Iran : Kashan Bazaar – Rooftop Urban Exploration, Naked Chicks

kashan bazaar
Kashan Bazaar, Iran – “Breaking Necks For a A Thousand Years and Counting”

“Yes, yes on the roof. But first, Chai!”. Between myself, Phillipa, and the New Zealand couple we had met earlier today, it would be only a small exaggeration to say we must have had fifty cups of Iranian tea, waiting for our “gatekeeper”. I was told that the view from atop the roof of the thousand-year-old Kashan Bazaar in central Iran, is simply inspirational. So, I was willing to wait.

We weren’t entirely sure what was happening, as I discussed the possibly of getting roof access to Kashan Bazaar with Mahmoud – the relatively eccentric tea-house owner. He seemed to be saying yes, we could get to the roof. But as with other occasions I’ve experienced during my overseas holidays, the language barrier was fairly significant.

A curiously growing crowd of chai-drinking locals also seemed a little confused – why would these foreigners want to get onto the roof of our bazaar? Making the “I want to take a photo” sign, was probably not the wisest idea. Country Kashan is a little more conservative than big city Tehran. Who knows what the locals would think of strange foreigners clambering all over the roof, taking photos?

kashan bazaar chai house
Phillipa, and two Kiwi’s we met – Stefan and Melinda. We were all confused, but it was a nice place to have a 7th cup of tea.
kashan bazaar - roof detail
Kashan Bazaar, speechless.
kashan bazaar ceiling - ridiculous beauty
Yes, I’m still without speech.

 
So, we waited. And drank Tea. Then, another guy took us to a 300 year old bath-house within the Kashan Bazaar, passed down from generation to generation, now converted into an incredible Tea House. “This is the sauna, it was powered by manure”. We drank a few more cups of Chai, feasted on dates and biscuits, and remarked how it’s not every day you get to drink tea inside a 300 year old bath house, located in the depths of a 1000 year old Iranian bazaar.

Returning to Mahmoud, to see if roof access was now possible, he greeted us with a loud “Chai? You want Chai?”. When Phillipa replied “no chai, we’ve just had several cups at the old bath-house, it was delicious, thanks, but no, no chai”. Mahmoud interpreted that as “Yes! More Chai!”. We sat down with the Kashan carpet vendors, and drank some more Chai.

OK, let’s cut a long, chai-filled story short. By the time we made it to the roof, it was dark, and not a very inspiring view at all. It would have been dangerous to explore any further than a few metres from the steps.

However…now I knew about the location of the steps, tucked behind an old door in a fairly disused part of the Kashan Bazaar.

I knew how to get back onto the roof, should I desire.

That gave me an idea.

Kashan, Iran - view from above
Looking out at Kashan, from atop the compressed mud roof of the Kashan Bazaar.
kashan bazaar iran - looking in from above
The view looking in from one of the Kashan Bazaar domes. Mahmoud stands by his small shop, singing songs about money. The persian carpeted beds are for customers to relax on whilst drinking Chai.
kashan bazaar roof activities, Iran
Despite the heat, I could have stayed up here all day. Courtyard area, as seen the roof of Kashan Bazaar, Iran.

 
I’m trying really hard not to push my luck on my holiday here in Iran. Really hard. But, now I was armed with the knowledge of how to get onto the roof of the Kashan Bazaar. Sans-gatekeeper. The new plan was – let’s return in the morning, and just head up onto the roof by ourselves.

Which, we duly did. And, it truly was inspiring.

The photos show it all. The view from the Kashan Bazaar roof was dare I say it, inspirational – whether looking out over the city, or looking down through the light portals at the comings and goings below. Mahmoud and his customers stood oblivious, drinking Chai, as has been done in this very spot for centuries. I’ve zoomed in on the photos – not once did anybody look up and see the face of a camera-toting foreigner looking down at them. I imagine that would have been quite a bemusing sight.

Genuinely inspiring views from Kashan Bazaar roof, Iran
Genuinely, this was an inspiring view. Perfect for gushing travel writers, and urban explorers. Kashan Bazaar ceramic ceiling detail.
kashan bazaar roof views, Iran
“No Phillipa, don’t climb any higher, it’s really slippery, just wait there on that strange roof in the middle of Iran, you’ll be fine!”
kashan local, Iran
“No, don’t pay that man.” “The ladies are naked at Bondi Beach?” “Yes, I know Malaysia is close to Australia, we have maps in Iran.” “I am a <censored>” “I’ll buy you an Ice-cream.” Nice kid.

 
Eventually, more and more people noticed us crawling around the roof. Not the people from below, it was the various roof-dwellers. You see, it’s not just a roof – it’s a functional part of the Kashan Bazaar, with outdoor service areas, entrances to offices, and a place for workers to just chill.

It got a little heated in more ways than one up there. At one point, a young dude who had befriended us was translating the rants of an older man, who had taken a keen interest in us foreign types. “He says the police will catch you. He says you must go down. He says, you must pay him money. I say to you, don’t pay that man. So, Mr, can you tell me about Bondi Beach? The women are naked at Bondi Beach? I’m a <censored>. I was born in Iran. ” 

I got some cool shots, hung out and chatted for a while, and then we all slipped back below into the alleys of the Kashan Bazaar.

kashan bazaar carpet merchants
Despite being one of the most incredible tourist attractions anywhere, note that Kashan Bazaar is actually just a regular “mall”. Carpet guys doing their thang.
kashan iran
One drawback to my one-lens travel camera policy, it makes it hard to give a complete overview of the architecture when indoors. I’ll never forget this view.
ehsan hotel kashan
Ehsan Hotel, Kashan – We had the room in the center, with the three doors and three round windows. Photo taken during another roof-top expedition.

click to see an interactive map showing the location of this article

 

Kashan Bazaar – The Travel Details You Need To Know

Kashan is an easy city to get to, being just a few hours on a bus from Tehran or Esfahan (also known as Isfahan). No bookings are required, the buses are very regular. I paid 50,000 rial (about US $1.60) for a comfortable air-con bus ride from Tehran, including free snacks and chilled water or orange juice from the on-board fridge.

