The shrine of Hilal ibn Ali is an incredible piece of architecture but yet I cannot find any info online about who built it and when!
The construction of this building goes back to the Safavid period (1501-1736) and it has been renovated several times thus far. The interiors of the building are decorated with watercolor paintings. There is a marble plate in the northern balcony just above the entrance which is inscribed with some information about the construction of this monument. There is also a script carved on the wooden front door which provides some information about the person who endowed the door to the holy shrine during the Qajar period, in 1849. Kashancht.ir
Travel lovers who travel to Persia and plan to visit Kashan as his or her destination must have way with history. Since more than 8000 years ago, humankind who had settled and lived in Sialk mounds.
Language of Kashan
Kashan may be characterized as exclusively Persian speaking people.
Architects of Iran
Traditionally, Iranian architects were known as Mi'mars.
The Persian dictionary of Mo'in defines Mi'mar as:
- That who devises the design and plan of a building, and overlooks its construction.
- A Banna
- That who is responsible for the building, developing, and repairs of a structure or edifice (Emārat).
Classical words Banna, Mohandes, Ostad, and Amal which appear in classical manuals and references of Islamic architecture.
Although many scholars do not recognize the Mimar and the Architect to historically be the same, they do agree that their responsibilities overlap extensively. In this list, they are taken to be the same.
The list is in chronological order and selectively spans the Islamic age based on available records. There is little, if any, record of the numerous masters of architecture that built some of the early Islamic and pre-Islamic world's wonders of Iran. It is unknown who built the palaces of Bishapur, Firouzabad, Persopolis, Susa, or the many other spectacular ancient edifices of Greater Iran. No record of their names exists. Only the ruins of what they built give us a faint indication of what masters must have walked the face of this earth eons ago.
Many of the structures remaining today possibly had more than one architect working on them. Only one is mentioned in the following list, and only their most famous work is mentioned. The list also contains the names of builders whom exact dates have been attributed to their buildings.
Shia sources quote several hadiths from the Shia Imams and Prophet Muhammad that highlight the importance of pilgrimage to the shrine. A hadith from the Islamic Prophet reads:
One of my own flesh and blood will be buried in the land of Khorasan. God the Highest will surely remove the sorrows of any sorrowful person who goes on pilgrimage to his shrine. God will surely forgive the sins of any sinful person who goes on pilgrimage to his shrine. 
Early years Edit
Dar-ul-Imarah (Royal Residence) or the garden of Humayd ibn Qahtaba al-Ta'i was a fortress in the village of Sanabad. It dates back to the era before the Islam religion. It had been placed at the fork road of Sanabad, Neishabour, Sarakhs, Toos and Radkan. In fact, this fortress has been a place for the frontier guards to take position and establish the security of these roads and regions. After the demise of Harun al-Rashid, he was buried in this place. Due to this historical event, the Dar-ul-Imarah was known as the Mausoleum of Haruniyyeh. The original inner building of Dar-ul-Imarah has been in fact a temple used by the Zoroastrians to worship. This building was demolished by the order of al-Ma'mun, and then it was reconstructed according to the special architecture of Khorasan. Four plain and short walls, covered with a low-slope dome, were constructed around the building. Afterwards, the name of the mausoleum (Haruniyyeh) was changed and known as the Mashhad-ur-Reza, due to the Holy Imam. Mashhad literally means a place where a martyr has been buried. 
Martyrdom of Ali al-Ridha Edit
In 818, Imam Ali al-Ridha was murdered by the Abbasid caliph al-Ma'mun (ruled 813–833) and was buried beside the grave of al-Ma'mun's father, Harun al-Rashid (r. 786–809).  After this event, the location was called as Mashhad al-Ridha ("the place of martyrdom of al-Ridha"). Shias and Sunnis (for example, Ibn Hibban wrote in his Kitab al Siqqat that whenever troubled and in Mashad he would always visit the shrine to ask for relief from problems that bothered him) began visiting his grave on pilgrimage. By the end of the 9th century a dome was built on the grave and many buildings and bazaars sprang up around it. For the next thousand years, it has been devastated and reconstructed several times. 
The celebrated Muslim traveler Ibn Battuta visited Mashhad in 1333 and reported that it was a large town with abundant fruit trees, streams and mills. A great dome of elegant construction surmounts the noble mausoleum, the walls being decorated with colored tiles. Opposite the tomb of the Imam is the tomb of Caliph Harun al-Rashid, which is surmounted by a platform bearing chandeliers. 
