My trip through Iran included a little bit of everything: from ancient ruins and nomadic shepherds to a ride on the Tehran subway and a weird visit to the former U.S. Embassy. Lots of blue tiled buildings, lots of desert, and lots of eggplant and chicken kebabs with rice. Some fun and lovely sites and stories; some wacky experiences. I even came home with a couple of real Persian rugs. The small city of Kashan was actually the last stop of my trip around Iran, but the pictures are handiest so I’ll start at the end.
People have lived in what’s now the Iranian city of Kashan for 8,000 years, making it one of the oldest known human settlements. It’s been a hub for royals and merchants for at least 2,000. By some accounts, it’s where one or more of the biblical “three wise men” of the nativity came from. Kashan’s location on the historical Silk Road network allowed the merging of Asian silk with Persian wool rug-making skill. Lots of VIPs have come through Kashan. Now I have, too.
Unfortunately, a 1778 earthquake mostly leveled the place, so most of the structures you see around town are “only” a couple of hundred years old. That photogenic two-level mosque is Agha Bozorg, built shortly after the earthquake.During the 1800s, the local mega-merchants built some sprawling, luxurious private homes so they could host their travelling merchant business associates in grand style. One of those old houses had been remade into my very snazzy hotel, which was a welcome respite after a couple of weeks that had included multiple nights on a mat on the floor — or in an open-sided tent in the desert. More on that later.