The Persian windmills of Nashtifan, northwest Iran, are about to be silenced forever after grinding grain for the people of this town for more than a millennium.
Considered the oldest in the world, these mills that have also been declared a national heritage by the Iranian government were the germ of a structure that, from ancient Persia, spread throughout the world, from Central Asia to the Middle East, in addition to by the Far East, India and Europe, including later La Mancha.
Despite the centuries that have passed since they were built, around thirty mills survive in this arid area of the Razani Khorasan province, very close to Afghanistan, where they continue to beat their poles as they did then.
German Museum Model. Photograph by Saupreiß (left) and illustration by Kaboldy, both courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-SA-3.0
Conceived mainly to obtain flour, these structures of just over 15 meters high and with a brown color that seem taken from the land itself, are not only fully incorporated into the daily life of the town, but are part of the essence of this corner of the world where, precisely, the wind is an inexhaustible resource.
From the power of the winds that blow in this Iranian region, the population in which it is still possible to peer into this window open to that past in which the world’s first mills were conceived and built up took its name.
They will not be, those of Nashtifan, modern or efficient windmills, but the wind that blows up to 120 kilometers per hour has kept them active for centuries.
Behind these structures, there has always been someone busy keeping them operating. Currently, that someone is Mohammad Etebari, the current head of the mills, who is aging little by little. Despite the roots of these structures in the local population, Etebari has not yet been able to find anyone interested in becoming his apprentice and to whom to pass on his knowledge so that, on the day his retirement arrives, he will hand over the baton.
Without candidates to attend to them daily, these mills will be silent forever after having beaten their blades for centuries and after having resisted, at the mercy of the wind, built only in an adobe that, more than just clay, is today the country’s historical heritage.