Karim Khan Citadel
The Arg of Karim Khan or Karim Khani Citadel is a citadel located in the northeast of Shiraz. It was built as part of a complex during the Zand dynasty and is named after Karim Khan, and served as his living quarters. In shape it resembles a medieval fortress. At times, the citadel was used as a prison. Today, it is a museum operated by Iran's Cultural Heritage Organization.
Arg of Karim Khan is located at Shohada Square. It has a land area of 4,000 square meters and is in the centre of a 12,800 square meter compound. The citadel of Karim Khan consists of four high walls connected by four 14 meter round brick towers at a 90-degree angles. Each 12 meter wall is 3 meters thick at the base and 2.8 meters at the top. The design of the citadel combines military and residential architecture, for it was the home of Karim Khan and the military centre of the dynasty. James Edward Alexander in 1827 described the citadel as being surrounded by a "deep wet ditch".
Arg of Karim Khan was built in 1180 AH (1766-7). Karim Khan invited the best architects and artists of the time and bought the best materials from other cities and abroad for the construction of the citadel of Karim Khan, which was quickly constructed. During the Zand dynasty it was used by the king as living quarters. During the Qajar period it was used as the governor's seat. Tile works depicting legendary tales were added at the entrance gate of the citadel during the Qajar dynasty. After the fall of the Qajar Dynasty it was converted into a prison and the paintings were plastered over.
The tall surrounding walls provided security and at its top and at intervals are guard posts. In addition to a flat surface for
guards to position themselves, they also include storage space for weapons. In the residential interior section, the north, south and west wings of the citadel each have a porch and six residential quarters. The eastern wing consists of a bath and other facilities. The main entrance is actually on this eastern side and above it is a drawing of a scene from the battle of Rostam and the White Demon. Once inside the main entrance one is welcomed by a long pool followed by an outdoor roofed porch supported by two poles. The courtyard is filled with citrus trees.
The citadel has a tea room, itself housed within a bathhouse. Many of the rooms display photographs of Shiraz during the 19th and 20th centuries. One of such pictures from the end of the Qajar Dynasty depicts a criminal tied to a cannon, which is about to be fired. Looking through the photos in chronological order one can see the very visible changed and civilian dress codes and the gradual advance of technology in Iran at the time.
The garden inside the large courtyard of Arg-e-Karimkhani takes approximately up to 80% of the area. The rest, courtyard floor, is all covered by marble stone from the time of construction. A pathway from the center of the garden leads to the middle of each side of the courtyard opposite a portico leading to some of the rooms of the building.
Main Rooms of Karimkhan Citadel
As you enter the courtyard from the vestibule, at the opposite side of the courtyard, under the large wind catcher, there’s a portico that could be seen right away. Inside the beautifully decorated rooms of this section, attractive wax statues revive the setting inside the court of Karim Khan where he met with officials and ruled over the territories under his domination.
The fresco embellishment of the walls and ceilings are fabulous examples of how beautifully Zand art vitalized official and non-official buildings of that period. A combination of gold leafs with relatively dark red colors were used to give elegant taste to the interior walls of the royal buildings.
Adjacent to this mail room, sometimes a couple of other rooms are opened to the public to see the local costumes of Iranian women of various ethnic groups. The colorful gowns seen here are still worn by local people when you travel to different parts of Iran.
Bathhouse of Arg-e-Karimkhani
On the very south eastern part corner of the courtyard, there’s a door that leads to the Arg-e-Karimkhani’s bathhouse, Hammam. This handsome bathhouse has got all the architectural sections of any similar structures, which make it worth a visit. The simple yet likable plasterwork decorations on the walls of this hammam, imply the love in flowers and nature, what Shirazi artists have always been inspired by.
Marble floors and seats, insulated pools for hot and cold water, clay-made pipes for heating beneath the floors and transferring water, and so forth are all observable and the echo returning your voice inside the big hall of this hammam reminds you of the lively setting of old bathhouses where royal family met and had themselves washed and massaged by the servants.
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