Love in Kashan: A Tale of Two Houses

Kashan was notable because it was the end–the final stop of our tour before returning to the clamoring urban jungle of Tehran.  A small oasis in the middle of the Dasht-e Kavir, Kashan has captured the minds of travelers for centuries.  Instead of reading more about it in my guidebook, however, I found myself staring out the window and trying to read the road signs along the highway.  Was this really the last stop on our trip?

The first place we visited in Kashan was an old madrasah and mosque, known as the Agha Bozorg complex.  A functional school of Islam, it was here we learned a little about the years of training mullahs undergo.   The architecture, as usual, was fascinating to look at.

The key draw in Kashan–at least for us–would have to have been the traditional houses located in the city, as well as the lore behind them.  I’m always one for a good story.  As the legend goes, there were two carpet merchants: Sayyed Jafar Natanzi and Sayyed Jafar Tabatabei.  Now, Natanzi took a fancy to Tabatabei’s daughter, and approached his colleague to negotiate for her hand in marriage.  Tabatabei agreed, but on one condition: his daughter would live in a house just as splendid as his own.  His house was the first we visited, and matching it must have been a daunting challenge.

Tabatabei’s house–Khan-e Tabatabei–was extravagent.  Covered in paintings and intricately carved stone reliefs, it screamed opulence.  We were a little skeptical as to Natanzi’s chances.

Luckily for the love-struck merchant, his 18 year endeavor to win the hand of his love paid off.  When finished at last, his house–Khan-e Boroujerdi–passed muster and his marriage to Tabatabei’s daughter was secured.  After 18 years, I would hope so! Can you imagine if it wasn’t good enough?  What a major bummer that would’ve been…

We spent the most time in the second residence, wandering through the courtyard and up spiraling staircases; leaving no nook or cranny unexplored.  But, as with the rest of our time in Iran, our experience there was more than just taking in the cool architecture.

It was fitting that here, on one of the last stops of our trip, I would be surrounded by the friends I had made in my tour group.  It was even more fitting that I would have the chance to meet a whole host of new ones throughout the grounds.  So many came up wanting to talk, take a picture, or just say hello.  One man, pictured at the far left of the photo at the bottom of this post, pulled me into an embrace and gave me several very European kisses on my cheeks.  After spending so much time in bow-to-greet Korea, I was completely caught off guard.  It was hilarious. 

I’ve only got one more post until I’ve covered my 15 day trip through the heart of Iran.  It seems like each post has been more and more difficult to write.  It could be the time that’s passed, but I think–deep down–that I just don’t want it to end.  God, I miss Iran.

How about you?  Have you ever encountered a fascinating bit of lore about a place you’ve visited?  A cool or inspiring story?  Share it in the comments below!

By Nathan Anderson