Kashan is a small city sitting on the edge of Iran’s central deserts. Besides the city’s architectural wonders, it’s charm is also the contrast between the parched immensity of the deserts and the greenery of the well-tended oasis.
We left Isfahan at 8:00 am and arrived in this Oasis city two and a half hours later on another comfortable long distance bus. Our guide, Leila, from Friendly Iran, was waiting for us with her car.
Kashan’s population is about 400,000 people. So after our time at Shiraz and Isfahan, it was a nice change to be in a smaller, compact city. Kashan’s foreign tourism is still developing, with fewer than a thousand foreign visitors per year.
The biggest attraction in Kashan are the traditional houses. The first one we visited was the Borujerdi traditional house.
The famous Borujerdi house owner was a wealthy businessman. The story behind the house is the man asking for the hand of Tabatabaei’s (a rich carpet merchant) daughter. The father asked the man to build a house that is suitable for his daughter’s upbringing in luxury life style. So the man built the Borujerdi house to satisfy the requirement.
From the outside, the house looks like nothing special. But after entering and going down steps and subsequently a narrow corridor, it is like entering another world.
The house sits 6 to 14 meters below ground level to match the ground water level and to provide coolness in the summer hot desert temperature. There are two wind catchers that provide natural ventilation as well. There is a separate areas for guests, and for servants, besides the living quarter of the owners.
Borujerdi and all other historical houses in Kashan follow this type of building construction. One can really feel the Iranian culture upon entering the house, seeing the architectural format, decorations on the walls and roofs, and a big pool in the center of the courtyard.
Next we visited the Tabatabaei House, with a love story behind it. A rich carpet merchant ordered to build the house and use designs and shapes of the legendary bird Homa (Sphinx) as his wife’s name was Homa.
One can see the shapes of the legendary bird Homa inscribed on the walls of the house, as well as the floral designs of Persian rug on the walls and ceiling of this unique house to signify that the owner was a successful carpet merchant. We enjoyed the Borujerdi House but this house is more outstanding.
There were only two other Iranian tourists at the house beside us, so we had the space to just stand and quietly imagine what it must have been like in those golden times when the house would have been many people living there (3 generations, guests and servants).
Next we walked over to visit the Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse. This bathhouse was constructed in the 16th century, during the Safavid era, however, the bathhouse was damaged in 1778 as a result of an earthquake and was renovated during the Qajar era.
We enjoyed the beautiful architecture inside with the nice colored tiles. Once again, there were few other tourists so we could wander and imagine what a social place this must have been in the past, a community center, dental, medical and wellness clinics, wedding preparation, birth preparation, all in one place.
We also enjoyed going up to the roof top of the bath house to see the domes and the nearby mountains.
For lunch today, we went to a classic traditional house restored and turned into a beautiful restaurant, the Abbasi Traditional restaurant. They serve many classic Persian dishes, kababs, stews, saffron rice and more. One can choose to sit on chairs, or sit on the floor in the traditional style to enjoy the food and drinks.
The restaurant had a carpet making demonstration section. Leila explained that she grew up with carpet making in her family, so she was able to personally demonstrate and explain to us the process and the hard hand work involved.
Then Leila walked us back to our hotel, also a traditional hotel, a style quite unique to the Iranian central desert environment.
Early evening, we decided to walk over to check out the Agha Bozorg Mosque, an 18th century building, just a short walk from our hotel.
Of all the mosques we have seen in Iran, this one was the most quiet. During our visit, there were only three other people sitting around. It was amazing to have the whole place to ourselves. We were able to admire all the details and take photos at our leisure.
After enjoying the serenity at the Mosque, we walked over to the Kashan Bazaar. Of the many Bazaars we have visited in Iran, this was the most laid back and perhaps more traditional. The sections that we wandered through had tea, spices, nuts, shoe, clothing, electronics, household goods, fresh produce, gold, watches, ice cream, and small bakery. We did not see any stores with handicrafts, souvenirs or gifts for tourists.
After a quick dinner, we wandered back to our traditional hotel and enjoyed tea and sweets in the hotel’s cozy tea room.