01 May 2017

Impressions and Images of Iran: Masjed-e Vakil and Hammam-e Vakil in Shiraz

The central business area of Shiraz is centered around Shohada Square, where the city's bazaars radiate from. Idling around the bazaar has always been an interesting experience: you see local Shirazis going about their shopping, from fruits and vegetables to textiles, sweets, spices, household items, and jewelry. Whatever you can think of under the sun, there is a shop selling it in Shiraz. Anyway, I did meander around, but when I felt like I needed a break from the people, I went inside two structures: the Vakil Mosque, and later on the Vakil Hammam.

The Masjed-e Vakil (Regent's Mosque) was built during the beginning of the Zand dynasty, during the reign of Karim Khan, in the 18th century. The impressive thing here is the prayer hall that is supported by dozens of carved pillars. They say that the marble prayer podium featured in the middle of the room was carved from a monolithic marble piece that was carried all the way from Azerbaijan.

As you see above, the courtyard is relatively empty and quiet, with perfectly proportional iwans on its sides. It's rather cool to be able to just escape the crowds by popping into a structure like this, just next to the bazaars!

Another place that I checked out was the Hammam-e Vakil, or the Regent's Bath. This bathhouse was also built during the Zand era. Unlike the first hammam I saw in Kashan, however, this one was filled with human-sized mannequins that I suppose was intended to demonstrate how bathing back then happened. Based on what I can see, it seems to be an elaborate affair.

It was slightly amusing to see some of the exhibits. Some of the mannequins looked like they were in pain. In any case, the standard hammam layout is seen here, with the outer rooms more designed for socializing, and the inner rooms for actual bathing. It's also interesting to see that all the bathers were men. I suppose the women just didn't bathe in public, and were relegated to using the privacy of their own homes.

So, that was everything I saw in Shiraz. After spending a few days here, I took a flight, flying to Tehran. But instead of staying in Tehran, I took a bus to Qazvin, a city 150 kilometers northwest of Tehran. The plan was to spend a few days there, checking out the town and hiking the Alamut Valley, while passing the Ashura Holiday, where almost the whole country shuts down. So, see you there!

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