We left the Esfahan city and headed to Kashan which was the garden city in Iran. It was (still is) famous for its gardens. Before that, we stopped at a unique red village in Iran, Abyaneh. It was indeed very different from other parts of Iran. The name of this place, Abyaneh, was derived from the word ‘viona’ meaning ‘willow grove’. The village was located on a mountain at around 2,500m above sea level but I didn’t feel that. The village itself was an antique. Its heyday dated back to Safavid period.
The whole village was full of red mud brick houses. The mud brick was of a very special type – it would be hardened when it rained.
The entire village was like a living museum with a few hundreds of residents living there. Most of them still spoke in their traditional dialect, and some still wore the traditional clothes that you wouldn’t see anywhere else in Iran.
In the past, women stayed at home. For them to identify whether the visitors were male or female, they put two kinds of knockers on their door. The one on the left was for the male visitors while the one on the right was for the female visitors. Obviously, the one for the male visitors could produce louder and heavier sound whereas the one for female visitors produced lighter sound. That’s how they identified the gender of the visitors.
And now, these knockers were for display only. They were literally stuck on the doors and could not be used anymore because there had been too many tourists playing with it. To replace the knockers, the residents install modern doorbells.
Respect the residents, please.
There are things that we simply can’t bring back home.
Here we were in Kashan! Kashan lay very close to the central desert of Iran. Even though it was that close to the desert, it was famous for its gardens with fountains. One of them was called Fin Garden. We totally forgot we were in the desert because there were numerous trees and natural spring water that came out from the fountains built inside the garden. The ingenious architects thought of many different ways to channel the water to the gardens.
According to the tour guide, the fountain was gravity-fed. The water would suddenly come out of the spouts ‘without prior notice’.
Inside this garden, fountains, thick trees, a tea house, a bathing house, a museum and some information about this place displayed in some rooms could all be found. There was also a museum underground. There was really a lot to explore.
Fin Garden had a lot of history too. It was built several thousand years ago. Imagine, back then, the architects came up with the idea of using gravity to run the fountains. Wasn’t it amazing? And a famous vizier of the Qajar dynasty was murdered by the King at the bathing house. Was it haunted? It was just too crowded for the spirits to rest in peace here because it was a very famous tourist spot.
Along the streets outside Fin Garden stood many stalls. They all sold one particular product that looked like water but the tour guide told us not to drink it all in one go. Instead, we should only drink a bit every time we consumed it because it wasn’t normal water. It was rose water. He also told us we could use it for cooking.
After visiting Fin Garden, I walked around the streets. I went into a bakery. The bakers asked me to take a photo of them so I did. After that, they gave me a piece of bread, fresh from the oven! WOW! It tasted so goooooooood! And it was HUGE! I took it back to our bus and shared it with my travel companions.
One of my travel companions asked me if I had bought any rose water.
‘Eh? Where can I find it?’
Then I realised that all the bottled water was actually rose water, not normal water!
I quickly got off the bus and bought a bottle.
While I was dashing for one of the shops there, I was stopped by a few kids. They wanted me to take photos for them. I ignored them because I only had the rose water in my mind.
After I successfully bought the rose water, I ran back to the bus. I saw those kids again. This time, I pretended that I didn’t see them and walked right past them. And then, I suddenly turned around with my camera in my hands ready to take pictures of them. That caused a lot of commotion. They were so excited. And they all rushed to my camera to make sure they would appear in the photo.
According to Lonely Planet, the bazaar in Kashan was pretty big and it had a long history. It was built in the Seljuk era, during the 11th to 14th centuries and it was a few miles long. So, we expected to see something like the one in Esfahan. I was planning to buy some Iranian clothes or probably a carpet. But when we got there, we were all very disappointed. It was true that it was big but it sold goods that were for the locals, like pots and pans, cooking ingredients, cups, etc. We couldn’t find anything that we wanted. In the end, we didn’t buy anything.
Probably, the most disappointed one would be the guy who bought a suitcase in the bazaar in Esfahan solely for his Persian carpets. But he had already bought a few carpets in Esfahan. Each one cost around USD1,000. He once said to me in amazement, ‘the quality of the Persian carpets is even better than those ones I can find in China and Azerbaijan!’
6 September 2006