Isfahan - Exquisite Islamic monuments in the former Persian capital (28 May)
Interesting Facts about Isfahan
ISFAHAN, A FORMER CAPITAL of the Persian Empire, rises in a spectacle of gleaming, arabesque-adorned domes. The city flourished during the 16th and 17th centuries during the Iranian dynasty Safavid, and was among the largest and most prominent cities in Central Asia. It sits 278 miles (447 km) from the modern Iranian capital of Tehran.
Isfahan’s central square, constructed in 1602 during the reign of Shah ‘Abbas I, is an opulent oasis surrounded by some of Earth’s most beautiful and important Islamic architecture.
Anchored by religious buildings, it is often likened to a Middle Eastern version of San Marco in Venice. Persian poets once said of the square, “Isfahan nesf-e jahan—Isfahan is half the world.” And in fact, it remains one of the largest squares in the world, its centuries-old history spanning both the rise and the demise of Persia. Still visible are the polo goalposts of Reza Shah Pahlavi, the shah deposed in the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the same year the square was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. The square’s modern name, Meidan Emam, replacing Meidan-e Shah, reflects the revolutionary change from rule by royalty to rule by religion.
The major monuments in the square are connected by elegant, two-story arcades. Imam Mosque, formerly Shah Mosque, has Isfahan’s most imposing dome, intricately tiled on the inside and decorated with Arabic calligraphy and motifs on the outside. Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque dazzles visitors with splendid tilework of cobalt blue, turquoise, and lemon yellow, its abstract patterns transforming in hue through the day. The opulent, six-story Ali Qapu Palace is known for its winding mosaic stairs, its magnificent views of the square, and its music room where poets and musicians once entertained the shahs. Nearby, the Grand Bazaar offers a way of shopping that’s been unchanged for centuries. The bazaar’s floors are covered with handmade carpets for sale, and vendors offer passersby cups of tea and a chance to bargain.