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History of the Karim Khan Fortress

Although the Zand dynasty had lived there only for thirty years, it was called Arg – e Karim Chan (“arg” in Persian means a “fortress”) in honour of its founder. As for architecture, the fortress resembles the Ark of Bukhara, a medieval citadel, but Karim Khan probably did not intend to use the fortress for an important military or defensive function. The walls of the fortress, although seem strong, were made of clay brick which could not stop mortar shots of that period in any way.

The interior was developed by the best architectures, painters, carpenters, and bricklayers who were given very expensive and sophisticated materials for work, foreign materials as well. Karim Khan, known as a generous art promoter, wanted his residence to be the equal of the magnificent buildings in Isfahan which once bloomed and was the capital of Persia. In the rectangular inner courtyard two swimming pools were constructed and a shaded citrus garden was established. There was a moat around the fortress, water ran to it from a complicated system of water supply pipes and drainpipes from a stream at the city border.

After the Zand dynasty declined, Shiraz lost its importance as the capital and gradually fell into ruin. A residence for the general-governor of Fars Province was established in the Karim Khan fortress. In the 19th century a huge colourful painting was made on a tile above the main gate, it depicts a famous eastern poem “Szach-Name”. A characteristic drawing on the white background shows a battle between the main character from a poem, Rustam, and White Demons; the battle personifies the endless fight between good and evil. At the beginning of the 20th century the general-governor of the fortress was one of the most talented Persian politicians, Abdol-Hossein Farmanfarma, thanks to him the fortress was renovated and the old murals were restored.

Unfortunately, after the Qajar dynasty was overthrown in the 1930s, the fortress served as a prison. Over some decades the old buildings were neglected to a pitiful condition: part of the murals was simply destroyed or painted over, the beautiful stained glass boarded up, some palaces were used as utility facilities. It was not until 1971 when a new police station appeared in the city, and a prison next to it; the fortress was given to Iran’s Cultural Heritage Organisation. In 1977 restoration work started, and then the fortress was open to the public.