Ghaznavid era Edit
By the end of the third Hijri century, a dome was built on the grave of Imam Reza and many buildings and bazaars sprang around the holy shrine. In 383 A.H. / 993 A.D., Sebuktigin, the Ghaznavid sultan devastated Mashhad and stopped the pilgrims from visiting the holy shrine of Imam Reza. But in 400 A.H./ 1009 A.D., Mahmud of Ghazni (born 971, ruled, 998-1030 A.D.,) started the expansion and renovation of the holy shrine and built many fortifications around the city. 
Saljug era Edit
Sultan Sanjar (b. 1086 A.D., r. 1097-1157 A.D.), after the miraculous healing of his son in the holy shrine of Imam Reza, renovated the sanctuary and added new buildings within its precincts. At the time of Sultan Sanjar Saljuqi, after Sharaf al-Din Abu Tahir b. Sa'd b. Ali Qummi repaired the shrine, he began to construct a dome over it.  In 612 A.H./ 1215 A.D., as borne out by inscriptions on certain tiles, Allaudin Khwarezm Shah carried out renovations on the shrine. 
Mongol invasion Edit
During the Khwarazmian dynasty, Razavi Shrine was paid much attention and some repair and decoration was made inside it.  In this era (612 A.H./1215 A.D.), two very glorious embossed Thuluth (a large Naskh handwriting) inscriptions in form of square tile work were fixed on both sides of the shrine entrance-by the side of Dar al-Huffaz porch—in which the names and descent of Imam Reza back to Imam Ali were written. Some other inscriptions and three mihrabs (a special place for prayer-leader in mosques) belonging to this age exist in this holy complex. During the Mongol invasion in 1220 A.D. (617 A.H.), Khorasan was plundered by the invading hordes and the survivors of this massacre took refuge in Mashhad and settled around the holy shrine.  Sultan Muhammad Khudabandeh Iljaitu (b. 1282 AD), the Mongol ruler of Iran, converted to Shi'ism and ruled Iran in 703–716 A.H (1304–1316 AD), once again renovated the holy shrine on a grand scale. 
Timurid era Edit
The glorious phase of Mashhad started during the reign of Shahrukh Mirza (b. 1377 A.D., r, 1405-1447), son of Tamerlane, and reached its zenith during the reign of the Safavid Shahs who ruled Iran from 1501 to 1736. Shahrukh Mirza, whose capital was Herat, regularly visited Mashhad for the pilgrimage of the holy shrine of Imam Reza (A.S.). In the 15th century, during the reign of the Timurid Shahrukh Mirza, Mashhad became one of the main cities of the realm. In 1418, his wife Empress Goharshad funded the construction of an outstanding mosque beside the shrine, which is known as the Goharshad Mosque. 
Safavid era Edit
With the emergence of the Safavid dynasty in 1501 A.D. and their declaration of the Twelver Shi'ite sect as the state religion, Mashhad reached the peak of its development and soon became one of the greatest sites of pilgrimage. However, since Khorasan was a border province of the Safavid Empire, Mashhad suffered repeated invasions and periods of occupation by the Uzbek Khans – Muhammad Khan, Abdullah Khan Shaibani, Muhammad Sultan and especially Abdul-Momen Khan. These invasions continued up to 996 A.H./ 1586 A.D., the reign of Shah Abbas I, who finally drove out the Uzbeks from Khorasan.
Sahn Atiq was extended in the time of Shah Abbas I, and during the Safavid era, great efforts were made for its further improvement. Shah Tahmasp I began to repair and gild the minaret near the dome and in 932/1525, precious tiles covering the dome were changed into gold-coated bricks. After they were plundered during Abd al-Mu'min Khan Uzbek invasion, the gold-coated bricks were rebuilt by Shah 'Abbas in 1010/1601, the details of which was written on an enamelled inscription by Ali Reza Abbasi. Shah Abbas also began to establish northern porch, rooms, chambers, facades, as well eastern and western porches. It is said that Mullah Muhsin Fayd Kashani ordered to establish Tawhid Khanah portico in the north side of the Shrine. Allahverdikhan portico, porch in the north side of Dar al-Ziyafah (reception chamber) and Hatam Khani portico, all were built in the time of great princes of Safavids, Allahverdikhan and Hatam Beq Ordoobadi.
