Arg-e Karim Khan is the main Zand-dynasty castle in Shiraz, elegant on the inside yet imposing from the outside.
Where Isfahan is Shah Abbas the Great’s creation, Shiraz is the creation of Karim Khan, the first and only ruler of the Zand dynasty. He made Shiraz the Persian capital, in 1750, and the subsequent construction boom is what makes the city so appealing.
First and foremost, Karim’s residence, Arg-e Karim Khan, the castle north-west of the bazaar. High, crenulated wall and imposing round watch towers on the outside, but inside is a large garden and pool, surrounded by several one-storey buildings, perhaps winter and summer residences. One of them is topped by a huge baghdir, a wind-catcher: a chimney-like structure that will funnel each and every breeze of wind, from each and every direction, down into the rooms below. Early airco, so to speak.
As with so many Iranian buildings, there is a large portico, with a wooden ceiling – probably new, having replaced the original inlaid ceiling – and slender pillars supporting. Stucco and frescos decorate the porticos, and the passages through to the rooms inside. Not all the rooms are open to the public, but those that are, have also been richly decorated. Large stained-glass windows let in the light, which creates a playful and colourful pattern on some of the floors.
Highlight is the hamman, the bathhouse in an underground cistern. Marble pools and benches, more stucco, stone pillars and further frescos in geometric patterns make for very attractive quarters, great place to linger.