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58 - The nouveau riche in Kashan

IRAN | Friday, 16 November 2012 | Views [645]

Iran - Kashan - 19thC house pavilion

Iran - Kashan - 19thC house pavilion

Even in the 19thC, the rich in Kashan were building fancy temples to their wealth.  There are four well-preserved 19thC traditional houses in Kashan that are worth visiting.  Two of them were built by rich traders and the other two were governors’ mansions (Ameri and Khaneh Abbasian).   These houses are all situated quite close to each other and ambling from one house to another was a very pleasant way to spend the morning.  The Borujerdiyeh and Tabatabiyeh houses are the traders’ houses.  I was told that when the carpet dealer who owned the Tabatabiyeh house asked for his prospective son-in-law to build a similar house as a condition of marrying his daughter, and that gave rise to the Borujerdiyeh house. 

Each house has a similar structure and is largely made of stone.  There is a central courtyard with a long rectangular fountain lined with fruit and other trees.   On one end of the courtyard is a wind tower which funnels cool wind into the rooms underneath, thus the rooms on this side of the courtyard were used in the summer.  The other side of the courtyard therefore contained the winter rooms.  The entire house would have several courtyards planted with trees and flowers, and separated into areas for private family use and guests.  The more beautiful houses also have ornate plaster work such as stalactite in arches and in one house, panels with flowers and carved birds with female heads (!).  The Borujerdiyeh house also had discreet mirror work mounted onto the plaster carvings.  The main courtyard of the governors’ houses were painted in a Wedgwood-like style – grey with white piping or pink with white piping.  Some of the houses had walls in which lacy designs were cut out, and others had blue and white paintings of the wealthy and leisurely life (as in the Qajar pavilion in the Fin garden)  and stained glass windows which cast lovely colourful shadows when there is bright sunlight streaming through the windows.

Fancy residences not a new phenomenon in Kashan.  At the outskirts of Kashan, one passes by many new two-storey houses with dramatic European designs a la Versailles, complete with flowery plasterwork, grecian arches and carved metal gates.  I’m told these incongruous houses, completely out of place in their environment, are rich people’s houses.  The nouveau riche I guess!  Further towards the city are various furniture stores selling purple and gold brocade-cushioned furniture in curved wooden frames.  It’s all a little overwhelming and OTT for me.

After leaving the 19thC houses, there is a herb and spice shop cum apothecary nearby that is worth visiting, if only to get an idea of the herbs and spices Iranians use in cooking and for healing.  Like the English Neal’s Yard shop.

The last place I visited was Shah Abbas I’s tomb (see previous blog), hidden away in Kashan in a little mausoleum that was not even intended for him!   What a contrast to the ostentatious homes of these rich modern and 19thC Kashan residents.

I leave Kashan half a day earlier than planned for Hamadan (about 6 hours’ driving to the west).


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