Kashan, a symphony in gold and turquoise

Kashan…A jewel of a city in the semi-arid center of Iran. I went back to Iran after 20 years. I visited several historical houses in Kashan and enjoyed my first visit to this region. This is one of them, built around 1880 with exquisite mirror and stained-glass work:

دردانه روحانی خانه طباطبائی کاشان roohani kashan

A much smaller example is the hotel we stayed in; this amazing boutique hotel (below), the “Manouchehri House“, revived from its ruin by the good taste of its owner, Saba Manouchehri,  her super talented designer, Shanhnaz Nader Esphanahi, and Akbar Helli the traditional architect and master repairer of historic houses. Going from this (picture not mine):

manoucheri house before picture michele roohani

to this:

خانه منوچهری دردانه روحانی کاشان

and this:

manouchehri House Saba Kasahn Dordaneh Michele Roohani

This is the view from my room:

Kashan watermelon michele roohani

A first floor room with three beds for my parents and myself. Even the bed covers (designed by Shahnaz Nader Esfahani) are custom made for the hotel and purely Iranian:

bed cover shahnaz nader esfahani manouchehri dordaneh

Still jet-lagged, I could’t sleep well the first night and I saw the sun rise after having stared in delight for a couple of hours at the moonlit garden:

manouchehri house michele roohani

We had to take advantage of our short trip and a knowledgeable guide so we hurried to the breakfast area,

saba manouchehri dordaneh roohani michele

and tried to remember to take a look at these cute garden sculptures upon our return to the hotel!

persian sculpture michele roohani

We had our Persian tea and out the door:

tea chai dordaneh rouhani iran

Our first stop was at the Tabatabaei House. This splendid house was built in the 1840s for the affluent Tabatabaei family.  It was designed by Master Ali Maryam. It has 40 rooms and more than 200 doors:

tabatabaee house kashan iran rouhani

It is the same house that you see at the beginning of the blog post. I was amazed at this majestic balcony and its ceiling that looks like a traditional Persian rug (below).

tabatabei kashan rug ceiling michele roohani

Kashan is world famous for its beautiful rug weaving tradition,

kashan rug dordaneh roohani

and I can very well imagine Mr. Tabatabaei asking his architect to create a rug on his ceiling like the rug he must have had at his feet:

ceiling rug kashan michele roohani

It doesn’t happen  often  for me to be overwhelmed by what I see and hesitate about what to shoot but I was taking pictures left and right and no time to take notes… 😉

historic house kashan roohani

But I remembered to take a picture of myself!

dordaneh roohani Tabātabāei house kashan

The colors on these pictures have not been processed — the golden glow that you see everywhere is real:

tabatabei house sunset dordaneh rowhani iran

The intricate stucco work on the walls is even more beautiful in the midday golden light:

tabatabei facade kashan michele rouhani

The persians are historically known in the art of plastering:

tabatabaei house stucco michele roohani

The stained glass is omnipresent in all of these old houses,

kashan vitrail dordaneh roohani

Some are exquisite!

Boroujerdi stained glass windows kashan michele roohani

We decided to go to the bazaar for lunch. Iran, the pistachio capital of the world is a heaven for nut lovers:

persian nusts michele roohani

I found this guy’s expression in front of the sheep’s heads hilarious! The local Chelo-Kabab,  the only thing that Shahs and Mullahs equally love and agree upon, didn’t disappoint us. Chelo-Kabab is the national dish of Iran consisting of steamed basmati rice and lamb kabab.

chelokabab michele roohani

After lunch we headed to the Fin Garden. A Unesco world heritage site, it is a historical Persian Garden that symbolizes the earthly paradise. Designed for Shah Abbas I and completed in 1590, it is the oldest garden in Iran still in existence.

Fin kashan pool michele roohani

Water runs through it (it houses Kashan’s Fin Bath) and beautiful trees and flowers and water sources everywhere have a heavenly effect on people.

Kashan ceiling paintings michele rouhani

Flowers are everywhere on the ceilings and walls (above) and outside like the omnipresent pomegranate and roses:

pomegranate michele roohani kashan

Kashan is like Grasse in France, the capital of rose essence, Gol-Aab:

kashan rose michele roohani harper

and some more ceilings:

Fin ceiling kashan dordaneh roohnai

and more gorgeous frescos:

fin kashan ceiling michele roohani

I loved this image of this tired chador clad lady:

chador woman fin garden kashan michele roohani

The next day took us to a famous bath or hammam: Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse. I want to take you first to the roof—very typical of the ones in this region, it lets the sunlight in. You will see these roof domes again from inside.

Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse dordaneh

Thes multiple domes  contain convex glasses to provide sufficient lighting to the bathhouse while concealing it from the outside:

Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse ceiling dordaneh

The bathhouse is a traditional Iranian bathhouse from the 16th century. It has two main parts:  Sarbineh (the dressing hall) and Garmkhaneh (the hot bathing hall). The following image is of Sarbineh with its octagonal pool and its 8 columns.

Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse michele roohani

The interior of the bathhouse is decorated with turquoise and gold tile work, brickwork and amazing plasterwork:

Amir Ahmad Bathhouse kashan dordaneh

A symphony in gold and turquoise…Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse dordaneh roohani

Me being a Roohani (religious in Persian and a common last name like Smith) and the new president being a Roohani, you would think this dude could be my dad or an uncle:

mullah dordaneh roohani kashan

My dad—Morteza Rouhani— a retired pediatrician and not a mollah (here with our kind guide, Abbas Ghamkhar), was tired of following my mother and me around . Everybody asks me but my father has  no connection to the Iranian President!

doctor morteza rouhani dordaneh

Another great tea (I call it paradise in a glass) and we were ready to head to another historical house.

persian tea naser-al-din shah dordaneh roohani

The same person who built  the Tabatabaei’s House later  built this one, the Boroujerdis House for Mr. Tabatabaei’s newly married daughter. It is considered a true masterpiece of Persian traditional residential architecture. It has a funny story:

Boroujerdi house main facade kashan

The groom not being from Kashan, was not accepted first as a good suitor (he was in the tea making business) and to show his wealth in spite of not being one of the Kashan nobility, he asks the same architect to build his home with samovars and teapots in the exterior wall carvings! I was laughing taking these pictures:

Boroujerdi samovar kashan michele roohani Iran

There are great plaster and stucco works of fruits and flowers and wall paintings by the royal painter Kamal-ol-molk, and three 40 meter tall windcatchers which help cool the house to unusually cool temperatures.

Boroujerdi house kashan dordaneh roohani

A windcatcher (below) is a traditional Persian architectural element to create natural ventilation in buildings:

windcatcher boroujerdi house kashan michele roohani

and this is what’s happening inside the dome, magnificent ceiling,

boroujerdi ceiling dordaneh rouhani

after magnificent ceiling…

Borujedis house kashan dordaneh rouhani

I wished I could have made a better travel log about this mystical place:

dordaneh rouhani boroujerdi house kashan

One last image from the other side of Tabatabaei House—after all we started the blog with it:

tabatabei dordaneh rouhani kashan

Ok one more:

stucco work historic house kashan michele roohani

We went back to Tehran, tired but happy. Guess what we drank the minute we got home?

persian tea glass michele roohani

I will keep a great memory of this beautiful city—home to my favorite poet, Sohrab Sepehri. This swallow kept us company at our hotel, the Manouchehri House:

swallow kashan manouchehri michele roohani

A poem of Sepehri in English:

“I am a native of Kashan
Time is not so bad to me
I own a loaf of bread, a bit of intelligence, a tiny amount of taste!
I possess a mother better than the leaf
Friends, better than the running brook

I am a Muslim
The rose is my Mecca
The spring my prayer-carpet
The light, my prayer stone
The field my prostrate place
I take ablution with the heartbeat of windows…”

in French:

“Je viens de la contrée de Kashan.
Ma vie somme toute n’est pas trop difficile.
J’ai de quoi vivre, un brin d’intelligence, un minuscule talent.
J’ai une mère plus douce que les feuilles de l’arbre.
Des amis plus limpides que l’eau courante.

Et un Dieu présent quelque part, tout proche:
Parmi les feuilles de giroflées,
Au pied de ce pin élevé,
Sur la face consciente des eaux,
Dans les lois du monde végétal.
Je suis musulman.
J’ai comme direction de la Mecque une rose.
Comme napperon de prière une source.
Comme sceau de prière la lumière.
La plaine est le tapis de ma prière.
Je fais mes ablutions aux vibrantes fenêtres de la lumière.”

and in Persian:

اهل كاشانم
روزگارم بد نيست.
تكه ناني دارم ، خرده هوشي، سر سوزن ذوقي.
مادري دارم ، بهتر از برگ درخت.
دوستاني ، بهتر از آب روان.

