ZEFRA i. The District



i. The District

Located 70 km northeast of Isfahan (lat 32°54′ N, long 52°7′ E) at an elevation of 2,070 m above sea level, Zefra is the administrative center of Zefra sub-district (dehestān) in Kuhpāya district (baḵš), Isfahan sub-province (šahrestān), Isfahan Province (ostān). (There is another village by the name of Zefra/Jefra on the Zāyandarud River in Lenjān district.) The district of Zefra lies in a meander valley on the southern foothills of the Karkas/Kargas range, which separates Zefra from Ardestān.  The district has some thirty hamlets, including Lušun Darra, Čāh Sorḵ, Randavān, Bāḡ-e Gol, Lāvāni, Kiči, Surča, Pesāb/Pisāb-e Bālā, Pesāb-e Pāʾin, Ussāči, Vādār, Šastpā, Alakči, Ābegarm, Dizi, Lādura, Ḥini, Qalʿa Kohna, Āb Gonješk, and Fešārk-e Kohna. The levelness of Zefra's population over three decades (1,848 in 1966 and 1,747 in 1996; Markaz-e āmār-e Irān, 1966; idem, 1996) indicates that massive emigration counteracted high natural population growth. In 2013, Zefra had a permanent population of roughly 2,000 individuals, with an influx of about 1,000 over the weekends by the younger people, who drove from Isfahan to visit their families (author’s field notes).

Located in a mountainous setting with Nečaft or Māršnān as the highest peak, Zefra belongs to the cold climate (sardsir) and has rich pastureland (Figure 1).  A stream cuts across the village, and there are four natural hot springs in the district.  Its flora includes čubak (used as laundry detergent), wild rue, broom (jāz), barberry (zerešk), and thorny shrubs (ḵār) (Rajāʾi Zefraʾi, 1995).  Zefra was famous for its tragacanth (katirā), a natural gum obtained from the dried sap of tragantgummi (buta-ye katirā, gavan), a species of Middle Eastern legumes (idem, 1994e).  Wild animals of the district are wolf, fox, jackal, rabbit, sable (musula), porcupine (taši), and hedgehog (jujatiḡi), but leopards have vanished since the 1970s.  The birds include sparrow, partridge (kabk), see-see partridge (teyhu), pigeon, ringdove (puḵtär; Pers. fāḵta), kākoli, sangḵᵛārak, domsanja, crow, magpie (lašgarak), owl, falcon (bāz), hawk (šāhin), vulture (karkas), hoopoe (hodhod), and woodpecker (see also Rajāʾi Zefraʾi, 1974b; idem, 1974c).

Historical documents have little mention of Zefra.  Nevertheless the village is embellished with a fine congregational mosque from the Saljuq era with subsequent renovations; the mosque’s antique gate and pulpit are dated 790/1388 and 791/1389, respectively (Figure 3, Figure 4). The façade of the mosque looks entirely modern (Figure 2); the inside is rustic plain, with thick walls, vaults, and columns (Figure 5). Within the mosque’s structure, Maxime Siroux distinguished a core construction, roughly square in shape, supplemented by later additions (Siroux, 1971, tr., p. 42; idem, 1973)  The gravestones of the village’s cemetery bear some old dates, but none earlier than ca. 1000/1591.  An early reference to Zefra might be the “Govra” on the 1747 map drawn by Emanuel  Bowen.  Valentine Zhukovskiĭ describes Zefra as a large, picturesque village administered by Kupā (see KUHPĀYA).  He states that the villagers were very poor and utilized the most rudimentary agricultural tools, household utensils, and arms. The great famine of 1870-72 (see FAMINES IN PERSIA) resulted in a notable drop in Zefra’s population of 400 households (Zhukovskiĭ, p. vii).

