Esfahan, also spelled Isfahan, capital of Esfahan province and major city of western Iran. Esfahan is situated on the northern part of Zāyandeh River at an elevation of about 5,200 feet (1,600 meters), roughly 414 km south of the capital city of Tehran. It was once one of the largest cities in the world. It flourished from 1050 to 1722, particularly in the 16th century under the Safavid dynasty, when it became the capital of Persia for the second time in its history. Even today, the city retains much of its past glory. It is famous for its Persian–Islamic architecture, with many beautiful boulevards, covered bridges, palaces, mosques, and minarets. This led to the Persian proverb “Isfahan is half of the world”.

Aliqapu

At the west of Immam square (Naghsh-e Jahan), just in front of the Sheikh Lotfollah mosque one of the most magnificent palaces of 17th century is located. The Aliqapu is a well-known palace all over Iran. The first part of palace was built in 1597.

It is forty-eight meters high and there are seven floors, each accessible by a difficult spiral staircase. In the sixth floor, Music Hall, deep circular niches are found in the walls, having not only aesthetic value but also acoustic.

Ali Qapu

The highlight of the palace is its elevated terrace, which features 18 slender columns .The terrace affords a wonderful perspective over the square and one of the best views of the Masjed-e Shah.

Fresco from the portico of the palace, depicting a Persian woman.

The name Aliqapu, from Arabic "Ālī" (imperial or great), and Turkic "Qāpū" (gate) was given to this place as it was right at the entrance to the Safavid palaces which stretched from the Naqsh-e Jahan Square to the Chaharbaq Boulevard. The building, another wonderful Safavid edifice, was built by decree of Shah Abbas I in the early seventeenth century. It was here that the great monarch used to entertain noble visitors and foreign ambassadors.

Chehel Sotoun

Chehel Sotoun (Chihil Sutun or Chehel Sotoon; literally means “Forty Columns”) is a pavilion in the middle of a park at the far end of a long pool, in Isfahan, built by Shah Abbas II to be used for his entertainment and receptions. In this palace, Shah Abbas II and his successors would receive dignitaries and ambassadors, either on the terrace or in one of the stately reception halls.

The name, meaning "Forty Columns" in Persian, was inspired by the twenty slender wooden columns supporting the entrance pavilion, which reflected in the waters of the fountain, are said to appear to be forty. This building is a veritable museum of Persian painting and ceramics

Khaju Bridge

One of the most beautiful bridges of the world. Khaju is a name of small district in the neighborhood close to the bridge. It is about 132 meters long and 12 meters wide. The Khaju Bridge is made of two decks (floors). This bridge was built to work for different purposes. As a bridge connected the old Isfahan to villages located on the southern side and also connected Isfahan to Shiraz road.

It was built by the Persian Safavid king, Shah Abbas II around 1650, on the foundations of an older bridge. Serving as both a bridge and a dam (or a weir), it links the Khaju quarter on the north bank with the Zoroastrian quarter across the Zayandeh River. Although architecturally functioning as a bridge, a weir and a place for public meetings. This structure was originally decorated with artistic tile work, paintings and served as a tea house. In the center of the structure, a pavilion exists inside which Shah Abbas would have once sat admiring the view. Today remnants of a stone seat is all that is left of the king's chair.

Naghsh-e Jahan Square

Naghsh-e Jahan Square (Design of the world) officially known as Imam Square, situated at the center of Isfahan city. Built by Shah Abbas I the Great at the beginning of the 17th century. It is an important historical site and one of the UNESCO's World Heritage Sites. The square is surrounded by buildings from the Safavid era. The Imam Mosque is situated on the south side of this square. On the west side you can find Aliqapu Palace. Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque is situated on the eastern side of this square and the northern side opens into the Isfahan Grand Bazaar

Allāhverdi Khan Bridge 

Allāhverdi Khan Bridge popularly known as Si-o-seh pol “The Bridge of thirty-three spans is one of the eleven bridges of Isfahan and the longest bridge on Zayandeh River with the total length of 297.76 meters (976.9 ft). It is highly ranked as being one of the most famous examples of Safavid bridge design.