من مسلمانم.
قبله ام يك گل سرخ.
جانمازم چشمه، مهرم نور.
دشت سجاده من.
من وضو با تپش پنجره ها مي گيرم.


38 thoughts on “Kashan, a symphony in gold and turquoise

  1. Michele khanom-e aziz kheli khobe negarha, but the quintessence place in Kashan is the tomb of Shah Abbas I with is kombad-e kabud and oddly no photos. Salamatin, Armen

  2. Wow Michele,

    This is not the Iran we see depicted in Western Media. Loved the Fin Gardens and Hamman. Thanks for the education.

  3. Ma chère Michèle,

    C’est tout simplement magnifique. Merci, merci et merci………….

  4. Dordaneh jaan,

    Your posts are always picturesque and in great taste. This one is indeed truly splendid.

    Many thanks for sharing!

  5. Who better than S. Sepehri could depict Kashan
    with words, the same way you did with photographs ?

    “The rose is my Mecca
    The spring my prayer-carpet
    The light, my prayer stone
    The field my prostrate place
    I take ablution with the heartbeat of windows…”

    1001 marvels you have found and shared.
    Thank you for the dream Michele

  6. I had guessed you were in Iran. But now I am amazed. I have been in all these places during my studies at Honarhaa School of Architecture.
    Back then I took black and white pictures of Kashan yet mostly from friends. I used to develop pictures and make some money for my education expenses.
    Yadesh be khayre. All passed so fast. Your pictures are beautiful and architectural. I love them. Good for you. Wish I could go around Iran and take pictures.

  7. Beautiful – Michele ..
    Reading Marie’s comment , we are equally Speechless ..

    No matter how far the eyes can see,
    There’s still the Limit of the Azure Skies
    Were I to built a house, I would built a house..

    Beyond skies from where I could see,
    Beyond the stars, beyond the skies..

    – Mirza Ghalib

  8. Bonjour chere Michele,
    C’est absolument magique!! Et le poeme est tres beau, surtout en francais.
    Merci pour ce blog! J’espere que tout va bien avec toi.

  9. I tremendously enjoyed going through your blog about Kashan!!!… wish I could be there as well. Last time I was in Kashan, it was 1976…

    What a nice refurbishment project the hotel you stayed at was. It brings me joy and hope to know that at least there are some people who makes things better in Iran.

    You have such an amazing eye for beauty and colour!

    Keep up the good work.

  10. Dear Michele,

    Many thanks for your message. The blog is really great; you filled me with nostalgia about Iran.

  11. OMG! So beautiful I loved them specially the baba joon.

    You are a talented engineer and artist!

  12. Fantastic Job Michele, well done! Where are you these days? Your work is admired.

  13. شنبه 2 شهریور 1392

    ای‌ که‌ می‌پرسی‌ نشان‌ عشق‌ چیست‌
    نوع مطلب: (شعر های فارسی ،مثنوی ،دیگر شاعران ،) توسط: مهدی
    ارسال به
    نام شعر : عشق شاعر : مجتبی کاشانی نوع شعر : مثنوی
    ای‌ که‌ می‌پرسی‌ نشان‌ عشق‌ چیست‌
    عشق‌ چیزی‌ جز ظهور مهر نیست

    عشق یعنی مهر بی‌چون و چرا
    عشق یعنی کوشش بی‌ادعا
    عشق یعنی عاشق بی‌زحمتی
    عشق یعنی بوسه بی‌شهوتی
    عشق یعنی دشت گل کاری شده
    در کویری چشمه‌ای جاری شده

    یک شقایق در میان دشت خار
    باور امکان با یک گل بهار

    عشق یعنی ترش را شیرین کنی
    عشق یعنی نیش را نوشین کنی

    عشق یعنی این که انگوری کنی
    عشق یعنی این که زنبوری کنی
    عشق یعنی مهربانی در عمل
    خلق کیفیت به کندوی عسل

    عشق یعنی گل به جای خار باش
    پل به جای این همه دیوار باش

    عشق یعنی یک نگاه آشنا
    دیدن افتادگان زیر پا

    عشق یعنی تنگ بی ماهی شده
    عشق یعنی ، ماهی راهی شده

    عشق یعنی مرغ‌های خوش نفس
    بردن آنها به بیرون از قفس

    عشق یعنی جنگل دور از تبر
    دوری سرسبزی از خوف و خطر
    عشق یعنی از بدی ها اجتناب
    بردن پروانه از لای کتاب
    در میان این همه غوغا و شر
    عشق یعنی کاهش رنج بشر

