Iran Day 6: Kashan (6 Mar 11) – The Valley Town and The Sleepy Town: From Abyaneh to the Fin Gardens of Kashan

Isfahan to Abyaneh

We practically spent half the day today travelling on the road. We set off for Abyaneh, a historical town in the middle of the mountains, after breakfast. The drive to Abyaneh was very scenic (like most of the roads we have been to), I saw the sceneries changed from deserts to snow-capped mountains zooming past my eyes as we were driving towards Abyaneh. The distance from Isfahan to the entrance of Abyaneh isn’t too long (roughly 2 hours). As we turned into the only way into the village, I saw this fort ruin structure at the far end. Our guide mentioned that this is one of the lookouts for Abyaneh, and he also told us to look out for caves that we would see along the way. These caves were used as a refuge by the locals some time back. The road towards Abyaneh was rather treacherous. The winding single-lane roads snaked among the mountains looked rather challenging to drive. However, our guide commented this is nothing, peanuts to those we will be seeing on our way to Alamut Castle. As though the snaking road is not challenging enough, along the way we came across a section of the road with one lane closed due to pipeline laying.

Driving towards Abyaneh
Driving towards Abyaneh
Driving towards Abyaneh
Driving towards Abyaneh. We started to see snow again
Driving towards Abyaneh. Iran has a lot of scenery to offer
Snow-capped mountains afar
Driving towards Abyaneh
Driving towards Abyaneh
Driving towards Abyaneh
Driving towards Abyaneh
Driving towards Abyaneh, when we see snow we know we are close

Abyaneh – A Village in the Valley

As the surrounding grounds became snowy, we realised we are closed to Abyaneh. We arrived at the village, as usual, the snow excites me more than the village. I was thinking more time to play with snow! Abyaneh looked very peaceful and very old. There weren’t many people around. We were told that the structure of the buildings in this village hasn’t changed much throughout the centuries. The pastoral village overlooking the snow-capped mountains makes it an ideal place for retirement. The materials used to build the houses of this village is mainly mud clay, as this has the effect of keeping the house warm during winter and cool during summer. As we were walking through the village, I realised the villagers were mostly elderly and young children. Our guide mentioned that the youngsters left the village to work or study in Tehran mostly. We visited this mosque, which was rather modest in size but offered stunning views of the snow-capped mountains around it. This is a rather good place for one to claim down and collect thoughts, maybe partially due to the cool weather. As we were walking in the town, playing with the snow, we came across a group of 5 Iranians. They were pleased to see us and did not hold back their “hellos” to us.

The historic town of Abyaneh
The design of the buildings hasn’t changed throughout the centuries
Quiet Street in Abyaneh
Quiet alley
The whole town of Abyaneh is very quiet, there aren’t many people around
Ancient building in Abyaneh
The snowy mountains in the background make the town feels more tranquil
Snow!! We were very excited by the snow
Ancient building in Abyaneh
Streets are this quiet throughout our visit there
This is a mosque in Abyaneh. The pool in the middle is frozen with ice
Scenery around Abyaneh
This feels more like a ski resort in Europe
Panoramic view of the scenery
Streets of Abyaneh
Streets of Abyaneh
We were told the children when they hit high school as well as adults moved out of Abyaneh to go to school or work elsewhere (mostly in Tehran)
Streets of Abyaneh
Streets of Abyaneh
Beautiful scenery in Abyaneh

The Perfect Persian Garden – Fin Garden

We left Abyaneh, though the windy mountainous road that we came from and headed towards Kashan, our pitstop for the night. Along the way, we saw the nuclear power plant that created a lot of tension between Iran and some of the other countries. The drive towards Kashan did not take too long as Abyaneh is relatively near to Kashan. Our first stop in Kashan is the famous Fin Gardens. Now this garden has a rather unique feature that stands out from the other gardens we saw. There are water fountains throughout the garden, however, these fountains are an engineering feat at the time it was built. The fountains throughout the garden did not use any pumps or electricity, instead, it was based on the principle of gravity and flow that made the water in this garden spray! There are several big pools, where the water would channel to lower pools using gravity. The water from the Fin garden came from the spring of the nearby mountains as such the water is very cooling. We were told that this garden is especially cooling during summer due to the flow of the water and the temperature of the water in the garden. However, the construction of this garden was rather controversial at that time as it was deemed that the royalties used the citizen’s money for their pleasure. Our guide also pointed out that if you ask the Iranians about Fin Garden, they might not know where it is. If you ask them about the Fin Bath, they will know where it is due to a murder case that took place in the bath within the gardens. This murder case was plotted by the queen on the prime minister as the prime minister was the one who was being rather strict with how the national fund was being used. The Bathhouse within the Fin garden was still in great condition (better then the one we saw in Shiraz), from this Bathhouse, I can see how the different rooms and its structure. The murder of the Prime Minister was being displayed within the Bathhouse.

