Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Karim Khan Citadel


The Arg of Karim Khan or Karim Khani Citadel is a citadel located in the northeast of Shiraz. It was built as part of a complex during the Zand dynasty and is named after Karim Khan, and served as his living quarters. In shape it resembles a medieval fortress. At times, the citadel was used as a prison. Today, it is a museum operated by Iran's Cultural Heritage Organization.


Arg of Karim Khan is located at Shohada Square. It has a land area of 4,000 square meters and is in the centre of a 12,800 square meter compound. The citadel of Karim Khan consists of four high walls connected by four 14 meter round brick towers at a 90-degree angles. Each 12 meter wall is 3 meters thick at the base and 2.8 meters at the top. The design of the citadel combines military and residential architecture, for it was the home of Karim Khan and the military centre of the dynasty. James Edward Alexander in 1827 described the citadel as being surrounded by a "deep wet ditch".


Arg of Karim Khan was built in 1180 AH (1766-7). Karim Khan invited the best architects and artists of the time and bought the best materials from other cities and abroad for the construction of the citadel of Karim Khan, which was quickly constructed. During the Zand dynasty it was used by the king as living quarters. During the Qajar period it was used as the governor's seat. Tile works depicting legendary tales were added at the entrance gate of the citadel during the Qajar period. After the fall of the Qajar Dynasty it was converted into a prison and the paintings were plastered over.


The tall surrounding walls provided security and at its top and at intervals are guard posts. In addition to a flat surface for guards to position themselves, they also include storage space for weapons. In the residential interior section, the north, south and west wings of the citadel each have a porch and six residential quarters. The eastern wing consists of a bath and other facilities. The main entrance is actually on this eastern side and above it is a drawing of a scene from the battle of Rostam and the White Demon. Once inside the main entrance one is welcomed by a long pool followed by an outdoor roofed porch supported by two poles. The courtyard is filled with citrus trees.


The citadel has a tea room, itself housed within a bathhouse. Many of the rooms display photographs of Shiraz during the 19th and 20th centuries. One of such pictures from the end of the Qajar Dynasty depicts a criminal tied to a cannon, which is about to be fired. Looking through the photos in chronological order one can see the very visible changed and civilian dress codes and the gradual advance of technology in Iran at the time.


In 1971 it was given to Iran's Cultural Heritage Organization. Although damaged as a result of misuse, renovations are taking place. The renovation of the citadel started in 1977.

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