    ای توانا ، ناتوان عشق باش
    پهلوانا ، پهلوان عشق باش

    عشق یعنی تشنه‌ای خود نیز اگر
    واگذاری آب را بر تشنه تر
    عشق یعنی ساقی کوثر شدن
    بی پر و بی پیکر و بی سر شدن

    نیمه شب سرمست از جام سروش
    در به در انبان خرما روی دوش
    عشق یعنی مشکلی آسان کنی
    دردی از درمانده‌ای درمان کنی
    عشق یعنی خویشتن را نان کنی
    مهربانی را چنین ارزان کنی
    عشق یعنی نان ده و از دین مپرس
    در مقام بخشش از آیین مپرس
    هرکسی او را خدایش جان دهد
    آدمی باید که او را نان دهد
    عشق یعنی عارف بی خرقه ای
    عشق یعنی بنده ی بی فرقه ای
    عشق یعنی آنچنان در نیستی
    تا که معشوقت نداند کیستی

    عشق یعنی جسم روحانی شده
    قلب خورشیدی نورانی شده

    عشق یعنی ذهن زیباآفرین
    آسمانی کردن روی زمین
    هر که با عشق آشنا شد مست شد
    وارد یک راه بی بن بست شد

    هرکجا عشق آید و ساکن شود
    هرچه ناممکن بود ممکن شود

    درجهان هر کارخوب و ماندنی است
    رد پای عشق در او دیدنی است
    سالک آری عشق رمزی در دل است
    شرح و وصف عشق کاری مشکل است

    عشق یعنی شور هستی در کلام
    عشق یعنی شعر، مستی؛ والسلام

    You have not only captured the beauty of our country, but most importantly shown humanity and love through this journey in pictures and words. I detached from this time and space and touched the beauty in the Way you conveyed your message of beauty and love!

  14. Among all that you are and would have become, you are an excellent Architectural Photographer.

    Thank you for this Journey through a few Architectural masterpieces of Kashan.

    …And I envy your ability to VISIT HOME !!

  15. This is breathtakingly beautiful, Michele, absolutely gorgeous! Many thanks to you for capturing this so well.

  16. Your blog entry is splendid — the lyric of the words and images. Many thanks!

    Blessings of peace to you, your father, family, and Iran.

  17. نسخه بلوگ تان را که با ای میل برایم فرستادید چند دقیقه پیش دیدم و
    بادیدن عکسهایی که از سفرتان به کاشان فرستادید شناخت تازه ای از
    بینایی :(انچه همه میبینند)
    وبینش 🙁 نگاهی با تفکر وتعمق به درون هر جسم وهر چیز وهرکس
    و ورای تصویر ظاهریی ان)
    درشما یافتم که شاید نمیدانستم
    توضیحات زیر تصاویر بسیار زیبایتان و قطعه شعر اهل کاشانم سهراب سپهری وبرگردان خوب انگلیسی ان همه وهمه گواه اثباط . شعور، درک، نگاه هنرمندانه و احساسی عاشقانه در شماست و این درک من است بعد ازکم وبیش پنج سال که از طریق بلوگتان شما را دنبال وحس میکنم
    ارزو میکردم عکسهای زیبایتان دارای کیفیت (High resolution) بود که میدانم نسخه های اصلی خود شما اینطور است تا میتوانستم ویدیوی کوتاهی با کیفیت بالا(High resolution) از انها بسازم
    در مورد شباهت نام فامیلتان با رﺋیس جمهور تازه توضیحتان را خواندم
    دستتان درد نکند، خسته نباشید
    ۲۸ اگوست-۲ بعداز ظهر-لوس انجلس

  18. Your photos of Kashan are so beautiful. We are all impoverished when conflicts destroy or make parts of the world inaccessible.

  19. Thank you Michele for taking me to a wondrous place that I will probably never see in person. Simply stunning and very up-lifting. It will stay with me just as if I was there.

  20. Splendid! Eye catching masterpiece. These builts are specialized for their stucco work. The Persian art is distinguished and stands outstanding in comparison with others. Building the building from rags is fascinating.

  21. Thank you Dordaneh joon; my parents are from Kashan and I made alot of trips to Kashan as a kid and everytime I visit Iran as an adult. However I’ve never looked at those buildings the way you looked at them. Simply wonderful. My mom looked at these pictures and I read your blog to her. She wanted to let you know that she really appreciates your work of showing her birthplace to the rest of the world. Keep up the good work.

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