Shah Abbas II commanded to repair and tile Sahn Atiq and Shah Sulaiman also ordered the repair of the Holy Shrine Dome which had been split because of the earthquake this can be read in an erected inscription. He also commanded to establish several Madrasahs (Islamic seminaries). The northern porch of Goharshad Mosque, the Holy Shrine entrance, along with Musallah (place of prayer) located in Payeen Khiyaban (lower street) were repaired and tiled by a skillful Isfahani mason called Ustad Shuja'.
Afsharid and Qajar era Edit
Nadir Shah Afshar (b. 1688, r. 1736-1747 A.D.) and the Qajar Shahs who ruled Iran from 1789 to 1925 illuminated, beautified and expanded the various courtyards (Sahn), porches (Riwaq) and places in the holy shrine. The golden porch of Sahn Atiq and the minaret on its top were repaired and gilded, the minaret of north porch was erected and illuminated and Sangab (a vessel or container made of single block of marble) in Ismail Tala'ee Saqqa Khanah (a public place for drinking water) was built in Sahn Atiq. All these happened during Nadir Shah Afshar's monarchy.
There were also some improvements in the Holy Shrine complex during the Qajar Dynasty, including new courtyard establishment and gilding its porch, both of them started during the reign of Fath-Ali Shah and finished during Naser al-Din Shah's reign. The porch and northern façade of Sahn Atiq, as written in the inscription of its top, were also repaired during Mohammad Shah Qajar's rule. Tawhid Khanah was repaired in 1276/1859 in the time of Adud al-Mulk's custodianship. He had the fine paintings and tiles of the Shrine decorated with mirrors in 1275/1858. Naser al-Din Shah, too, had the gold-coated bricks put up on the walls, from dado up to the top of western proch of the new courtyard and its stalactite-shaped ceiling. So it was called "Nasiri Porch". There was also some repairment in both courtyards, the old and the new one during Mozaffar ad-Din Shah's monarchy.
Following the coup in December 1911, Russian artillery shelled revolutionaries who had taken refuge in the holy shrine.  The whole complex was greatly damaged in 1911, but it was repaired again after a while by Hussein Mirza Nayyir al-Dawla, Khorasan's governor.
Modern era Edit
There happened some essential changes round the complex in 1347/1928, when Falakah (round open space with the radius of 180 meters from the top of the Dome was established. Then they began to build the Museum, the library and the Hall for ceremonies. Old Falakah was extended up to a radius of 620 meters before the victory of the Islamic Revolution, and an important part of Holy Buildings' historical structure was demolished without considering its antiquity and elegance.
On 11th Rabi al-Thani 1354 A.H. /13 July 1935, during the Goharshad Mosque rebellion, the armed forces of Reza Shah (b. 1878, r. 1925-1941 A.D.), the founder of Pahlavi dynasty in Iran, invaded the holy shrine and massacred people gathered in the Goharshad Mosque. The people there were protesting against the anti-Islamic law by Reza Shah of banning Hijab (headscarf) for women in Iran. During the days of Iranian Revolution, on 21 November 1978 Mohammad Reza Shah's (b. 1919, r. 1941-1978 A.D.) troops killed a large number of people within the shrine.
The shrine is depicted on the reverse of the Iranian 100 rials coin, issued since 2004. 
Courtyards (Sahn) Edit
The complex contains a total of Seven courtyards, which cover an area of over 331,578 m 2 (3,569,080 sq ft):  The courtyards also contain a total of 14 minarets,  and 3 fountains. 
|Name||Images||Area (m 2 )||appurtenant||Year of first building|
|Revolution Courtyard||four balconies, steel window||[[<<<1>>>]]|
|Freedom Courtyard||4,600||golden Veranda||[[<<<1>>>]]|
|Courtyard of Goharshad Mosque||[[<<<1>>>]]|
|Islamic Republic Courtyard||10,000||two minarets||[[<<<1>>>]]|
|The Razavi Grand Courtyard||[[<<<1>>>]]|
From the courtyards, external hallways named after scholars lead to the inner areas of the mosque. They are referred to as Bast (Sanctuary), since they were meant to be a safeguard for the shrine areas: 
The Bast hallways lead towards a total of 21 internal halls (Riwaq) which surround the burial chamber of Ali al-Ridha.  Adjacent to the burial chamber is also a mosque dating back to the 10th century known as, Bala-e-Sar Mosque. 
