Garden in Kashan
Designed for Shah Abbas I in the 16th century, this delightful garden with its symmetrical proportions, old cedars, spring-fed pools and fountains is renowned as being the very epitome of the Persian garden and its evocation of heaven. Given its influence in the planning of gardens as far afield as India and Spain, Fin Garden, which lies in the suburb of Fin, 9km southwest of central Kashan, has justly earned a place on the Unesco World Heritage list.
In contrast to the arid location, the garden flows with crystal-clear warm water channeled from a natural spring through a series of turquoise-tiled pools and fountains and continuing along the main road in jubs (canals, pronounced ‘joobs’). The evergreen trees inside the garden are up to 500 years old, and the profusion of complementary deciduous trees contributes to a garden that works to please year-round.
The highlights of the garden are two pavilions: the shotor gelou, a two-story pool house with water running through the middle of the ground floor, and a recreational pavilion at the rear of the garden. Built in the later Qajar period, this delightful building sports an elaborate painted dome of outdoor vignettes (including a semi-naked beauty being surprised in the act of bathing). In the adjoining rooms, stalactite ceilings and colored glass windows play a role in keeping visitors content with blue, white and green glass chosen to be cool and soothing and to make the room look bigger; in contrast, red, orange and yellow glass has the opposite effect, making the room seem warmer in winter. Interestingly, red and blue combined apparently confuses insects and wards off mosquitoes.
Many Iranians head to the hammam complex along one side of the garden, famous as the place where the nationalist Mirza Taqi Khan, more commonly known as Amir Kabir, was murdered. Amir Kabir served as prime minister under Nasir od-Din Shah from 1848 to 1851. He was a modernizer who instituted significant change, especially in the fields of education and administration, but his popularity was not appreciated in the royal court and the shah’s mother eventually persuaded her son that he had to go. Amir Kabir was imprisoned in Fin Garden and eventually murdered in the bathhouse, though some say he slashed his own wrists. Inside, mannequins posed in scenes from the drama form the backdrop of many a selfie taken by those coming to pay homage to a hero.
With extra time to spare, the modest Kashani National Museum, which occupies a small pavilion in the grounds, is worth a quick visit. It showcases some fine examples of Kashani velvet and brocade, and has some ceramics and calligraphy. A scale model of the garden helps to show its perfect proportions from an aerial perspective.