ḤAMMĀM-E WAKĪL (bathhouse of the Wakil), a historic monument in Shiraz built by Karim Khan Zand “the Wakil” (r. 1164-93/1751-79) after 1180/1776 (Nāmi, p. 158; Ḡaffāri, p. 279). It is situated in Meydān-e Šāh to the west of the Wakil’s Mosque (Masjed-e Wakil) and north of a water reservoir (āb-anbār, q.v.) known as Āb-anbār-e Wakil, from which it is separated by a wide alley.
The bath covers an area of nearly 1,425 m2. Attached to its northern and western sides are two rows of shops; the entrance is a low doorway set at the back of a re-cess in the northern row. The entrance leads, through a corridor and a small hallway, to the dressing hall (bina, raḵtkan), an octagonal structure covered by a dome with a skylight. Here the patrons would undress and dress on platforms (šāhnešin) of stone around the dressing hall, which overlooked an octagonal water basin (ḥawzµ) with a large fountain in the middle. According to William Francklin, the British traveler who was in Shiraz in the years 1786-87, each platform was provided with a small water basin and “the sides were adorned with pictures and tapestry” (Francklin, pp. 76-77). The doorway to the bath proper, which is the steam room (garm-ḵāna), stands opposite the entrance and connects the dressing hallto the garm-ḵānathrough a corridor where the latrines are also situated, as are the private cubicles (nura-ḵāna) for the application of a depilatory mixture called nura.
The square garm-ḵānais roofed by a canopy of vaults that rest on four shapely columns. The whole area is lighted by a series of bulbous glass skylights (qobba) built in the vault pinnacles. Here “the dome and the sides [were] ornamented with the imitation of lapis lazuli” (Francklin, p. 76). There are three ḵazinas (aboveground water tanks), which hold cold, tepid, and hot water; these are built in the southern end of the garm-ḵāna. On the two sides of the row of ḵazinas and along the other three walls there are elevated bays, each with a small water tank of its own, around which the patrons could sit to wash themselves.
The plinth course consists of marble slabs imported from Tabriz, as does the lining of the water basins; the columns are solid rocks; the body of the building is made of masonry, bricks, mortar (sāruj), and plaster.
The only description of Ḥammam-e Wakil in an early source is found in the travelogue of William Francklin, who was in Shiraz a few years after the bathhouse had been built. No other references to or descriptions of it are to be found in historical or biographical texts, with the exception of Forṣat’s Āṯār-e ʿAjam (II, p. 828), where the exact location of the building is given and it is described as unique in Persia.
It seems that Ḥammām-e Wakil had been built specifically for the use of the nobility, as no commoners were admitted during the Zand period (Francklin, p. 76). The bathhouse was in use until the closing decades of the last century; later its dressing hallwas converted into a traditional gymnasium (zur-ḵāna) called Bāšgāh-e Zand (Zand sports club). It has been restored since and is now protected as an historic monument.
Plans of the bath have been published by the Technical Bureau of the National Organization for protection of Ancient Monuments (Sāzmān-e melli-e ḥefāẓat-e āṯār-e bāstāni-e Fārs).
Kerāmat-Allāh Afsar, Tāriḵ-e bāft-e qadim-e Širāz, Tehran, 1353 Š./1974, pp. 218-19.
William Francklin, Observations Made on a Tour from Bengal to Persia in the Years 1786-87 with a Short Account of the Remains of the Celebrated Palace of Persepolis and Other Interesting Events, London, 1790; repr. Tehran, 1976.
Mirzā Ṣādeq Musawi Nāmi Eṣfahāni, Tāriḵ-e gitigošā, ed. Saʿid Nafisi, Tehran, 1317 Š./1938.
Moḥammad-Naṣir Mirzā Āqā Forṣat (Forṣat-al-Dawla) Širāzi, Āṯār-e ʿAjam, ed. Manṣur Rastgār Fasāʾi, 2 vols., Tehran, 1377 Š./1998.
John R. Perry, Karim Khan Zand: A History of Iran 1747-1779, Chicago and London, 1979, p. 277.
Originally Published: December 15, 2003
Last Updated: March 6, 2012
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Vol. XI, Fasc. 6, p. 644