Goharshad Mosque Edit
This mosque is one of the most reputed in Iran and is situated adjacent to the Holy Shrine of Imam Ridha. It was built in 821 AH. under the orders of Goharshad Begum, Shahrukh Mirza's wife. Its area is 9410 Sq Meters and includes a courtyard, four porches and seven large prayer halls. Two minarets, each 40 meters high, are located on both sides of Maqsureh Porch. There is an inscription on the left on the margin of the porch written by Baisonqor, one of the best calligraphists of the time. The Sahib-al Zaman Pulpit is in Maqsureh porch. It was built in 1243 H with walnut wood and without using any iron or nail. This mosque has a public library with 34,650 volumes.
Ali al-Ridha's Tomb Edit
It is located beneath the Golden Dome (The Golden Dome is the most prominent symbol of the city of Mashad with an altitude of 31.20 meters) and surrounded by different porches each bearing a separate name. The skilled artists have done their best in the creation of this place. It is square in shape and some 135 sq. meters have been added to its area after extension works. The walls are covered by marble up to twenty centimeters and the next ninety two centimeters are covered by expensive tiles known as Sultan Sanjari tiles. Quranic verses and Ahadiths of the Ahle Bait have been carved on these tiles. The important inscription written round the walls is eighty centimeters wide and written by Ali Ridha Abbasi, the famous calligraphist of the Safavid period and bears Surah Jumah of the Quran.
Museums and other historical appurtenants Edit
There are two Museums in the Holy shrine limits. Astan Quds Museum and Quran Museum. The Astan Quds museum is one of the richest and most exquisite museums of Iran. The building is located in the eastern quarter of Sahne Imam Khomeini and close to Haram square. Some of its objects date back to the 6th century AH. The collection of carpets, rugs and golden covers for the Tomb are all unique and date back to the 11 and 13th centuries.Some inscriptions written by Ali Reza Abbasi are among the valuable objects. Among the unique works of art in the museum is Imam's first tombstone, the inscription of which was carved in kufi relief script belonging to 516 H. Also Quran museum is located in the vicinity of the Astan Quds museum. It contains precious manuscripts of the Glorious Quran attributed to the Holy Imams and some gilded manuscripts. It was opened in 1364 H. The oldest manuscript attributed to the Holy Imams is in kufi script on deer skin belonging to the First century AH.
Because of historical background of Imam Reza shrine, it is collection of historical objects such as Minarets,Nqqareh Khaneh (Place of Kettle Drums), Saqqa Khaneh (Public Drinking Place), Sa'at (the Clock),Dar-al Hoffaz (the place of the Reciters), Towhid Khaneh (place of Divine Unity),Dar-al-Siyadah, Bala-Sar Mosque, Dar-al Rahmah Porch, Allahverdi Khan Dome, Hatam Khani Dome, Golden Dome, Astan Quds Mehmansara.
There are disputes over the place where he was buried. Some people take it to be Mashhad Ardahal (also known as Mashhad Qali), 40 kilometers west of Kashan (on the Kashan-Delijan way). The title, "Mashhad" (place of martyrdom) has long been used for his mausoleum for example, the book, Naqḍ, called his mausoleum "Mashhad". According to some scholars, there is no doubt about the lineage of the person buried in this place.
In the period of Saljuqis, this mausoleum was already completely constructed. Sayyid Abu l-Rida Fadl Allah al-Rawandi composed many poems about the mausoleum and its builders.
Tourist Review: The red clay village Abyaneh and Kashan
By, Andri Wilberg Orrason: There are many old historical mountain villages in Iran, where the clock seem to tick slower then in the bigger cities. We decided to visit one of them, Abyaneh, often referred to as the Red Village for its red mud brick houses and the surrounding mountain terrain (bearing the same colour due to iron oxides). The houses are arranged like steps up the hillside, so the roofs of some houses are the front yards of the next one up.
Abyaneh is at least 1500 years old (dating back to the Sassanid era), originating from the time of the Arab invasion, when many of the Zoroastrian followers fled to the mountains and deserts to escape forced conversion to Islam. Because of their isolation, the villagers speak a dialect of their own, which is though to predate modern Persian or Farsi, with less Arabic influence.
To reach the village we decided to hitch a ride from Esfahan. Without effort we managed to reach the nearmost town, Natanz.