Fountains in Fin Garden. There are no electric pumps throughout the garden, the fountain runs on gravity
This is the main pool of the fountain. The source of the water is from the nearby mountain
The amazing fountain
A Typical Persian garden with water channels surrounding the garden 
Inside Fin Garden
A typical Persian design ceiling
The whole garden is just magnificent and tranquil. One can stay here the whole day
Walking towards the famous Bathhouse
This is the Bathhouse where the Prime Minister was assassinated
A typical Persian Bathhouse
Fin Garden
Fin Garden
Fin Garden 

Tabatabaei House – A Traditional Persian House for the Rich

Leaving the Fin Garden, we drove towards the Tabatabaei House, one of the most impressive traditional house in Kashan. This large house has a total of 4 courtyards and we were told that the smaller sections of the houses are given to the children of the owner once they are married. The house has a summer and winter section. The area that we entered from is the winter section, where the family will interact indoors during the winter months. The summer section is essentially this balcony area, built on the second level of the house where the family, including the servant quarters, can sleep in during summer months when it is rather hot. There are 2 doorknobs at the main door of the house. The female visitors will knock using the lighter doorknob, while male visitors will knock using the heavier doorknob. The purpose is to allow the incumbents of the house to differentiate the sex of the visitors. As Persia is a very conservative country (even till today), whenever there are male visitors, they will only be entertained in the main courtyard, while the female family members will retreat to either their room or the rear courtyards.

The most impressive section of this house is the section used by the master of this house. The 5 colourful glass mosaic on the main glass window was certainly a masterpiece and light up the room very artistically, together with the colourful glass windows, under the sunshine, not only it blocks out the sun, the colourful reflection of the glass presents another piece of art. I spent some time walking around the house, absorbing the Persian art that is embedded in the building of this house, I also went up to the second level where the summer quarters are. Rather fascinating! We headed for the small mosque just next to the Tabatabaei House. The significance of this mosque is that this is where the 6th Imam is buried. At first, I thought we would be chased out of the mosque as we are non-Muslims. In some areas, mosques are out of bounds to non-Muslims. However I was wrong, instead of chasing us out, the keeper of the mosque brought us some tea and welcomed us. I am not too sure if it is the hospitality nature of Iranians, or the fact that the 6th Imam is buried here makes this mosque somewhat opened to non-Muslims. Whatever the reason is, I was glad that we were not being chased out. Due to respect for the Imam, picture taking was not allowed in this mosque.

The entrance of the Tabatabaei House
The modest entrance of the house opens up to a huge area behind the door
The colouring of the glass panel brings beauty and colour into the room when the sun shines through it
Kitchen Area of the Tabatabaei House
This area is the servants quarters, the owner of the house even built a garden for the welfare of his servants
A well-decorated ceiling
The colour windows are just stunning
The is the hallway to the bedroom to the owner’s house
The intriguing design on the wall and the house is certainly very well preserved
The front lawn of the house
The facade of the Tabatabaei House

Kashan Bath House & Kashan Bazaar

We headed for the public bath next. At first, I thought this bath would be similar to the other 2 bathhouses we have seen so far. Yeah, the interior is the same, there would be a waiting room, a changing room and a cleaning room. However the significance of this bathhouse did not lie with the interior, but the rooftop of this bathhouse. As we proceeded up the roof, the domed roof was visible from the roof, it looked like dunes in the desert and certainly looked like a piece of artwork. We were brought to the pump room on the rooftop where our guide explained the way the water was being brought into the bath in the olden days. From the rooftop, I can also see the mountains around Kashan.

After the bathhouse, our guide brought us to the bazaar. Well, this is rather boring as I was out to find more souvenirs, no such luck. This bazaar is catered mainly for the locals, selling the daily necessity items. However, the architecture of one of the halls of the bazaar looked like some ancient mosque. It is rather beautiful. The rest of the bazaar looked run down and lack of maintenance.  We soon exited the bazaar and headed back to the hotel.

Inside the Bathhouse in Kashan 
This area is where the water was heated
This is the waiting room in the Bathhouse
The architecture of the roof is simply stunning
Domes covering the bathhouse
From the roof, we can see a mosque nearby
This area is on the roof, where water is pumped into different rooms in the bathhouse
The bazaar in Kashan
The ceilings in the bazaar are artistic
View of the mountain from our room
Watching the nightfall from our room
And the city of Kashan lights up
Persian Dinner
Persian Kebab
Persian style fish

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