The traditional economy of Zefra and its hamlets was based on the system of small holders (ḵorda mālek), in which the villagers were peasant proprietors.  The chief economic infrastructure was four chains of subterranean channels (kāriz)—called Nečaft, Mazraʿa Qāder, Mazraʿa Tāza, and Zefra—which were linearly configured (Rajāʾi Zefraʾi, 1999a).  The irrigation water, divided into 24 tāqs, each consisting of 35 habbas, was allocated until World War II by means of runa (Pers. tās o ṭaštak), a simple water clock (see CLOCKS).  Each tāq was administrated by a water distributor (abwāb-jamʿ orāḥeb tāq), who was rewarded with one habba of the water (sarek; Rajāʾi Zefraʾi, 1983b; idem, 1984).  The native measure of land is also called habba, equivalent to 366.4 square meters; a habba is divided into 20 gerā, measuring 18.32 square meters. Weight was measured by a local maund called man-e kohna (4.8 kg), which was also used in the rest of Kuhpāya district with slight variation in the magnitude (Rajāʾi Zefraʾi, 2009).  However, Zefraʾi peasants would use the royal maund (man-e šāh = 6 kg) to sell their goods in Isfahan; these included tragacanth and almonds, as well as wool, soft wool (kork), and ghee, which constituted the major products of Zefra animal husbandry (idem, 1996) that were exported to Isfahan by local muleteers (idem, 1985a; idem, 1997c; idem, 1998).

Chief agricultural products are wheat, almonds, mulberries, and especially a local species of corn (ḏorrat-e safid-e ḵuša-ʿaṣāʾi), the cultivation of which had a sharp decline in the late 20th century (Rajāʾi Zefraʾi, 1983e).    Also important are alfalfa, barley, walnuts, and fruits.  The village used to have five water mills (Bālā, Miāna, Pāʾin, Sarčašma, Gelčāla), which were replaced by modern mills during the period 1960s-1980s.  Most of the population is engaged in farming, animal husbandry, and gardening and horticulture (bāḡ-dāri).  A good number of village men go to the wastelands in the summer to collect tragacanth (idem, 1994d).  Weaving carpets, carrying the Nāʾin (q.v.) design, was particular to women (idem, 2006), who were also engaged in other cottage industries (idem, 2003).  A distinguished local industry during the  1930s-1950s was making cotton shoes (see GIVA), the sole of which was crafted by men and the top by women (idem, 1997a).

Zefra began to be equipped with modern administrative and educational infrastructure under Reżā Shah Pahlavi (r. 1924-41).  The number of shops of Zefra dwindled from about thirty-five in the 1940s (Razmārā, p. 104) to fifteen in the first decade of the 21st century (field notes).  A modern source of employment for the villagers has been Isfahan Steel Mill (see ISFAHAN xiv. Modern Economy And Industries (1) Modern Economy of the Province).  In spite of its administrative affiliation with Kuhpāya, Zefra has been economically and communicationally connected primarily to the city of Isfahan, where Zefraʾis have built a ḥosayniya of their own (Ḥosayniya-ye Zefraʾihā).



Emanuel Bowen, A New and Accurate Map of Persia, with the Adjacent Countries, London, 1747; facs. ed. by Sahab Geographic and Drafting Institute, Tehran, 1972.

Markaz-e āmār-e Irān, Village Gazetteer: farhang-e ābādihā-ye kešvar VII: Ostān-e Eṣfahān, Tehran, 1969.

Idem, Sāzmān-e barnāma wa budja: amār-nāma-ye ostān-e Eṣfahān, annually as of 1971; substituted by Sāl-nāma-ye āmāri-e ostān-e Eṣfahān, per annum since 1995.

Moḥammad-Ḥasan Rajāʾi Zefraʾi, “Yārgiri [a children’s game in Zefra],” Payām-e navin 10/5, 1973, p. 64.

Idem, “Baʿż-i az abzārhā-ye kešāvarzi o maḥalli-e lahja-ye mardom-e Zefra,” Huḵt 25/10, 1974a, pp. 25 ff.

Idem, “Parandagān o bāvarhā-ye ʿāmmiyāna,” Šekār o ṭabiʿat,  no. 170, Dey 1352 Š./1974b, pp. 38-39.

Idem “Jānevar dar farhang-e āmmiiāna-ye Zefra,” Šekār o ṭabiʿat, no. 172, Esfand 1352 Š./1974c, p. 43.

Idem, “Farhang-e mardom: tut dare ābādi-e Zefra,” Irān honar 5, Dey 1359 Š./ 1980, pp. 25, 43.

