the main contrast is that the lower stature course expects hardware to go through the Bazoft River.

Khodaafrin Bridge:

Khodaafrin Bridge is situated in south-east of Gazestan Village. Gazestan Village is situated in 140 kilometers separate from Shahre-Kord,center of Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari Province.
This extension were made because of avalanches and falls of immense shakes over Bazoft River in antiquated circumstances, in Persian dialect Khodaafrin alludes to something made by common strengths which is reasonable for human utilize. This extension is the main street for Bakhtiari Nomads amid their relocation cycle.

Black tent of some nomads in Iran

Black tent of some nomads in Iran


Nomads are the people who migrate from one place to another with their tribe, family and all their belongings. Migration is a way of life for nomads in which herding cattle is the basis of economic life. Changing of location and migrating of human groups are two outstanding characteristics of nomadic life.

In such annual or seasonal migration, nomads move from their winter resort locations to summer grazing lands with their animals and move back to their winter resort locations again when it gets cold.

The Beginning of Nomadic Life

Migration has started since many centuries ago. It began with a very simple form, but moving from place to place is still the fixed feature of such life style.

Researches on migrating way of life indicate that this phenomenon exists mostly in semi-dried and marginal territories, i.e. in areas where there is not any suitable piece of land for farming like slopes or stony grounds.

There are various theories concerning the causes of such a way of life. Reference can be made to some of them like the increase of population and expansion of agriculture, economic structure of a given society, social and political situations and ecological factors.

Two Kinds of Migration

There are two kinds of migration:

  • Horizontal migration occurs in dry, flat, vast deserts where water and grass can scarcely be found, like in Saudi Arabias deserts.
  • Vertical migration occurs in regions with large difference in altitude where people move from low altitudes to higher ones in search of more favorable weather for their families and their animals, like in Iran.

Gypsies vs. Nomads

They are wandering in small and large groups in many parts of the world. Although we do not precisely know their history, it seems that they have originated from India. The color of their skin and their accent make us think so. In Iran, peddling is their way of life. Gypsies also make metal tools like knives and sickles and repair some farming tools. They often pitch tents near villages and exchange goods for goods and, at times, for cash with villagers.

Some of gypsies are wandering musicians appearing to people while harvesting or wedding and skillfully play a few pieces of music, make them happy and earn some crops and go away.

They are not dependent upon lands or animals and have no clear plans for migration. Sometimes, they do not go back to where they have started traveling from.

Relation between Migrant & Settled People

The differences between villagers and nomads’ ways of life have frequently ended in quarreling and at times in dependence upon each other. Nomads could have been a major threat to villagers and could have been an essential factor to satisfy their needs.

Migrants, Semi-Migrants & Settled Tribes

Some tribes are merely tent dwellers and move in search of grazing lands for their herds. Other tribes are both living in tents and in some specific buildings. Agriculture is another minor thing they do for their needs. The third group has gone through previous stages and has settled at last as a result of decline in traditional cattle herding.

Large & Small Tribes

Large tribes are known as Turkmen, Shahsavans, Lurs, Bakhtiaries, and Qashqaies. Others are considered small tribes who had to settle in the past. Many of them have no other choice than to start migrating again. Of course, they have their own reasons for this.

Nomads in History

In many cases, nomads have had key roles in war with enemies. Sometimes, they were united as an independent army or an auxiliary force. The history of Iran witnesses many cases of their decisive assistance in defending the country.

The Social Structure of Nomadic Societies

As a unit of social life, a tribe has many duties to accomplish. A system is needed to connect a family to the whole tribe. This tribal organization is vital to integrate a tribe from within itself.

One of the subdivisions of a tribe is a “family”. The emotional links functioning inside and outside the families are links called “ethnic solidarity”, which is much stronger than among settled families.

In nomadic societies, a tribal family with its own definition and functions is distinguished from what we know, nowadays, as a family in modernized societies. A tribal family cannot mean anything without a wife and cannot perform its duties. In such a family, the whole family matters, not every individual member. This is the survival code of a tribal family.

“Polygamy” is sometimes seen among tribes. Another wife is another source of assistance the head of a family needs to manage the broadened responsibilities. Of course, this is how it is described by tribal men, but there should be other reasons for this phenomenon too.

Job Description in Nomadic Families

A husband, a wife and a child are each helping the family course of existence to go on. Even children have their own job descriptions from childhood that depend on their sexes. They learn and practice the serious life of being an adult.

Social Structure Classifications

Heads of tribes and guard heads are the wealthiest. Middle-class people are headmen, elders and similar ranks. The ordinary people are the majority who live hard lives.

Each group has its own different responsibility, property and characteristics. Sometimes, one can say which class they belong to by looking at the color and appearance of their tents.