It was constructed by the finance and the inspection of Allahverdi Khan Undiladze chancellor of Shah Abbas I, an ethnic Georgian, it consists of two rows of 33 arches from either sides, left to right. There is a larger base plank at the start of the bridge where the Zayandeh River flows under it, supporting a tea house which nowadays is abandoned due to the shortage of water and the river drought.

Imam Mosque (The Shah Mosque)

The Shah Mosque also known as Imam Mosque, renamed after the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, Jaame' Abbasi Mosque is standing in south side of Naghsh-e Jahan Square. Built during the Safavid period ordered by the first Shah Abbas of Persia. The mosque has also been called Jameh Mosque o Isfahan over the course of years. View of the Mosque from Naqsh-e Jahan Square. It is regarded as one of the masterpieces of Persian Architecture and an excellent example of Islamic era architecture of Iran. The Shah Mosque of Isfahan is one of the everlasting masterpieces of architecture in Iran. It is registered along with the Naghsh-e Jahan Square, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its construction began in 161 and its splendor is mainly due to the beauty of its seven-color mosaic tiles and calligraphic inscriptions. The mosque is one of the treasures featured on Around the World in 80 Treasures presented by the architecture historian Dan Cruickshank. The mosque is depicted on the back of the Iranian 20,000 rials banknote.

Hasht Behesht

Hasht Behesht means "Eight Paradises" is a Safavid era palace in Isfahan. It was built in 1669 and today is protected by Iran's Cultural Heritage Organization. For more than forty mansions which existed in Isfahan during the rule of Safavids this is the only one left today.

Isfahan City Center

Isfahan City Center is also the 5th largest shopping mall in the world, which is located in this city, mixing the traditional Isfahanian architecture with the modern one.

Shahshahan Mausoleum

Shahshahan Mausoleum is a historical mausoleum which is located beside Jameh mosque and is the burial place of a famous Sufi of Isfahan “Shah Alaeddin Mohammad”. According to the date of Shah Alaeddin's death which was in the December 1446, the mausoleum was built between 1446 and 1448. Inside and outside of the mausoleum is decorated by calligraphy, plasterwork and tiling. Its dome, which had been destroying in the recent years, has been rebuilt but the mausoleum is still in dire need of more work repair.

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is one of the architectural masterpieces of Safavid Iranian architecture, standing on the eastern side of Naghsh-i Jahan Square. Construction of the mosque started in 1603 and was finished in 1619. It was built by the chief architect ShaykhBahai, during the reigh of Shah Abbas I of the Safavid dynasty.

The Flower garden of Isfahan

The Flower garden of Isfahan was one of Iran's great green space projects, which was completed in 1990 in Isfahan. The garden serves multiple purposes. It's a recreational, cultural, educational and research center. The buildings of the garden have Iranian traditional elements

The Jāmeh Mosque

The Jāmeh Mosque of Isfahān or Jāme' Mosque of Isfahān is the grand, congregational mosque (Jāmeh) of Isfahān. The mosque is the result of continual construction, reconstruction, additions and renovations on the site from around 771 to the end of the 20th century. The Grand Bazaar of Isfahan can be found towards the southwest wing of the mosque. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2012 .This is one of the oldest mosques still standing in Iran and it was built in the four- iwan architectural style, placing four gates face to face. An iwan is a vaulted open room.

Holy Savior Cathedral

Holy Savior Cathedral also known as Vank Cathedral and The Church of the Saintly Sisters. Vank means "monastery" or "convent" in the Armenian language.

There are three churches in Julfa, the most important one is the Vank church. This church has been built in the reign of Shah Abbas II. Construction is believed to have begun in 1606 by the first arrivals, completed with major alterations to design between 1655 and 1664 under the supervision of Archbishop David. The cathedral consists of a domed sanctuary, much like a Persian mosque but with the significant addition of a semi-octagonal apse and raised chancel usually seen in western churches. The cathedral's exteriors are in relatively modern brickwork and are exceptionally plain compared to its elaborately decorated interior.

Weather

Despite its altitude, Isfahan remains hot during the summer with maximum typically around 35 °C (95 °F). However with low humidity and moderate temperatures at night the climate can be very pleasant. During the winter days are mild while nights can be very cold. Snow has occurred at least once every winter. The autumn is quite cold and the spring is mild and awesome.

written by AH.Younesi