Located nearby Arg-e Karimkhan in the monumental city of Shiraz, Iran, the culturally rich Vakil complex (Vakil Bazaar, Vakil Bath, Vakil Mosque) is one of the last standing and well preserved reminiscence of the mighty Zand Dynasty.
Comprised of the Vakil Bath, Vakil Mosque and Vakil Bazaar, this old complex still is, as it once was, an extremely prominent place of gathering.
All but its caravanserai and bathhouse, which has been turned into a museum – displaying mannequins illustrating their bathing rituals), are still functioning. Come along with goingIRAN to learn and discover more about this culturally rich attraction!
HISTORY OF THE VAKIL BAZAAR (Bazaar-e Vakil)
The location of this age-old bazaar goes back to somewhat of 1,000 years, to 11th century AD. The current facilities that are still standing, however, are from the great Zand Dynasty; built a bit over 200 years ago.
Karim Khan-e Zand ordered this phenomenal Persian marketplace to be constructed in order to satisfy all the trading needs of the Shirazi people. All business endeavors including the sale of all products domestic or imported, bartering, issuance or receiving of bank drafts, and currency exchange all took place here.
Ever since those times, the Bazaar-e Vakil has been Shiraz’s bustling economic heart. Among its tremendous variety of products and services, the Vakil Bazaar also offered a lot of security and organization. Business owners never had to be concerned about leaving their products stored here!
The Bazaar’s Architecture
This antiquated bazaar is among the most beautiful of its kind. Lesser of such deeply rooted examples of Persian-marketplace architecture can be found in all of Iran.
Its high vaulted ceilings are delightfully crafted with traditional Persian style stucco, tilework and brickwork, plus fantastic traditional .
The main entrance of the bazaar eventually leads to its neighboring building, the Vakil Mosque. Along that path, visitors will encounter an intersection with each one of the four ways leading to a different section of the buzzing marketplace.
The different routes heading out from the main intersection branch out into paths, each housing from 10 – 46 vaults! Each vault usually covers 2 or more shops, so you do the math!
The Old Vakil Bazaar Feel
The products and items flow out of each shop’s handmade wooden doors onto the walkway. Everything is carefully positioned from floor to ceiling, displaying the tremendous variety of each little store; every morning!
The ‘old bazaar feel’ isn’t something that only tourists and foreign travelers are chasing. Indeed, many of the Persian locals still choose to business and shop here; only to be able to participate-in and experience the legendary vibe of the old days.
Indeed, it’s a combination of the intricate and detailed architecture and still-living culture of the merchants that draws the crowds. Aside from the feel, no modern shopping is able to provide such phenomenal variety and reasonable prices!
So, when you head here to do your sightseeing and shopping, absolutely do not expect neat and minimally designed display windows. You will be covered to your ears in some beautiful architecture and every imaginable product!
When in Shiraz, you cannot miss out on visiting this fantasy world of shopping!
THE VAKIL BATH (Hammam-e Vakil)
Located to the left of the Vakil Mosque, this antique bathhouse boasts the finest architectural advancements of its time. The magnificent octagonal dome in the center (Sarbineh), is supported by eight stone columns.
The floor of the bathhouse is, seemingly, just covered in smooth cobblestone. However, under these stones narrow shafts were put in place to carrying the hot water vapors and warm air in order to warm up and retain the temperature of the building!
Another measure taken to reduce heat-loss are the sunken floor levels and entrances. Through narrow entrance ways, visitors of the bathhouse walk down a slightly tilted floor, down towards the Sarbineh.
Through many seemingly simple, yet clever architectural techniques, such as the tilt and shape of the entrance ways, the Vakil Bath did what many buildings do, nowadays, with the help of costly air conditioners and radiators!
The Bathhouse (Vakil Bath) Experience
Although it’s not functioning to its main purpose anymore, the Hammam is certainly still open to the public. Inside, among the elegantly decorated walls and under the beautifully crafts vaults, tourists and visitors will find mannequins in almost every section.
Dressed that time’s traditional attire, the mannequins proceed to illustrate what a day in this old bathhouse might have looked like. All around Sarbineh, they sit – each little group or couple busy bathing.
Take some time to walk around admire the beautiful traditional Iranian paintings covering the walls and vaults. Most of your surroundings, here, are pretty much the same as they would have been over 200 years ago!
THE VAKIL MOSQUE (Masjed-e Vakil)
Situated right next to the entrance of the Vakil Bazaar, the Vakil Mosques covers a huge 8,660 m2 in area. Unlike other mosques, Masjed-e Vakil only has two ivans instead of the usual four. They are located on the northern and southern ends of a big open courtyard.
The two ivans are stunningly decorated in traditional Shirazi Haft Rangi (seven-colored) tile technique. The Haft Rangi technique is an example of the peak of Shiraz’s art and industry at the time of the Zand Dynasty.
The Shabestan (night prayer hall) covers 2,700 m2 and features a gorgeous array of tiled vaulted ceilings, supported by 48 monolithic pillars. Each pillar is carved in elegant spirals, each with a capital of acanthus leaves.
Further along, the extravagant Minbar (a raised stand and seat of the preacher – not to be confused with minibar!) is cut from a solid block of green marble. 14 steps lead the way to the top of what is considered to be one of the master pieces of the Zand Era!
It is important to add that the plethora of exuberant ornamental floral tilework is mostly from the succeeding Qajar period, when the mosque was renovated.
Main photo by Mohammad Reza Domiri Ganji
Address: Taleghani st., Zand St., Shahrdari Sq., Karim Khan Zand Blvd.
Operating Days: Everyday
Operating Hours: 8Am. to 9Pm.
Neighborhood: Arg-e Karimkhan Zand – Madreseye Khan – Qoba Mosque – Shah Cheragh Mosque – Atigh Jame Mosque
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