We payed a local in Natanz a few buck to drive us there. It wasn’t our safest moment along the way the driver rolled down his window and started sniffing a white cloth, which presumably was soaked in glue or petrol. He seemed to be getting more and more drowsy, but at same time driving faster and faster up the mountain road. We finally reached the village, alive.
People of Abyaneh Village The local women wear traditional clothing
Walking the red narrow streets, with hardly any tourists visible, we stumbled upon a local couple, Natasha and Saed, who invited us for some tea. To our surprise, their english was superb. They had lived mostly in the capital Tehran but also in Europe for many years. Despite having lived in the world’s biggest cities with the latest technology, they decided to move to Abyaneh some 15 years ago and raise their two beautiful children in a peaceful environment away from political influence. Like most women in the village, Natasha, wore a traditional headscarf with floral motifs and a bright coloured dress which is scarcely aligned with the Islamic regime requiring women to dress modestly. It was lovely to sit on a small stone chair in their “Flinstone” kitchen, drinking Iranian tea and talking about Iran, their culture, before and now.
People of Abyaneh Village
The warm locals, Natasha and Saed in front of their 1.500 year old house
After Abyaneh we headed to Kashan, a city famous for hand woven carpets and historical houses.
One of many historical houses in Kashan
Eating dinner at one of the historical houses
It can take one person up to 6-12 month to weave a 1.5 x 1.0 m carpet depending on how dense you weave it (knots per square inch). If you liked that carpet in the movie Big Lebowski, well know you know, it’s a Kashan design! We came close to buying one at the bazaar but our budget didn’t afford a quick loss of 2000 dollars.
You can get them for cheaper, with fewer knots, made from cheap wool instead of silk, coloured with chemicals instead of organic dyes, but we couldn’t get our eyes off the irresistible and shiny silk carpest woven to perfection. So we decided to wait until we visit Iran again sometime, when we’re not on a world tour budget, and bring enough currency for a carpet.
Persian carpet from Kashan, A beautiful wool and silk carpet handmade in Tabriz.
We didn’t spend much time in Kashan as our main interest lied outside the city. For a mere 20 dollars each we rented a private driver (for 7 hours) who drove us into the Maranjab desert to visit the Dasht-e Kavir Salt Lake (Namak Lake), with a quick stop at the underground city (handbuilt 18 meter below surface in the pre-islamic era for defense purposes) and the shrine of Hilal Ibn Ali.
We really enjoyed seeing the hexagonal to octagonal shapes of salt, reaching endlessly in all directions, disappearing into the horizon. Our day was perfected with the most beautiful sunset we have seen, in complete remoteness, on top of the highest sand dune of Maranjab desert.
The amazing shrine of Hilal Ibn Ali,
The amazing shrine of Hilal Ibn Ali, Wearing the chador in front of the holy shrine
As we ventured further into Iran, we met more women who defied the stereotypes of the coy hijab girl
Hilarity ensued when me and my friend were walking down the streets, these girls couldn’t stop giggling for no reason but as soon as my camera came out they threw in all sorts of poses to shine their real persona and spunkiness.
- Muhammad Hadi Qazvini: Built the masjed-i muhaddathayn-i sheikh-i kabir mosque in Babol in 1723CE.
- Ostad baqer Isfahani: Built the Minarat of Kashan's Congregation mosque, 1779CE.
- Ustad Mirza Shirazi: Built the Al-Nabi Mosque, Qazvin in 1787CE.
- Ustad Iskandar Shirazi: Built the Masjed Soltani mosque of Borujerd in 1794CE.
- Karbalaee Muhammad-i banna: Built the Masjed-i Qajar mosque in astar-abad in Hamedan in 1796CE.
- Ustad Haj Sha'ban-ali: Built the Masjed-i Agha bozorg in Kashan in the late 18th century.
Kashan Arts of Kashan
Arts and crafts of Kashan have been continuously praised. In fact, every time that a story turns to the most remarkable lraniar art achievements, Kashan is inevitably mentioned.
Archaeological finds yielded conclusive evidence of the fact that Kashan has been the cradle of many Iranian traditional crafts. Kashan maintained its great importance as a center of traditional industries throughout all historical periods.
