The story goes that Kashan, a city in Iran, was the home of the three wise men who followed the star that guided them to Bethlehem to witness the nativity of Jesus. I haven’t verified this story, but I suspect there are a dozen other cities in the middle east with a similar claim. What I can definitely verify about Kashan, is that it is a city squished between a desert and a mountain and located on an oasis.
What does it mean if a city is founded on an oasis? Well, my interpretation is that the city is located on a water source and that without that specific water source, the city is not be able to exist. There is a singular water source within or around the city and other than that, there is just desert.
In Kashan, that source of water is located inside the Bagh-e Fin gardens and shown in the pool in the foreground of the above image. It is a fresh water spring fed by the mountains. Surprisingly, it appears to be a hot spring as the water is steaming as it flows through the gardens and feels around 30°C. Either it is heated during winter to stop the water from freezing within the gardens, or the spring is a hot one. The water is directed through the gardens by a series of canals and water features and sustains a lush garden and a forest of cypress trees.
The Bagh-e Fin is one of the most famous gardens in Persia and since 2012 a UNESCO world heritage site. The fact that the garden even exists at all is testament to the skilled Persian engineers that designed the gardens and the keepers of the garden over the centuries. Some of these trees are over 400 years old and a tremendous amount of care has been taken to keep them alive in the deserts of Iran.
The Bagh-e Fin gardens have a sinister story to tell as well. Amir Kabir, who served as the Prime Minister of Persia from 1848 until 1851, was murdered inside the Bagh-e Fin gardens. Amir Kabir was one of the most capable and innovative figures during the Qajar period. He was a reformer and a moderniser. He was exiled to the Bagh-e Fin by the young Shah, Naser al-Din who at the age of 20, was heavily influenced by his mother Malek Jahan Khanom and other conservative political figures in Persia and abroad. Six weeks after he was exiled, the Shah ordered his execution amid fears that Amir Kabir would gain refuge with the Russians and seek to regain power with their assistance. Amir Kabir was murdered inside a bath house that you can visit inside the Bagh-e Fin gardens.
The Bagh-e Fin gardens are located between the city centre of Kashan and the Zagros Mountains to the west. I find these mountains absolutely beautiful and try to fit them in to any photo I take outdoors.
The structures within the Fin Garden combines architectural features of the Safavid, Zandiyeh and Qajar periods. There are many fine examples of mosaic and painted ceilings within. A small taste of what I would hopefully see a little later in some of the mosques of Kashan, Isfahan and Shiraz.
A lovely public park space has been built on a hill-side near the Fin Gardens. Mr taxi driver informed me that in summer Kashanis flock to the park for picnics, but during winter people would only do so on Fridays. I guess it’s just a bit too cold to be heading out here every day.
From this hill you can get a clear out over Kashan to the deserts beyond and towards the local sports ground. A very picturesque location for a football stadium.
In Kashan I chose to stay at a small guesthouse located right in the centre of town, close to some of the more interesting sites. Kashan is not a big city, it has a country town feel to it, so accommodation options are limited. The place is called Sadeghi House and it is a beautiful old and historic Kashani house. It is not of the historical value of other historical houses in Kashan, of which I will visit soon, but beautiful all the same.