93 images Created 11 Dec 2018
Isfahan, or Esfahan, is the country’s third-largest city and Iran’s top tourist destination and flourished from 1050 to 1722, particularly in the 16th and 17th centuries under the Savafid dynasty when was once one of the largest cities in the world and became the capital of a powerful empire. Still today, despite heavy industry, the city still retains much of its past glory, when the fame of Isfahan led to the Persian pun and proverb "Esfahān nesf-e- jahān ast", “Isfahan is half of the world”. A history and a culture that make it the undisputed capital of the soul for every Iranian with its Persian–Islamic architecture of covered bridges, palaces, mosques, and minarets which have made Isfahan the undisputed most important urban center of the entire Islamic world. The inner core of the city remains a priceless gem with Naqsh-e Jahan (Imam) Square, a spectacle in its own right, hemmed on four sides by architectural gems and embracing the formal fountains and gardens at its centre. At 512m long and 163m wide, Naqsh-e Jahan is one of the largest squares in the world, earning a listing as a Unesco World Heritage site. The name means ‘pattern of the world’ and it was designed to showcase the finest jewels of the Safavid empire, the incomparable Masjed-e Shah, the elegant Masjed-e Sheikh Lotfollah and the lavishly decorated Kakh. The square is at its best in late afternoon when the last rays of the sun turn red the blue-tiled minarets and domes and the families wander around the nearest Bazar-e Bozorg, one of Iran’s most historic and fascinating bazaars. In small and fascinating tea houses groups of girls make selfies contests under the grim portraits of Khomeiny and Khameney. Because even the Shiite orthodoxy must come to terms with the sophisticated cultural complexity of a country capable of metabolizing even the most coriaceous invaders. And the opposite has never happened.