In Kashan, I stayed at the Ehsan Guest House Hotel (photo above, no, they’re not paying me). Located within a short walk of the Bazaar, and the famous historical houses of Kashan, this location can’t be beat. A traditional restored and renovated Kashan house, with large, simply furnished rooms with vaulted ceilings.

The tip is, room number 4 may just be the best in the house. It includes two rooms, five beds, air con, opening doors to the patio to capture the cool breezes. I paid 700,000 rial (about $23 US). WiFi was included – usable, but a little slow. Breakfast was also included, and delicious Iranian meals are available if you require them, for very reasonable prices. Note: Room prices will vary by season.

Another great 24 hours, on this Iranian holiday.

The thing is, Kashan Bazaar was just the story of the morning’s activities.

In the afternoon, it was an easy journey out to Abyaneh, the ancient desert village.

I’m not sure if I can take many more days like this.

It was hard to write that last sentence with a straight look on my face. ;)

Nate

PS, have you checked out my other Iran articles? Tehran Bazaar, the ancient desert village of Abyaneh, and Iran Visa information. Take a look, and then get yourself here.

PPS, if you have any questions about Iran, or would like to add corrections or additional information, or just say “hi”, feel very free to leave a comment.

Thinking of visiting Iran? Free Iran visa on arrival advice – click here. 

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27 thoughts on “Iran : Kashan Bazaar – Rooftop Urban Exploration, Naked Chicks

  1. What a fun day! I can’t get over those spectacular domes, so beautiful. Just from the pics, that view from the bazaar roof was incredible, I can only imagine what it was like in person. Thoroughly enjoying the alternative view of Iran you are giving us.

    1. Glad you’re enjoying it Noelle… I’m trying to present Iran as unbiased as possible – from the perspective of a tourist. The bazaar certainly was the type of place that is hard to show properly with photos, you had to be there ;)

      1. You’re doing a great job presenting it! Here in the states, the media only gives one view, which has more to do with the Iranian government, than its people. So I’m loving seeing the more people centric side of it.

        1. I agree Noelle… rather than the government view, it’s time that more knew about the people of Iran. They are almost without exception – amazing, friendly, welcoming people.

  2. Very good read, again ! Those ceilings play with my brain, in a concave/convex kinda way. It is an amazing sight. I also like the idea of getting fed on buses, something we do not have in Canada or the U.S. I think it adds to the experience ( tiny detail I Know ).

    1. Thanks Nancy, I really appreciate you taking the time to comment. And yeah, the buses are quite fun here! And pretty luxurious as well!

    1. Hey Paul…the domes were amazing, made all the more so that they’re located in a Bazaar, not a mosque or monument. Iran is starting to turn into an adventure, but Iran is such a modern place in the cities – that it feels very much like other places I have visited – with a twist!

  3. I’m enjoying your travelogue, Nate. The architecture is fascinating.
    I made several Iranian friends at Uni, and this brings back some good memories of warm people and some great Iranian meals.

  4. I usually don’t just say “wow” when I commented or expressed my opinions on people’s blogs. But this one, I am truly speechless. Wow!!! I’ve never heard of this place before but now you gave me an idea of a nice excursion from Tehran.

    1. Bama, I think I said “wow” out-loud when I turned the corner of the Bazaar leading to this domed area. It truly is amazing, and more than worth the easy excursion from Tehran.

  5. Another fabulous post Nate. The bazaars are certainly architectural masterpieces as well as giving an insight into how the people live. I love the ceiling detail. It was great that you were able to get onto the roof..the view is spectacular.

  6. ooo love the pretty photos. the tourists (the girl with floral scarf) are dressed nice. Love how they blend with the local style. I never got the hand of travel blogging.. even when traveling. maybe because i would get envy from all the more awesome travel bloggers out there than me ;) impressed with how you’ve grown your site! keep it up!

    1. Thanks Janet… great to hear from you. Yes, our new friend Melinda was dressed very locally, in standard Iranian jacket/scarf combo. Very fetching ;)

    1. You’re too kind Ayngelina, as always. I had a similar thought to you – it must have taken a huge amount of time to complete the construction and finishings, it’s genuinely remarkable.

  7. I thought the photos looking up at the cielings were cool… then the ones looking in from the roof hit… wow. Just wow.

    I would have loved to have seen this sight with my own eyes, I bet the atmosphere was that wonderful mix of serenity and bustling that you only get from certain view points. Amazing photos!

  8. Fantastic travelogues, thankyou! I’m going to Iran for a couple of weeks from late April, and it’s great to read what you got up to. By the way, where exactly is that door leading up to the roof of the bazaar?

    1. Thanks Jonathan. The door would be impossible to explain! The best thing to do, is head for the area of the bazaar with the enormous, and beautiful, domed roof. There is a small shop selling tea, you will see guys sitting around drinking. Ask to be taken to the roof – point up, not a lot of English language skills will be present! Expect to wait for a while, drink many cups of tea, as they figure out whether or not to show you to the door. Once you get up there, be relatively fast, lots of people don’t really like foreigners poking around on the roof. Good luck!

  9. LOVE your stories from Iran. We’re heading there in 4 weeks (can’t wait!) and I can’t find a lot of information on hotels over there. Did you book accommodation before you arrived in a new town, or did you just find places when you arrived in a new place?

    Thanks! Kristen

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