Pottery and Tile Making in Kashan
|Pottery and Tile Making|
The residents of the Kashar area knew pottery techniques as early as the 5th millennium B.C., as excavations of Sialk (pp194-195) have revealed. The ceramic industry of Kashan, in a more modern meaning of this word, dates from the 10th century. Its heyday, however, occurred in the period from the end of the 12th to the beginning of the 14th centuries, when beautiful lusterware was produced. Althougll during this period, an emphasis of production was essentially moved from pottery to tile work, beautiful ceramic vessels in the "Kashan" style were still produced on the large scale. These vessels are characterized by the peculiar treatment of the background: the texturing is achieved by scratching spirals through the luster, giving a lightened overall effect. The figures are drawn in relief but are so completely filled in with different patterns that they can sometimes be quite difficult to pick out from the background. The only feature kept entirely plain and white is the graceful moon-face, frequently surrounded by a halo. Among the most characteristic motifs are also a particular kind of plump arabesque. a pigeon-like bird, and a large heart-shaped palmette. The settings are still rather abstract, and landscapes are indicated by an awning above and a pool be-low. Sometimes plants and trees occur, especially in scenes depicting two horsemen.
The "Kashan" style also features innovative vessel shapes, the conical bowl being the most common.
Inscriptions playa more important part in the "Kashan" style than in earlier ceramics and often occur in concentric bands of different types, surrounding the central decoration. Inscriptions in Naskh are scratched through bands of luster and painted on the white glaze, whereas those in Kufic usually occur in ornate friezes, often against a scroll work background. The inscriptions are mostly poems, especially Persian quatrains but also some Arabic verses. Blessings to the Owner are also common, though dedications to particular patrons are not. Dates and names of the potters are also often seen.
Although Kashans pottery is still very rich and compelling, much of the finest work of this period is On tiles. Most probably, Iranian tiles originated in Kashan, as their Persian name - kashi - suggests. Gradually, tile-making required more specialized workshops, with purpose built equipment. Throughour the long history of tile-making in Kashan, local masters have fulfilled the most demanding orders and have produced tiles for the most outstanding buildings.
The two major figures of the pottery industry in Kashan were Mohammad ibn Abu Taher and Abu Zeid, who were active during the Seljuk rule and collaborated on the most important tile work projects of the pre-Mongol period. Their earliest dated joint effort was a sarcophagus in the Shrine of Hazrat-e Masumeh in Qom, where the top panel was signed by Mohammad and the main frieze was signed by Abu Zeid. This work was dated 1206. In Mashhad. in 1215, they undertook a much more ambitious project, cladding the walls in star and octagonal tiles surmounted by an inscription frieze, and installing two large and elaborate mihrabs, one of which is signed by Abu Zeid. This was a work of the highest quality. After the death of the two great masters, there was a sudden decline in The production. However, with the resumption of large-scale The production in the 1260s, some real masterpieces were manufactured. The new generations of potters attempted to imitate the high quality work of their predecessors, and though the technique and quality of execution were generally simpler than in the earlier products, they did produce some good work. Beautiful Il-Khanid-period tiles can still be seen in the shrines of Chehel Dokhtaran (p 184), lmamzadeh Mir Neshaneh (p 192), and Khajeh Taj al-Din (pp 188-189) in Kashan, and in the superb mihrab of the Meydan Mosque (pp192-193). today in the Museum of Islamic Arts in Berlin. The dominant figure in the tile-making industry of Kashan in the late 13th century was Ali ibn Mohammad ibn Abu Taher, son of the renowned master of the Seljuk period. The last project of the Abu Taher family-run pottery business and, in fact, a final and surprising burst of activity in tile production was the mihrab of the Mausoleum of Ali ibn Jafar in Qom (dated 1311-1340). It was made in cooperation with a painter. Ostad (Master) Jamal Kashani ibn Yusef, son of Ali ibn Mohammad ibn Abu Taher it is Currently kept in the National Museum in Tehran.
Although from the 15th century onwards, the importance of Kashan tile-making decreased, lots of tiles were still produced both for the buildings Inside the town and for other regions such as the buildings of the Royal Mosque in Semnan and the Sepah-Salar Mosque and Madreseh in Tehran. Curiously, the overwhelming majority of the buildings known to have been decorated with tiles from Kashan had funerary functions.
Kashan was famous for its finely woven carpets since at least the Seljuk period. During the Safavid rule, this art culminated in the famous pair of Ardabil carpets, now one kept in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the otheri n the Los Angeles County Museum.