Idem, “Fehrest-e nosḵahā-ye ḵaṭṭi-e marbuṭ ba ābādi-e Zefra,” Ketāb-dāri 9, 1983a, pp. 234-41.

Idem, “Paḵš-e āb ba raveš-e sonnati [dar] rustā-ye Zefra-ye Kuhpāya-ye Eṣfahān,” Foruhar 18, 1983b, pp. 398-402.

Idem, “Vāža-nāma-ye čupāni-e ābādi-e zefra,” Foruhar 18, 1983c, pp. 503-11.

Idem, “Nowruz dar Zefra, Kuhpāya-ye Eṣfahān,” Foruhar 18, 1983d, pp. 897-901.

Idem, “Ḏorrat-e safid dar ābādi-e Zefra ...,” Kešāvarz 4, no. 47, Ābān 1362 Š./1983e, pp. 76, 78.

Idem, “Taqsim-e āb-e kešāvarzi bā raveš-e sonnati dar ābādi-e Zefra,” Kešāvarz, no. 50, Bahman 1362 Š./1984, pp. 70-71.

Idem, “Vāžahā wa farhang-e marbuṭ ba čārvādāri dar ābādi-e Zefra-ye Kuhpāya-ye Eṣfahān,” Rāh o bār, no. 5, Dey 1363 Š./1985a, pp. 656-60.

Idem, “Vāža-nāma-ye kešāvarzi-e rustā-ye Zefra,” Kešāvarz, no. 66, Khordād 1364 Š./1985b, p. 45; nos. 76-77, Farvardin-Ordibehešt 1365 Š./1986a, p. 91.

Idem, “ʿId-e Borā: Nowruz dar ābādi-e Zefra,” Čistā 3, 1986b, pp. 495-500.

Idem, “Tut-takāni dar rustā-ye Zefra,” Čistā 4, 1986c, pp. 299-301.

Idem, “Barrasi-e yak qabāla-ye ezdewāj dar ābādi-e Zefra,” in Fereydun Jonaydi, ed., Nāma-ye farhang-e Irān II, Tehran, 1986d, pp. 89-94.

Idem, “Sang-zani,” Farhang-e Irānzamin 26, 1986e, pp. 371-77.

Idem, “Zefra,” Čistā 5, 1366-67 Š./1988, pp. 236-38.

Idem, “Marāsem o guyeš-e mardom-e Zefra,” in Dar zamina-ye Irān-šenāsi, Tehran, 1989, pp. 87-92.

Idem, “Farhang-e mardom-e Zefra,” Simorḡ (Tehran) 1/2, 1368 Š./1990, pp. 44-45.

Idem, “Vāža-nāma-ye ḵerman-kubi ba raveš-e sonnati dar ābādi-e Zefra,” Irān-šenāsi (Tehran) 1/2, 1991, pp. 24-26.

Idem. “Ḡeḏāhā-ye mahalli,” Ḵabar-e jonub (Shiraz) 14, no. 3338, 15 Ordibehešt 1372/1993, p. 13.

Idem, “Farhang-e mardom, ādāb o rosum-e šekār: dehestāne Zefra,” Majalla-ye šekār o dustdārān-e ṭabiʿat, no. 12, Bahman-Esfand 1371 Š./1993a, pp. 18-19.

Idem, “Sang-zani dar markaz-e dehestān-e Zefra,” Ḵabar-e jonub, no. 3421, 27 Mordād 1372 Š./1993b, p. 13.

Idem, “Zefra-ye Kuhpāya-ye Eṣfahān,” Ḵabar-e jonub 14, no. 3444, 24 Šahrivar 1372 Š./1993c, p. 13.

Idem, “Dallāk, Zefra-ye Kuhpāya,” Ḵabar-e jonub 15, no. 3505, 3 Āḏar 1372 Š./1993d, p. 13.

Idem, “Zemestān,” Ḵabar-e jonub 15, no. 3534, 8 Dey 1372/1994a, p. 13.

Idem, “Māh-e Ramażān dar ābādi-e Zefra” Ḵabar-e jonub 15, no. 3587, 11 Esfand 1372 Š./1994b, p. 13; no. 3593, 18 Esfand 1372 Š./1994c, p. 13.

Idem, “Nowruz dar Zefra,” Ruzegār-e waṣl 1/3-4, Esfand 1372–Farvardin 1373 Š./1994d, p. 17.

