Monday, January 7, 2013

Khalil Oghab

Khalil Oghab (خلیل عقاب) was born in Shiraz in 1924. During his younger years he was active in Varzesh’e Bastani and subsequently became involved in strongman shows. He was the founder of the first strongman show in Iran that charged an admission and included other acts such as music, acrobatics and animal tricks. He was also the first man to bring back lions and bears from India for trained animal acts. During the 60s Khalil Oghab performed in Tehran in venues such as Amjadieh Stadium in front of crowds estimated as high as 50,000 people and entertained the crowd with acts such as bending metal beams, wrapping iron rods around his wrist, and supporting the weight of 20 passing cars over his legs and chest.

He was courted by various film producers for performing in theaters or on television. He eventually appeared in 21 movies with various other film projects never being completed. Khalil Oghab toured various towns and provinces of the country and after achieving many domestic honors, in 1970 he accepted an invitation from Japan to appear on television. Subsequently he moved to Ireland in 1971, England in 1972 and then Italy, mainly appearing in circus acts. He spent approximately 20 years in various European, African and Central American countries performing shows until finally establishing a circus in Italy called Iran and Italy. He set many records in Europe such as lifting a 1,400 kilogram elephant with his feet or carrying a 450 kilogram weight with his teeth. According to his own admission, for five years Khalil Oghab lifted two elephants on a daily basis.

In 1991, upon receiving a government invitation, he returned to Iran with his traveling circus that toured and country. His circus contained 60 performers from countries such as Italy, Romania and Portugal. Also Khalil Oghab’s two children, Shahrzad and Ibrahim, accompanied him on these tours and in fact were active participants in the shows. In turn Ibrahim started his own circus in 2010 for which he invited many foreign based Iranian performers to take part in.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse

The Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse (حمام سلطان امیر احمد), also known as the Ghasemi Bathhouse, is a traditional Iranian public bathhouse in Isfahan province. It is located in Kashan on Sultan Amir Ahmad Street off of Alavi Street. It was constructed in the 16th century during the Safavid era, however, the bathhouse was damaged in 1778 as a result of an earthquake and was renovated during the Qajar era. It underwent further renovations in 1996. The Bathhouse is named after Imamzadeh Sultan Amir Ahmad, whose mausoleum is nearby.

The Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse has an area of approximately 1,000 square meters. It consists of two main parts, the dressing hall (Sarbineh) and the hot bathing hall (Garmkhaneh). Sarbineh is past the main entrance. It is in the shape of a large octagonal hall, which has an octagonal pool in the middle, surrounded by 8 pillars separating its outer sitting area. At the time of construction of the Bathhouse, its intended use was not just to serve cleanliness purposes but rather was a place for rest, gatherings, discussions and even prayers. As a result there are benches surrounding the perimeter of Sarbineh elevated by a few steps above the central pool where visitors can lounge. Garmkhaneh is the main washing area. It consists of hot and cold pools and sitting areas. There are four pillars in Garmkhaneh, which create smaller private bathing rooms all around as well as the entrance to the main bathing room (Khazineh).

The interior of the Bathhouse is decorated with turquoise and gold tilework, plasterwork, brickwork as well as artistic paintings. Most of the decorations of the Bathhouse’s interior are in the Sarbineh area. The temperature in the Sarbineh area is slightly warm in order to avoid a drastic temperature change when entering or exiting the facilities. The area connecting Sarbineh and Garmkhaneh was intentionally designed with multiple turns to minimize the heat and humidity exchange between the two areas. The roof of the bathhouse is made of multiple domes that contain convex glasses to provide sufficient lighting to the Bathhouse while concealing it from the outside. The Bathhouse has other supporting areas as well which were utilized for regulating the amount of water and its temperature.

In the past the Bathhouse has been used as a traditional teahouse although today it serves as a museum. In 1956 the Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse was registered as a national heritage site by Iran’s Cultural Heritage Department.