Kashan’s historic bazaar is one of the best in Iran. Busy but not manic, traditional but with a nod at modern goods, large enough to surprise but not to get lost in, it’s a great place to wander for a couple of hours, especially in the late afternoon when the lanes are full of shoppers. The multi-domed roof of the bazaar dates from the 19th century, but the site has been the centre of trade in Kashan for almost 800 years.
Two main alleys lead through the bazaar, one known as the ‘Main Line’, and the other as the ‘Copper Line’, which lives up to its name for at least part of its length. Step off either of these two thoroughfares, and there’s a wealth of caravanserais, mosques, madrasehs and hammams (public bathhouses) to explore. Chief among the attractions is the fine Amin al-Dowleh Timche, a caravanserai with a soaring, beautifully decorated dome. Dating from 1868, the caravanserai has recently been restored by the Kashani Culture & Heritage Office and is home to carpet sellers and the odd curiosity shop. There’s a tea stand at one of its entrances where you can sit and watch a steady stream of shoppers pass by. An equally popular tea stop is the cosy 19th-century Hammam-e Khan, where three generations of hammami tend to the well-being of their customers – replacing the tea and towels of former times with the tea and talk of today.
Other notable features of the bazaar include the Seljuk-era Masjed-e Soltani (Soltani Mosque), located on the Main Line and open only to men, and the 800-year-old Mir Emad Mosque, along the Copper Line.
Of course, a bazaar ought to be shopped in. If the hardware shops hold little attraction and the textiles fail to bring out your inner seamstress, there is at least rose water of the highest quality midway along Main Line or boxes of Kashani biscuits from one of the bazaar’s many patisseries – the nargili (coconut macaroons) are particularly delicious.