What to see in Kashan: traditional houses and gardens

8 November 2018 

Kashan is mainly known for the old houses based on traditional Persian architecture, residences of wealthy families from past centuries, perfectly preserved. A visit to the historic baths, to Persian gardens and to the Great Mosque, completes our tour in Kashan.

THINGS TO SEE IN KASHAN: TRADITIONAL HOUSES, GARDENS, OLD PUBLIC BATHS AND THE MOSQUE

Kashan is a stunning city located about 3 hours drive from Tehran and just a little more from Isfahan and has just under 250,000 inhabitants. Surrounded by two deserts that are often a destination for day trips to admire the beautiful scenery, Kashan is especially appreciated for its famous old houses built on traditional Persian architecture, and is a must-see destination for any tour in Iran.

Main attractions in Kashan:

To visit Kashan fully enjoying at least most of the attractions, it is necessary to stay a full day and a night. If coming from Tehran or Isfahan, it is advised to leave early. But now let's see some photos of Kashan and the traditional houses.

Entrance to traditional house
One of the most beautiful things to see in Kashan, from where our city tour begins, are the traditional houses. These structures usually date back to the seventeenth century and their architecture is based mainly on the fact that wealthy families did not like to show the facade of the buildings or the courtyards to everyone walking around, but everything had to be properly hidden from unwanted eyes. From the road, in fact, as well as from the main entrance, all that you can see is just a 4 meters high wall and nothing else.
Abbasi house Abbasi traditional house
Abbasi old house Kashan traditional house
Old houses in Iran Traditional houses in Iran
Walking along a long corridor and a ramp of stairs, we find ourselves, as if by magic, in the courtyard of a huge building of at least 5 or 6 floors, and we immediately wonder how it could be possible that such enormous structure is totally invisible from the street. But to know more, let's visit Abbasi, a traditional house built in the late eighteenth century and belonged to a wealthy merchant of glass. The entire property consists of 6 multi-storey buildings that overlook the same number of courtyards with pools and small gardens.
Concrete made by clay and straw
The main building material used for traditional houses in Kashan, as we will see in other parts of Iran, is clay mixed with straw. This offers excellent thermal insulation in all seasons and it is also said that when it is wet, it can produce oxygen.
Abbasi Old houses decorations
Our visit to this traditional Kashan house, known as Abbasi, starts in one of the office rooms. As already mentioned, House Abbasi was owned by a wealthy glass merchant and therefore the room where customers were received, has large stained glass windows projecting colored beams of light over fragments of mirrors glued to walls and ceiling.
Wind capture tower
Ventilation duct
The air conditioning system of the traditional house works through the wind capture towers (or wind towers), high structures capable of expelling hot air during the day and introducing cold air at night, by simple pressure difference. The air moves inside large ducts and passes through large nozzles sometimes located near tanks full of water, to amplify the cooling effect. We will learn more about wind capture towers later in Yazd.
Stucco decorations
Clay decoration
The facade of the traditional houses is adorned with finely detailed stucco decorations. Although many of these decorations have been repaired after major restoration work, some are still original.
Traditional houses in Kashan
Old palace in Kashan
The rooms of the traditional houses have often high domed ceilings with many embossed decorations. Originally they also presented beautiful colors, which unfortunately have been lost in over 2 centuries.
Old palace in Iran Traditional architecture in Iran
The facade of House Abbasi, decorated with elaborate high-reliefs made with clay.
Traditional Persian architecture
The effect obtained by collimating the doors connecting the various rooms is rather curious. For the architects who designed these old houses, the symmetries and the games of shapes and colors, were the basis of their achievements.
Architecture in ancient Persia Traditional houses of Persia
The access doors to the buildings were always in odd numbers, generally 3, 5 or 7. Since curtains were not customary, the windows were instead decorated by colored glasses composing elaborate mosaics made by small pieces cut by hand and mounted into wooden frames.
Old palaces in Persia Original decorations
On rare occasions, visitors can see the colors originally used to paint walls, ceilings and bas-reliefs. Unfortunately, most of these colors were completely lost after more than two centuries.
Traditional architecture of Persia
Beautiful traditional doors and windows made by wood and colored glasses. The opening works by sliding the door upward inside a special compartment and there are no hinges of any kind.
Old water duct Traditional water distribution system
Very interesting also the water distribution system, reaching different points of the traditional house through a network of channels.
Natural cold room
The cold room used to store food was instead located in the basement of the house and was cooled through the air carried by the wind towers over water pools. Recently, strange tunnels and secret passageways have been found, leading to premises that were probably used as safes or as bunkers in the event of an attack.