Idem, “Katirā-zani dar Zefra,” Ḵabar-e jonub 15, no. 3728, 9 Šahrivar 1373 Š./1994e, p. 13.

Idem, “Deraḵtčahā, butahā, ʿalafhā,” Ḵabar-e jonub 17, no. 4061, 26 Mehr 1374 Š./1995, p. 9.

Idem, “Dām-dāri ba raveš-e sonnati dar dehestān-e Zefra ...,” Ḵabar-e jonub 17, no. 4136, 27 Dey 1374 Š./1996, p. 9.; no. 4159, 25 Bahman 1374 Š./1996, p. 9; no. 4213, 25 Ordibehešt 1375 Š./1996, p. 9.

Idem, “Giva: taḵt-kaši, giva-bāfi [dar] Zefra,” Ḵabar-e jonub, no. 4564, 18 Tir 1376 Š./1997a, p. 6.

Idem, “Farhang-e mardom-e dehestān-e Zefra ...,” Ḵabar-e jonub, no. 4647, 23 Mehr 1376 Š./1997b, p. 6.

Idem, “Čārvādāri,” Ḵabar-e jonub 19, no. 4700, 26 Āḏar 1376 Š./1997c, p. 6; no. 4706, 3 Dey 1376 Š./1998, p. 6.

Idem, “Qanāt,” ʿAṣr (Shiraz) 4, no. 878, 31 Farvardin 1378 Š./1999a.

Idem, “Sang-zani,” Faṣl-nāma-ye teʾātr, nos. 18-19, 1378 Š./1999b, pp. 189-206.

Idem,  “Bayāż-e taʿzia,” Faṣl-nāma-ye teʾātr, nos. 29-30, 2002, pp. 177-210.

Idem, “Humuni, Ḡarbi wa ḵik: honarhā-ye dasti-e zanān-e Zefra” Faṣl-nāma-ye farhang-e mardom, nos. 6-7, 2003, pp. 69-71.

Idem, “Morur-i bar āyin-e sugvāri dar rustā-ye Zefra, Eṣfahān,” Farhang-e mardom-e Irān, nos. 3-4, 2004, pp. 119-34.

Idem, “Bāfandagi,” in M.-ʿA. Ebrāhimi, ed., Ba bahāna-ye noḵostin hamāyeš-e sarāsari-e guyešhā-ye maḥalli o mardom-šenāsi: Anārak, Isfahan, 2006, pp. 181-83.

Idem, “Andāza-giri dar rustā,” in Iraj Afšār, ed., Pažuhešhā-ye irān-šenāsi 18, 2009, pp. 247-57.

Idem, “Šāl-ba-galu kardan viža-ye 28 Safar dar Zefra,” Aṣr-e mardom (Shiraz), no. 3977, 15 Bahman 1388 Š./2010, p. 7.

Ḥosayn-ʿAli Razmārā, ed., Farhang-e joḡrāfiāʾi-e Irān (ābādihā) X, Tehran, 1950, p. 104.

Maxime Siroux, Anciennes voies et monuments routiers de la région d’Isfahan, Cairo, 1971; tr. Mehdi Mašāyeḵi, as Rāhhā-ye bāstāni-e nāia-ye Efahān o banāhā-ye vābasta badānhā, Tehran, 1978.

Idem, “L’évolution des antiques mosquées rurales de la région d’Ispahan,” Arts asiatiques 26, 1973, pp. 65-112.

Masʿud Mirzā Ẓell-al-Solṭān, Tāriḵ-e sargoẕašt-e maʿudi (Ẓell-al-Solṭān), n.p., 1325/1907, p. 187. 

Valentin A. Zhukovskiĭ, Materialy dlya izucheniya persidskikh narechiĭ I: Dialekty polosy goroda Kashana: Vonishun, Kokhrud, Keshe, Zefre (Materials for studying Iranian dialects I. Dialects of the outskirts of Kashan: Vānišān, Qohrud, Keša, Zefra), St. Petersburg, 1888.

(Mohammad-Hasan Raja’i Zefra’i and Habib Borjian)

Originally Published: February 5, 2013

Last Updated: April 1, 2015