Karim Khan Citadel, also known as Arg-e Karim Khan, was built in 1697 following the order and under command of Karim Khan Zand, the famous ruler of the Zand Dynasty. The citadel is a prominent legacy of the Zand Dynasty in Shiraz, especially from the architectural point of view. It is currently under renovating procedure as some parts have been somehow ruined.
History of Karim Khan Citadel
Arg-e Karim Khan was constructed in 1697 during the Zand Dynasty rule. As soon as the king Karim Khan selected Shiraz as the capital city, lots of significant changes were made. He invited the most famous professional architects and artists to Shiraz and asked them to build living palace for him.
Arg-e Karim Khan has had various functions in different historical eras. It served as a living place for Karim Khan Zand and his successors and also was the living place of some local rulers in the Qajar Dynasty. In 20th century, during the Pahlavi Rule, Karim Khan Citadel was converted into a prison and the paintings were plastered over. An arson finally destroyed many parts of the palace and it is under the renovation process to be transformed into a museum.
In 1972, Karim Khan Citadel was registered in the National Heritage of Iran.
Karim Khan Zand
The rule of Karim Khan Zand can be considered an exceptional phenomenon in the history of Iran. For him, the happiness of the people was above all. He should be praised for his kind behavior.
He was born in 1086 in the village of Malayer. He died in Shiraz in 1157. He was the just king of Iran from 1163 to 1193 and the founder of Zandieh.
Left: Karim Khan Zand – Right: Old lithography depicting Karim Khan citadel
After the death of Nader Shah Afshar, his successors had many quarrels. Iran entered a phase of severe political and economic instability, and due to the lack of power of the central government, the Khans and the rulers of the regions revolted and sought to gain more power and reach the monarchy. Ali Qoli Khan, Ibrahim Khan, Shah Rukh and Suleiman II each reigned for a short time. Ahmad Shah Durrani, a rare Afghan commander in eastern Iran, Mohammad Hassan Khan Qajar in Astarabad, and Azad Khan Afghan in northern Iran sought to establish a government and gain power. In these turmoils, Karim Khan Zand also sought to gain power.
Karim Khan Zand came to power in a state of chaos, and his reign was a temporary end to the chaos and the establishment of relative calm. Nader Shah Afshar, Rezaghili had blinded only his successor and the political structures were very fragile and chaotic, and as a result of these two problems, everyone ruled in a region where the central government practically did not exist.
Architecture of Karim Khan Citadel
Karim Khan Citadel, like many other famous castles of Iran, has a rectangular plan with an area of 13,000 square meters. At the time of construction, the best materials were brought from all over the country and the citadel’s structures were built by the best builders and architects of the time with beauty and elegance as much as possible.
In order to decorate the architecture, the best artists from all over Iran came together and created a work worthy of one of the most just kings of Iran. However, Karim Khan Zand did not call himself a king and during his reign he did not hesitate to take any action for the sake of development and prosperity, and if some betrayals and destruction did not take place, many works and buildings from the Zandiye period would remain.
Architecture Style of Arg
The architecture of the Karim Khan Citadel is strongly influenced by the Isfahan school of architecture. One of the characteristics of Isfahan architecture is being introvert; This means that the exterior of the building has a relatively simple and less glamorous appearance, but the interior parts of the building are covered with elegant and charming decorations.
The second point is the presence of Seljuk and Safavid elements in the exterior of the citadel and its interior. Among these signs, we can mention water features, decorative inscriptions, gardening, brickwork, stucco and tiling.
The architecture of the outer part of the citadel has military characteristics due to the high importance of building security and the possibility of defense against attacks. This means that the outer walls of the building were built only for the security of the inner castle. Watch towers and ramparts in the four corners of the outer walls of the citadel were the location of shooters and guards. The height of each is about 14 meters and the height of the walls reaches 12 meters. Despite the military architectural features of the defense walls of Karim Khan Citadel, there are delicate and artistic brickwork decorations on the tower and ramparts.
The towers around Karim Khan Citadel have three separate floors that one can get to the upper floor using the spiral staircase. There are two rooms on each floor, one of which was for the soldiers to relax and rest, and the other one for keeping weapons.
All the rooms of the Karim Khan citadel are interconnected and have access to each other. This means that there is no need to leave the porch to go even to the farthest room of each porch. At the same time, another amazing thing about these rooms is that the entrance of the rooms is facing each other and what connects the rooms is a narrow corridor that is placed in the space between the rooms.
The residential buildings of the citadel are located in the northern, western, and southern parts. They each have one veranda or two stone columns on their front facade. In front of each veranda, a small pond is designed which used to be fed by Rokn Abad Qanat that it is now dried out. The rooms are decorated with Iranian artistic techniques such as Muqarnas and fine paintings.
In old Iranian Mansions, a part of the interior which is more sunny, bigger than other parts and has a higher roof, is called Shah Neshin. This is usually a big room with three or five doors, which in the old term are called Se-dari or Panj-dari. On the three sides of the northern, southern and western sides of the citadel, there are such rooms whose functions were different from the other. Some were leaving rooms and some were dining rooms. In winters, people stayed in the northern ones that were warmer due to sun light angle.
The Arg bath is considered one of the first dedicated Persian Hammams. Since this bath was only used by the Karim Khan family, it is one of the most untouched parts of the Karim Khan citadel. There are four platforms in the cloak room of the hammam, which was called Sarbineh at that time. A very beautiful octagonal pond is located in the middle of the pond. In one of the corners of the bathroom, there is a space where they lit a fire and warmed and dried themselves after the bath, and there they could also smoke hookah and drink tea.
The water supply system of this citadel has been very interesting. At that time, water was supplied to this building from the Rokn Abad under ground water canal which was one of the most important Persian Qanat.
Location of Karim Khan Citadel
Arg-e Karim Khan is located in the center of Shiraz, at Karim Khan Zand Boulevard and next to Shohada Square. There are several other attractions in this region such as Pars Museum, Vakil Bath, Vakil Bazaar, Vakil Mosque, Nasir-Ol Molk Mosque, and Atiq Jame Mosque.
Visiting Hours of Karim Khan Citadel
If you are planning to visit Shiraz, you should know that you cannot visit Shiraz attractions without an organized schedule as there are too many. Therefore, you might need to know the opening hours of each attraction.
Karim Khan Citadel is opened from 08:00 to 20:00 in spring and summer and 08:00 to 17:00 in autumn and winter.
Where to Eat near Karim Khan Citadel
Sharze Restaurant, Saraye Mehr Restaurant, Saraye Ayene Restaurant, House of Poems Café, Vakil Traditional Restaurant, Hafez Café, Aqo Ash Restaurant, and Café Royal are the nearby places in which you can have hot and cold drinks with snacks or have lunch or dinner.