After a short period of decline, the art of Kashan's carpet-making was revibed in the beginning of the 20th century by a trade dealer named Mohtasham Kashani. At that time, Kashan carpets were usually woven in big sizes, but at present, Kashan carpets come in all sizes.
Kashan rugs are characterized by the high quality of the raw material, very fine weaving, md beautiful harmony of colors and designs. They are double-wefted, and the warps are made of cotton, silk, or high-quality wool. Kashan carpets of the early 19th century were made of merino wool, which was imported from England or Australia and had a peculiar beige color known as dughi. Kashan carpets are woven with Persian knots on Persian looms. The typical colors of Kashan rugs are brick red as well as pastel ivory and beige, with dark blue for medallions, quart-medallions, and borders. The designs vary from the crenellated medallions to floral ornaments. The traditional motifs, originated as early as the Safavid period, consist of trees. vases, medallions, prayer-niches, arabesques, and pictorial patterns.
Kashan carpets are among the best produced in Iran. To verify that Kashan carpets are of the highest quality, it is enough to recall the fact that when A. Cecil Edwards, the most respected western expert on Oriental carpets, was asked to choose the best carpet among the two hundred rugs preserved in the collections of the leading museums of the world, he chose seven, of which four were made in Kashan! The best historical carpets of Kashan, which have survived and are kept in Iran, belong to the mausoleum of Shah Abbas II in Qom. These fourteen rugs were woven in 1672 in Joshaqan Qali, a small town in the vicinity of Kashan, famous for the high-quality rugs produced there.
Since the 13th century, when astounded Marco Polo left an effusive ac-count of Kashan textiles, practically every writer has praised Kashan made fabrics in the most enthusiastic terms. Voltaire. the renowned French philosopher and writer, emphasized the great importance of Kashan textiles, which could easily compete with the production of Lyon, the important French textile- manufactu ring center. Chardin mentions more than one hundred kinds of exquisite fabrics produced in Kashan in the 17th century, of which valuable brocade and golden velvet pieces were especially in demand. Some textiles are still made with the traditional techniques in the Handicrafts Workshop .
Engraving on metal in Kashan has a long history. By the Safavid period, it had progressed to the point that many travelers claimed that Kashan engravings equaled, or maybe even surpassed in quality, the items produced in Esfahan, the acknowledged center of chiseling in Iran. After the Afghan invasion, engraving declined, and bronze ware was produced instead of chiseled items. Currently, less than 5% of traditional workshops are engaged in engraving, but, although their number has diminished, the quality of the local goods still conforms to the highest standards. Among the most famous engravings of Kashan is a so-called tray of Alp Arslan, now kept in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. It was made by Hasan Kashani in 1067.
Interestingly, the over-whelming majority of the most important Iranian painters were of Kashan origin. They range from Reza Abbasi, the most remarkable artist of the Safavid period, to Sohrab Sepehri, modern poet and painter.
The importance of Kashan as a heart of painting, calligraphy, and illumination dates at least from the early Islamic period. During the Seljuk and Il-Khanid rules, Kashan was an acknowledged center of the art of bookmaking, of which a splendid edition of Jame' al- Tavarikh, the Persian medieval history, now kept in the Paris Library, is indicative. It was illustrated by Mohammad ibn Afif Kashani.
The works of Reza Abbasi, a painter who influenced the development of Persian painting for at least two centuries, are among the greatest Safavid art achievements. During the Qajar period, the best artists also came from Kashan. Among them was Sani al-Molk - a founder of the first Iranian art college (inaugurated in 1862), a distinguished portraitist of forty-seven of the most important political and social figures of his time, and author of the famous seven-piece tableau in oil that depicts eighty-four notables at the court. Other important painters from this period were Mahmud Khan Malek al-Shoara Kashani, a poet and painter, Mirza Mohammad Khan Ghaffari, titled Naqqash-Bashi and Kamal al-Molk, and Kamal al-Molk's father Mirza Bozorg Ghaffari.
Ali Shrine Najaf
The Abassid Caliph Harun al-Rashid built the first structure over the tomb of Imam &lsquoAli in 786, which included a green dome. The Caliph Al-Mutawakkil flooded the site in 850, but Abu&rsquol-Hayja, the Hamdanid ruler of Mosul and Aleppo, rebuilt the shrine in 923, which included a large dome.
This is the famous tomb of Ali, honored by the Shia, and thousands of people make pilgrimage here each year.
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