Shiraz, a city steeped in history and culture, boasts numerous architectural gems that transport visitors back in time. One such treasure is the Karim Khan Castle, an exquisite example of Persian architecture from the Qajar era. Join me as we embark on a journey to discover the beauty and significance of this remarkable fortress.
A Glimpse into the Past
As you enter the compound, you’re immediately struck by the simplicity and warmth of the red-brick walls adorned with wooden-framed windows. The large courtyard, shaded by towering orange trees, adds a refreshing touch to the atmosphere. Amidst the greenery, you’ll find fountains and pools that enhance the charm and tranquility of the space.
Various rooms are scattered throughout the northern, western, and southern sections of the castle. Each side features an ivan (a central hall) with two columns and six rooms adjacent to it. All these rooms are interconnected from the inside through a hallway-like passage. The brick walls of these rooms are adorned with tall wooden windows that allow natural light to filter in. Some of these windows in the upper section are embellished with colorful stained glass. However, the simplicity of the external appearance of the rooms is mirrored inside, reflecting the overall architectural theme of simplicity with its own unique beauty.
Inside each room, you’ll find distinct elements, including sardar (a small alcove), dool (stove), and tall and short niches, offering a glimpse into the daily lives of those who once inhabited this castle.
The Shah Neshin and the Paradise Pavilion
The larger sunlit rooms of the castle are referred to as “Shah Neshin” or the “Five Porticoes.” Karim Khan Castle houses three such Shah Neshin areas, known as the Grand Hall or “Besh Qusha.” The southern Shah Neshin, with its four seasons theme, was used throughout the year. The western Shah Neshin, known as the main Shah Neshin, faces the large pool and is suitable for the hot summer days. The northern Shah Neshin, mirroring the southern one, is more commonly used during the cold winter days.
In front of these halls stands two limestone columns and a semi-circular balcony facing the courtyard.
The Innovative Arg Hammam
The Hammam (bathhouse) in the Karim Khan Castle is a significant architectural innovation in Iranian bathhouses. Before this, there were no dedicated bathhouses built in this manner in Iran. This bathhouse, known as “Arg Hammam,” is the luckiest part of the castle, as it has withstood the test of time through various historical eras.
As you enter the bathhouse, you’ll find a changing room with an octagonal pool in the center and platforms around it. This area was used for changing clothes, resting, hairdressing, cupping therapy, or massage. The changing room connects to the “Garmkhane” (hot bath) area, which also houses the treasury for heating water for bathing.
The Unique Water Supply System
The water supply system in Karim Khan Castle is fascinating. Rather than relying on traditional methods such as wells or river water, separate pools were constructed in front of the residential sections, catering to the specific needs of each section. Alongside the northern and southern pools, there are water channels that add to the charm and purity of the surroundings. The pools and channels were constructed from a durable limestone material known as “Atabak,” which is highly resistant to water and erosion.
The innovation in the water supply system came from redirecting water from the Roknabad Qanat, a clean and mineral-rich underground water source, to these pools. The only challenge was preventing the stagnant water from turning into mud. To overcome this, fountains were installed in all the pools to keep the water flowing.
Why is Karim Khan Castle Leaning?
One of the towers on the southeast side of the castle leans, adding to its charm and tourist appeal, much like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The exact reason for this lean remains a mystery, but some sources attribute it to the presence of a trench, underground waters, and the castle’s bathhouse beneath this tower.
Karim Khan Castle welcomes visitors in the first half of the year from 8:30 AM to 9:00 PM and in the second half of the year from 7:30 AM to 8:00 PM. Take note of these hours to ensure you have ample time to explore this historical gem.
What to Do After Visiting Karim Khan Castle?
Don’t miss the delightful food vendors around Karim Khan Castle, offering one of Shiraz’s most famous treats: Faloodeh, a delicious iced dessert made with vermicelli noodles and rosewater syrup. You’ll find many Faloodeh vendors behind the castle, with Shiraz’s most renowned being Shokri’s Faloodeh shop.
While you’re in the area, take the opportunity to explore nearby attractions such as Vakil Bath, Vakil Bazaar, and Pars Museum. Each of these places offers unique insights into the history and culture of Shiraz.
Finding Karim Khan Castle
Located on Karim Khan Zand Street, one of Shiraz’s main thoroughfares, Karim Khan Castle is easily accessible. In the central part of this street, there’s a square called “Shohada” (Martyrs) Square. As you exit one of its sides toward “Hijrat” Street, you’ll find Karim Khan Castle right in front of you. If you prefer public transportation, such as buses or the metro, you can easily reach your destination. However, if you’re using a private vehicle, be aware that parking space is limited around the castle. It’s advisable to look for parking in the nearby streets.
Address: Karim Khan Castle Karim Khan Zand Street, Shohada Square, at the beginning of Hijrat Street Shiraz, Fars Province, Iran
In this article, we’ve explored the rich history and architectural beauty of Karim Khan Castle in Shiraz. From its defensive walls and towers to the innovative bathhouse and water supply system, this historical site offers a glimpse into the past. When you visit, be sure to enjoy some Faloodeh and explore the nearby attractions to make the most of your time in this captivating city.