As the threatening pile of overloaded work stared at me from my desk and the chaotic pre-Nowruz preparations had left me longing to sleep, I packed my bags and headed to an unexpected journey to somewhere I had been wanting to see for a very long time. Kashan.
I barely knew the group of people I was travelling with but it didn’t really matter. I wanted to see Kashan just that bad and the opportunity had knocked my door. I wasn’t going to let it go.
After my Yazd trip I had fallen so in love with oasis cities in the heart of the desert that I knew Kashan was right up my alley. I was expecting incredible architecture and an awful lot of history lesson.
A day trip is a bad idea!
Kashan is a relatively small city and a famous tourist destination in Iran. Day trips are the common way to go and most foreign tourists spend a day here on their way to Isfahan. It’s a 3-hour drive from Tehran and easily accessible. But don’t make my mistake! If you have the time I could not urge you more on staying longer. Kashan has way too much to see to fit in one day and there are some gorgeous villages outside of town like Abyaneh, Niasar and Ghamsar that each can be a day trip for themselves.
Start with the houses
The history of Kashan dates back to over 7000 years ago when one of the primary centres of civilization was assembled on the hilltops of Sialk. At the crossroad of important transit routes, Kashan developed into a trading centre. Today it’s the major centre for the production of textiles, rugs and rosewater in Iran. Consequently, it was the perfect location for wealthy merchants who wanted to show off their cash in their luxurious homes.
During the Safavid era, Kashan became the fav leisure spot of the Safavid kings. More and more mansions and gardens were built which unfortunately all came down to the ground by an earthquake in 1778 that left around 8000 casualties. The city did not give up. The fancy buildings currently open to the public were built during the Qajar era in the 18th-19th century and hence illustrate the finest examples of Qajar aesthetics.
There are many of these houses to visit and most come in a pretty similar main architecture style. The most famous ones are the Tabatabai, Brujerdi, Ameri and Abbasi house. We were told that the Tabatabi house was a great sum up of all the ornamentation techniques and beauty of these houses and since we did not have much time we went to visit this one.
Insider tip: The distance between many of these houses is a short walk but keep in mind that each of them will take a good hour or two to visit.
Visit the finest example of Iranian bathhouse
Bathhouses make up some of the most famous attractions of Iran and there’s almost one to be found in every major city. But this one… the Sultan Mir-Ahmad bathhouse has been by far the most alluring example I’ve seen. The lights, stucco and tile work here was heavenly and left us speechless. People would spend a whole day here washing up and catching up on gossip and I can totally understand why they didn’t want to leave.
Find your way to the Bazaar
The bazaar of Kashan is pretty famous. We were there on a Friday so it was closed but on weekdays they usually close at noon and don’t open until around 4. You can either leave it for last or visit it just before lunchtime so you can get some rest while you binge on some Iranian delicacies.
Dine like royals at the Ameri house
We decided to eat like wealthy merchants in the Ameri house – the most luxurious and biggest house of Kashan which has now become a 5-star hotel. We had arrays of Iranian traditional food, salads and desserts to choose from in the open buffet. The whole buffet costs a lot less than anything similar in Tehran setting you back only 8$. The Abbasi house is also another great option if you like to have your food served in a more traditional way.
Post-lunch relaxation at the Fin garden
Persian gardens are supposed to illustrate heaven on earth and they sure do a good job at it. They are almost always divided into 4 sectors symbolizing the Zoroastrian elements of sky, water, earth and plants. In Kashan water is scarce yet it flows with abundance in the Fin garden finding its way from a natural spring to turquoise-coloured pools and fountains.
The Fin garden also comes with a Bathhouse complex which is most famous for the murder of Amir Kabir – A national hero to Iranians and prime minister under Naser od-Din Shah who was murdered in this bathhouse.
Go down history lane at Tappe Sialk
Super close to Fin garden is Tappe Sialk (Tappe: a hill in Persian) – one of the oldest and richest archaeological sites in central Iran. The oldest settlements in Sialk date back to 5500–6000 BC. Pottery utensils, metal tools and domestic implements made out of clay, stone and bones were found here and yet only 18% is told to be excavated by now.
Most of the pieces found here are currently kept at the Louvre and National Museum of Iran.
Visit a theological school
The Agha Bozorg mosque and madrasah (theological school) is the finest example of Islamic complex in Kashan and famous for its symmetrical design. The madrasah in the sunken courtyard is still in use. Imagine having this place as a school! Sigh…
If possible, organizing your Kashan trip for spring is the perfect idea as this is when the fields of rose bushes outside of town have bloomed and if you plan ahead you’d be able to observe the rose petal distillation ceremony. If you wake up early you can even go ahead and help the locals with the flower picking and observe the process of turning them into rosewater.
If not, you can always buy an already made bottle of rosewater at the many souvenir shops in town.
Have you been to Kashan? Tell me what I have missed so I can make up for it next time.