Arg of Karim Khan Zand | Shiraz, Iran | Karim Khan Citadel

The Standing Witness of the Ups and Downs of Life in Shiraz
Arg e Karim Khan feature image - Arg of Karim Khan Zand | Shiraz, Iran | Karim Khan Citadel
3 Sep

Arg of Karim Khan Zand | Shiraz, Iran | Karim Khan Citadel

In the lovely downtown area of Shiraz, you’ll find a long-standing magnet of the city: Arg-e Karim Khan (also known as Karim Khan Citadel and Arg of Karim Khan). The historical site is part of a whole complex (Vakil Complex) born out of the care and understanding of the founder of Zand dynasty. Looking like a Medieval fortress, the citadel has seen the ups and downs of the daily life of the natives for over 3 centuries and has given a historical air to the city center. Like to learn more about this top Shiraz attraction? Then follow me on this post.

Arg e Karim Khan 2 - Arg of Karim Khan Zand | Shiraz, Iran | Karim Khan Citadel

Arg-e Karim Khan photo – Arg of Karim Khan

Why Arg-e Karim Khan?

  • It features the architectural elements of Zand era
  • It showcases a combination of the elements of a residential house and a military stronghold
  • The wax museum inside will give you an understanding of Persian culture
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Arg-e Karim Khan at sunset photo – Arg of Karim Khan

The Story of Arg-e Karim Khan – Arg of Karim Khan

When Karim Khan gained the throne in the 18th century and founded Zand Dynasty, he brough relative peace and welfare to the war-stricken country. Refusing the title of a king and referring to himself as ‘the advocate of people’, he did his best for the prosperity of people and for the improvement of the country.  Inspired by the Safavid architecture he saw in Isfahan’s Naqsh-e Jahan Square, he employed the greatest architects and artists of the time to build a whole complex in his capital Shiraz.

Beside Vakil Mosque, Vakil Bathhouse, Vakil Bazaar, and structures that were destroyed by the following king, he ordered the quick construction of the Arg (1766). Meant to be his royal court, it combined the architectural elements of both a home and a military center. The strong building later served as the governors’ seat in Qajar era and a prison in Pahlavi era. Finally, it got renovated and started functioning as a protected sight in the 1970s.  Now it has become a museum of wax figures depicting the customs, dress code and lifestyle of the king, the courtiers and the common people.

Vakil Mosque 1024x685 - Arg of Karim Khan Zand | Shiraz, Iran | Karim Khan Citadel

Vakil Mosque photo

Karim Khan Citadel – How the Fortress Looks

The architecture of Arg of Karim Khan is quite interesting. The park you can see around the structure used to be a defensive ditch. The citadel has four 12-meter walls and four 14-meter round towers on its corners. That each wall has a thicker base and a thinner top and that battlements exist on the walls and towers are indicative of the defensive function of the building. Each with a resting room for the guards and a weapon storage room, the towers have 3 separate floors which are connected with a spiral staircase. The brick structure is simply decorated with ornamental brickwork and the southeastern tower has a slight lean reminding one of the Tower of Pisa. A tilework portraying a scene from Ferdowsi’s epic Shahnameh, depicting the hero Rostam in battle with a demon, was added to the entrance gate in Qajar Era. Showcasing traditional Persian architecture from the beginning, there is an entrance vestibule and a corridor that lead to the center of the building: a large courtyard filled with citrus trees and a lengthy pool.

Arg e Karim Khan 4 1024x677 - Arg of Karim Khan Zand | Shiraz, Iran | Karim Khan Citadel

The outside facade Arg-e Karim Khan photo – Karim Khan Citadel

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A tilework on the entrance gate of Arg-e Karim Khan depicting the hero Rostam in battle with a demon photo

Karim Khan Citadel – Around the Courtyard

Standing in the courtyard, the first thing that catches your eyes is a charming portico that showcases a large wind tower on its top. The nicely decorated rooms connected to this portico are where Karim Khan sat with his officials and made decisions about the kingdom. On the northern, southern and western sides of the building, you can find the residential areas, each with an Iwan, 2 columns, 12 rooms and Orsi (stained-glass windows). The northern section was used in the winter and the western section was used in the summer. The chambers behind the porticos all opened to the other with a wooden door.  On the southeastern corner of the courtyard, there is the bathhouse where the royal family used to get together to get a royal bath and a massage. Featuring the architectural elements of a traditional bathhouse, this section has an underground heating system, insulated pools and decorative plasterwork that make it worth the visit. The other delicacies of the building are the Muqarnas works (a form of ornamented vaulting) and the paintings found in its Iwans and chambers.

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Arg of Karim Khan – The Courtyard of Arg-e Karim Khan, Shiraz cultural attraction, Iran

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Orsi (stained-glass windows) in Arg-e Karim Khan photo – Arg of Karim Khan

A Cultural Adventure Around Arg-e Karim Khan

From around sunset, when the castle is lit up nicely, the park around Arg-e Karim Khan turns into a popular hangout for Shirazi people. This offers the best chance to mingle with the natives or just watch their lifestyle. Shopping for souvenirs and touring a handicraft workshop are also of the delights the gallery inside the Arg offers you. But the more popular delight that attracts locals and tourists to this part of the city is the first-rate traditional ice cream. The ice cream parlors behind the Arg serve the city’s best traditional ice cream and Faloodeh (a traditional Iranian cold dessert).

Faloodeh - Arg of Karim Khan Zand | Shiraz, Iran | Karim Khan Citadel
Faloodeh (a traditional Iranian cold dessert),

More About Arg of Karim Khan

Open Hours

8:00 to 20:30 in Spring and Summer

8:00 to 19:30 in Fall and Winter

Open Days

All days except for some public holidays

The Nearby Attractions

You can check out the treasures of Pars Museum or have a walk around Seray-e Moshir. You can also visit the other remnants of Zand era: Vakil Complex (Vakil Mosque, Vakil Bazaar, and Vakil Bathhouse).

Like to visit Arg-e Karim Khan?

Then hop on one of our multi-day Cultural Tours.

Arg of Karim Khan on Map

Keywords: Karim Khan Shiraz

Zahra Soltani
Content Manager, International Relations Manager

To Zahra, introducing the beauties of Iran is a delight and an inherent mission! Beyond that, arts, culture, literature, mythology, and all the astonishing secrets of our marvelous universe set her soul on fire! This is what makes Zahra a filmophile, an insatiable reader, and a passionate writer.

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