Qajar-era bathhouse to turn into creative center for handicrafts

October 18, 2021 - 17:14

TEHRAN –Hammam-e Haj Shahbaz Khan, a Qajar-era (1789–1925) public bathhouse in the western province of Kermanshah is planned to be repurposed into a creative center for handicrafts, the provincial tourism chief has said.

The historical structure will be ceded to the private sector to turn into a creative center for handicrafts with the aim of sharing knowledge, promoting, preserving, and exporting local hand-made products, as well as providing sustainable employment in this sector, Jabbar Gohari said on Monday, IRNA reported.

After resolving the legal problems and property issues of the historical monument, the facility could be effectively used as a handicrafts center, the official added.

The project is planned to be carried out in collaboration with the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) related to the handicrafts sector, he noted.

Some historical sites and monuments across Iran have been temporarily ceded to the private sector during the past couple of years under the close supervision of the Fund, to achieve higher productivity and better maintenance.

The lack of a sufficient government budget for the restoration of all centuries-old sites is the main reason behind the ceding projects.

In 2019, the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism, and Handicrafts announced that of the numerous historical buildings and structures that are scattered across Iran, some 2,500 ones need restoration.

Public bathhouses in Persian culture

The bathhouse, which was mostly built with red bricks, was inscribed on the National Heritage list in 2003.

Bathhouses or ‘hammams’ in Iran were not only places for bathing and cleaning up. They had a social concept for people who gathered at these places weekly.

It was a place where people talked with each other about their daily life and shared humor and news. There are still bathhouses in Iranian cities but they do not have their social function anymore since most people have bathrooms in their homes due to the modern lifestyle.

Some cities had separate bathhouses for men and women. They were usually built next to each other. However, there were some bathhouses, which were used by men and women at different times of the day.

There were also male and female public bathhouses; at daybreak, a longhorn (booq-e javaz) was blown to announce that the bath was ready. Men came to the baths from daybreak till the afternoon. Women could then use the bathhouses till sunset. In some cases, five days were allocated to men and two days to women.

Persian literature is full of proverbs, narrations, and folk stories about bathhouses, which indicate the importance of the place in the past time.

Wide-ranging handicrafts

With 14 entries, Iran ranks first globally for the number of cities and villages registered by the World Crafts Council, as China with seven entries, Chile with four, and India with three ones come next.

In January 2020, the cities of Shiraz, Malayer, and Zanjan and the village of Qassemabad were designated by the WCC- Asia Pacific Region, putting Iran’s number of world crafts cities and villages from ten to 14.

The value of Iran’s handicrafts exports stood at $120 million during the first eleven months of the past Iranian calendar year 1399 (March 20, 2020 – February 18, 2021), Mehr reported. The country’s handicrafts exports slumped during the mentioned months in comparison to the same period last a year earlier due to the damage the coronavirus pandemic has inflicted on global trade.

The Islamic Republic exported $427 million worth of handicrafts during the first eleven months of the calendar year 1398. Of the figure, some $190 million was earned via suitcase trade (allowed for customs-free and tax-free transfer) through 20 provinces, according to data compiled by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts.

Ceramics, pottery vessels, handwoven cloths as well as personal ornamentations with precious and semi-precious gemstones are traditionally exported to Iraq, Afghanistan, Germany, the U.S., the UK, and other countries.

ABU/MG

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