Designed for Shah Abbas I, the lush Fin Garden in Kashan is renowned as being the very best of the Persian gardens; so much so it was recently added to the UNESCO World Heritage list.
The Bagh-e Fin Garden (Fin Garden) likely dates to the early Safavid Dynasty (1501-1736), but its current design began to take shape during the reign of Shah Abbas I (1587-1629), and was restored from 1797-1834 by the Qajar Fath Ali Shah.
Laid out in the manner of a traditional chahar bagh (four gardens), Fin Garden Kashan is shaped into a large quadrangle of trees and shrubs surrounded by various pavilions and a high perimeter wall. The cypress trees inside the garden are up to 500 years old, and the profusion of orange trees imparts a wonderful fragrance when the trees are in blossom. Other garden flora includes flowers such as lilies, iruses, eglantine, rosebushes, jasmine, amarnth, gillyflower, narcissus, violets, and tulips to line the garden shape. Not to mention the varieties of almond, apple, cherry, and plum trees planted as well. However the garden maintenance schedule changes slightly from season to season, so everytime you go it's a surprise.
While the garden appears lush, the site is surrounded by a desert landscape where water is scarce. However inside the walls the garden jubs (canals, pronounced ‘joobs’) flow with abundant beauty. This water originates from the aquifers of the Karkas mountains to the south, and is carried by an underground qanat (aqueduct) to a reservoir about 1.5 kilometers from the garden. From this point the water enters the garden through the Howz Jushan Pavilion, then feeds into a series of turquoise pools and fountains before continuing down the main paths in jubs. There is sufficient gravity pressure to give head to the small fountains, so it’s quite a remarkable sight.
Integral to the garden design is the bath house (hammam), which was made famous in 1849 when Nasar al-din Shah’s progressive prime minister was murdered. The widely popular Amir Kabir served as the prime minister under Nasir od-Din Shah from 1848 to 1851. He acted as a moderniser who instituted significant change, especially in the fields of education and administration. However in typical Persian fashion, his popularity wasn’t appreciated in the royal circles, and the shah’s mother eventually persuaded her son that Amir Kabir had to go. He was imprisoned in Fin Garden and eventually murdered in the bathhouse. Though some say he slashed his own wrists. This might sound familiar to one of Shakespeare's storylines, or perhaps the Shanameh. The guides at the entrance are great storytellers, otherwise you’ll find the drama is re-enacted quite well by mannequins inside.
On the opposite side of the garden is the modest Kashani National Museum displaying textiles, ceramics and calligraphy, but none are particularly impressive. However the most exquisite highlight is the shah’s delightful shotor gelou, a two-storey pool house in the middle of the complex. At the rear is a recreational pavilion built in the Qajar period, which is also quite beautiful.
Getting to Fin Garden from Kashan
The gardens are located in the village of Fin, 9km southwest of central Kashan. You can get here by shuttle taxi (US $2) from Kamal al-Molk Sq or by taxi dar baste (private; US$5). Or try to catch the green bus that travels from the corner of Ayatollah Kashani and Baba Afzani Street in teh city centre. The public bus is incredibly cheap, but requires a local transport card and tickets aren't easily sold on board. Purchase your card at the bus terminal, or just act like a tourist asking a local for help: Kashani's are usually very jolly and supportive.
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