What led up to my booking at Howzak House is a tale unto itself. Having had no luck getting a budget accommodation in Esfahan for my trip, I was in a cafe trawling through the net when a friend who had just returned from Iran popped in.
After exchanging greetings, I asked her for tips and she shared that a business had just reached out to her on Instagram. Their name – Howzak House.
It was a new business and so there was very little information online, but something about the way they handcrafted the details in the renovation process made me believe they cared a lot about their guest experience.
This turned out to be absolutely true.
In 2016, Babak and Nassim decided to take the plunge and invest in this residential compound in the Ebn E Sina area, partially because they wanted a business to call their own, but also because they enjoy sharing Iranian experiences and hearing about the world from travellers. Lucky us!
They completed this project in February 2017, and filled it with artistic flourishes that can only come from owners that truly love their culture. From the hand-stamped curtains to the tiles by the washroom sink, there’s a story behind every fixture.
Because of its location in a residential neighbourhood, Howzak can be a little tricky to find initially. The very organic way the alleys meander around can disorientate even seasoned traveller initially. But actually, it’s surprisingly close to the Imam Ali Square and the fringes of the sprawling bazaar, which is no more than 5 minutes walk away once you know the way.
From there, it’s another 15 minutes to the city’s famous Naqsh-e Jahan Square, where the must-see sights of Esfahan are gathered.
I would highly recommend taking the Howzak’s pick-up service (they don’t overcharge) when you first arrive in Esfahan, but once you’re acquainted with the lanes, Howzak House becomes a quaint home you gladly return to after a day out exploring the beautiful city.
I booked a private single room with shared bathroom facilities and Koochik Khooneh, which means “tiny house” in Farsi was actually designed with writers in mind! Nassim shared that she would later put in a desk so that people who would like to use the room as a retreat could do so. How apt that I was there then!
The room was the only one furnished in a traditional style, including a rather unusual heating system that takes some getting used to. The korsi is a heater tucked under a table, and a blanket is thrown over it to trap the heat underneath. When you want to sleep, you tuck your own cover under that and the heat will seep over to you.
There were 3 other rooms which can be configured into private or dorm-style sleeping arrangement at Howzak starting from 25 euros. Mine was 30 with the opening promo.
The room had beautiful stained glass panels and a little alcove for some decor. Although there are curtains, you might wish to pop into the small room next to the room’s entrance to change. That is also where you can store your extra luggage and hang your clothes, and where a fridge was kept.
Also, if you’re a light sleeper, some ear plugs might come in handy.
Howzak is also a boom-gardi, which is something like an eco-lodge, where they try to preserve the local values of Iranian living while limiting ecological impact at the same time. You’ll see that most in their breakfast menu, as it changes almost everyday, and features delicious local produce such as carrot jam using home-style recipes.
Within the beautiful whitewashed compounds, Babak and Nassim are never far away. They become like your helpful siblings, who fuss over you and make sure you’re always well-prepared for your walks.
At one point, when Babak found out I didn’t manage to get any of the famous Gaz before I left, he decided to cycle out and bought me a bunch so that I didn’t return home empty-handed.
Howzak also customises little tours for their guests and I went on a small walking tour to some craftmen’s workshops to not only see, but experience some Iranian handiwork. From Mr Abadi’s qalamkar to Mr Zamanian’s kemancheh, you’ll be amazed at the skills of these humble masters.
In fact, Babak and Nassim themselves are pretty talented too. A fact you can see when you gather in their Culture Room to either browse through some Iranian literature, or learn to play instruments.
Howzak left an indelible impression on me. It is an oasis of calm and friendship that will no doubt serve any guest well when they visit Esfahan. The grand city might be half the world, but Howzak House will be your little world, and possibly that other half.