Kashan at a glance
About 100 kilometres (62 miles) south of Qom on the secondary road to Isfahan, Is the town of KShari, once one of the most prosperous oases in Iran. Known since Seljuq times for the quality of its ceramics (the Persian word kashi for glazed tiles is derived from the name of the town), was also, until the l8th century, an important center for the manufacture of carpets, silk and other textiles. During the Safavid Dynasty, the town benefited greatly from the patronage of Shah Abbas I (1587-1629) who set out to embellish it further, notably by laying out a garden the Bagh-e Fin, and who even requested to be buried there, Given the grandiose construction projects that mark his reign, one might expect the mausoleum of Shah Abbas to be a sumptuous building, but it is in fact remarkably modest in size and appearance. It consists at present of a black tombstone, placed in the crypt of the imamzadeh Habib ibn Musa, now a mosque. This mosque (on Zeyarat Habib Street off Imam Khomeini Avenue, just north of Khomeini Square) is currently being entirely rebuilt but the tomb is still visible in a corner In the center of Kashan are the mosque and the madresseh Agha Bozorg (turn right off Fazel-e Naraqi Avenue, towards Kemal oI-Mulk Square). The traditional plan of Iranian mosques has been adapted here and comprises only two large eivan, each flanked by two rows of arcades, one on the north side, by the entrance, and the other on the south side, in front of the mehrab. The courtyard, surrounded by single arcades, contains a second, sunken court in the cenfre which has been turned into a garden with trees and a fountain. The south eivan with its two minarets gives onto the mehrab chamber, which is covered with a brick dome (there is a good view from the entrance over the courtyard and this eivan). The decoration of the arcades and eivan, which is restricted to blue, red or yellow touches against a brick ground, is very simple but elegant.
|Bagh-e Fin (or Bagh-e Shah,the King's Garden)|
Among the other mosques in Kashan are the Friday Mosque (masjed-e Jomeh), built under the Seljuqs and restored several times since, and the Meidan-e Fays Mosque, built during the Timurid Dynasty (l5th century). The bazaar, located between Bab Afzal and Mohtasham avenues, is very interesting for the architecture of its old caravansarais, with their domed roofs and painted walls.
Another recommended visit is the Borujerdi House (khaneh-ye Borujerdiha; the entrance is on a street right off Alavi Avenue, in the southern part of town; open mornings only). This is an old private house, now open to the public, and which retains a very original six-sided wind tower, pierced with window-like openings which create a draft for cooling the house.
A few kilometres southwest of Kashan, in the small village of Fin, is one of Iran most famous gardens, the Bagh-e Fin (or Bagh-e Shah,the King's Garden), which was designed for Shah Abbs. The original Safavid buildings have now all been replaced by Qajar ones, but the layout of the trees, canals and marble basins is still very close to the original. It is difficult to find a more pleasant spot to relax in the shade after a long trip through the sand and heat of the desert.
The road that goes out to Bagh-e Fin (Amir Kebir Street) passes by an important prehistoric site, Tappeh-ye Sialk, one of the first and most rewarding sites ever excavated in Iran. Sialk was occupied almost continuously from the fourth millennium BC until the eighth century BC; it has yielded, layer by layer, a hoard of cultural artefacts, particularly painted pottery, from which it has been possible to work out in remarkable detail the chronology of the cultural development of this part of the Iranian Plateau. The objects excavated are now in the Louvre Museum in Paris and the Archaeological Museum in Tehran. There are only a few very modest remains left to be seen today on the two badly eroded hills at Tappeh-ye Sialk, including the odd shard and the outline of a few houses.
On the other side of the road, about a kilometre in the direction of Kashan, is the Imdmzddeb Abu Lolo, built during the,Safavid Dynasty and recognizable by its pointed roof decorated with very fine turquoise and yellow tiles. From Kashan, the road to Isfahan goes to Natanz (80 kilometres or 50 miles from Kashan) where one can visit the funerary complex of Abd al-Samad, also called the Friday Mosque. Abd al-Samad is thought to have been a disciple of the Sufi sheikh Abu Sa'id, who died in
1049. The building of the complex took several years. The oldest section is a mosque in the shape of an octagonal Seljuq pavilion which was turned into a four-eivan mosque between 1304 and 1309. The tomb itself is dated to 1307. It is a cruciform chamber with a pyramidal eight-sided roof, decorated outside with blue ceramics. Inside is a superb muqama dome. Between 1316 and 1317, a khanehqah, or dervish monastery, was added to the southwest of the complex. Today, only its gateway still stands, richly decorated in blue ceramics. From Natanz, it is possible to make a wide detour to the northeast along the Yazd road to pass through the villages of Ardestan and Nain. Within a very short distance, one finds a remarkable concentration of some of the oldest mosques in the country, all of which have been spared destruction or rebuilding in later styles.