Old houses of ancient Persia Palaces in ancient Persia
Some original pieces of furniture and the elegant rooms of Abbasi house, one of the most beautiful historical houses of Kashan.
Borujerdi house
The tour to Kashan continues by visiting Borujerdi House, another traditional house built in the mid-seventeenth century by architect Ustad Ali Maryam and owned by a wealthy carpet merchant. The complex of buildings overlooks a beautiful courtyard with a large pool that reflects the high wind-capture tower, one of the tallest in the area, used for the air conditioning system.
Borujerdi Borujerdi traditional house
Decorations made by clay
Borujerdi house is known for its interiors in an excellent state of preservation, with bright colors and fine high-reliefs with absolutely incredible details. The construction of this historic house required 18 years of work that involved over 150 craftsmen.
Sani-ol-Molk
Sani-ol-Molk paitnings
The frescoes of Borujerdi House were largely made by the painter Sani-ol-Molk who, having spent some years in Europe, produced images that are more reminiscent of this continent, rather than Iran.
Natural skylights for the bathrooms Traditional water distribution system for the bathrooms
Almost two centuries ago, producing and managing hot water was not an easy task, so the inhabitants of Kashan could wash mostly using just public toilets. The visit to the baths of the Sultan Amir Ahmad begins walking on the roof, where visitors can see the ancient skylights that transmit the light inside the rooms, and the water distribution system working by channels and pipes dug directly into floors and walls.
Amir Ahmad baths
The baths of Sultan Amir Ahmad have been excellently restored, to give them the original appearance obtained from various historical documents and finds found on the spot. The light come-in from the skylights, previously observed while walking on the roof.
Old baths in Kashan Traditional baths in Persia
Kashan traditional bathrooms Sultan Amir Ahmad bathrooms
The Sultan Amir Ahmad baths in Kashan, with the various rooms and pools.
Original tiles
A short original section of the wall showing how the decorations were in the past.
Kashan Traditional doors
The historical center of Kashan is interesting not only for the traditional houses, but also for the picturesque maze of narrow alleys, where ancient doors still have the double clapper differentiated for men and women (producing a different sound, therefore helping those in the home to understand if a man or a woman is knocking).
Tabatabaei house Tabatabaei Kashan
The third traditional house we visit Tabatabaei House, dating back to the late seventeenth century and belonged to a rich carpet merchant. The complex of buildings overlooks large courtyards, the largest of which has a pool surrounded by flowerbeds.
Colored windows
One of the peculiarities of Tabatabaei House, commissioned by the architect Ustad Ali Maryam, is that during the afternoon the sunlight passing through the colored windows produces colorful beams projected on floors and walls.
Tabatabaei Stucco decorations
Decorated palace Selfie through the mirror
The sumptuous rooms of Tabatabaei House in Kashan, where the architects have made massive use of colored glass, mirrors and bas-reliefs with incredible details. Many tourists who visit this old house can not resist taking selfies through the mirrors that decorate the walls.
Tabatabaei traditional house House of ancient Persia
Other buildings of Tabatabaei complex in Kashan, with their courtyard and terrace.
Decorations made by clay
Glimpses of Tabatabaei House, with steep stairs to climb to the attic of one of the buildings.
Persian garden Bagh-e Fin garden
Another very interesting tourist attraction in Kashan is the Persian garden of Bagh-e Fin, completed during the end of the 16th century and considered to be Iran's oldest garden. The Bagh-e Fin Garden has a network of channels where water flows continuously, two historic buildings, old baths and many ultra-secular cypress trees.
Traditional garden in Kashan Ancient garden in Iran
Because of the hot and dry desert environment where they are usually found, the Persian gardens are designed to guarantee mainly shade and coolness. Therefore, in place of lot of grass and flowers, there will be mainly tall tress for their shadow, in this case cypresses, and pools and fountains for their freshness.
Bagh-e Fin
In Bagh-e Fin, a beautiful Persian garden in Kashan, there are hundreds of fountains from where water flows naturally due to pressure difference, without the use of any pump.
Cupressus sempervires fastigata
The Persian garden of Bagh-e Fin is home to many cypress trees (Cupressus sempervires var. Fastigata) some of which are centuries old.
Secular cypress
The cypresses in the garden of Bagh-e Fin are all registered and a plate indicates the approximate age. This specimen with a very large trunk has an estimated age of 460 years and probably dates back to the time when the garden was built.
Agha Bozorg mosque Agha Bozorg
We complete our tour in Kashan by visiting the old Agha Bozorg mosque built in the late seventeenth century and particularly evocative during the evening hours, when it is illuminated. Attached to the mosque is also a school of theology.
Khajeh Taj ad-Din
The Khajeh Taj ad-Din is a building adjacent to Agha Bozorg mosque and houses the tomb of Ghotbs Kashani, a famous mystic who lived during the Qajar dynasty. The building also houses a chapel with a particularly elaborate ceiling showing lot of inscriptions over blue and green tiles.

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