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Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse: A 16th-Century Iranian public bathhouse that serves as a museum

David Goran

Since ancient times, bathhouses have played an important role in the social lives of Iranians, and they still do today. The Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse, also known as the Qasemi Bathhouse, is a traditional 16th-century public bathhouse in Kashan (on Sultan Amir Ahmad Street off of Alavi Street), constructed during the Safavid era, and one of the most beautiful and best preserved historic bathhouses in Iran.

Stone relief above the entrance door. Source

Stone relief above the entrance door. Source

 

The bathhouse has the shape of a large octagonal hall with an octagonal pool in the middle. Source

The bathhouse has the shape of a large octagonal hall with an octagonal pool in the middle. Source

The bathhouse was damaged in 1778 as a result of an earthquake. During the Qajar era (1785 to 1925) it was renovated and it underwent further renovations in 1996.  Characterized by vaulted ceilings, exquisite mosaics, and beautiful paintings, this gorgeous structure, with an area of around 1000 square meters, consists of two main parts: Sarbineh (the dressing hall) and Garmkhaneh (the main washing area with hot and cold pools and sitting areas). Sarbineh is a large octagonal hall, which has an octagonal pool in the middle separated by eight pillars from the outer section.

It was constructed in 16th century, during the Safavid era. Source

It was constructed in 16th century, during the Safavid era. Source

 

A 16th century public bathhouse built during the time of the Safavid empire. Source

The bathhouse is named after Imamzadeh Sultan Amir Ahmad, whose mausoleum is nearby. Source

 

Interior decorations. Source1 Source2

Interior decorations. Source1 Source2

 

It is decorated with ornamental tiles, some of which are turquoise and gold. Source

It is decorated with ornamental tiles, some of which are turquoise and gold. Source

There are four pillars in Garmkhaneh, which make smaller bathing rooms all around as well as the entrance section to Khazineh (final bathing room) in the middle. The interior of the bathhouse is decorated with turquoise and gold tile work, paintings, plasterwork, and brickwork. The Garmkhaneh is connected to the Sarbineh by a corridor with multiple turns to minimize the heat and humidity exchange between the two areas. The roof of the bathhouse is made of multiple domes of convex glass to provide sufficient lighting to the bathhouse while concealing it from the outside. At the time of its construction, this place served also as a space for prayers, discussion, and gatherings. It was laso used as a teahouse.

The roof domes. Source1 Source2

The roof domes. Source1 Source2

 

The ceiling. Source

The ceiling. Source

 

Today, the bathhouse serves as a tourist attraction, rather than its primal purpose. Source

Today, the bathhouse serves as a tourist attraction, rather than its primal purpose. Source

In 1956, the Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse was registered as a national heritage by Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Department and today it serves as a museum.