Esfahan is half of the world

(March 2016)

Entering Esfahan is like teleporting you to a different place, a magical place, full of details, where there has been hard work to create it (you’ll understand), and that’s why it is the most visited city in Iran; but let’s start from the beginning. We stayed in a simple and cheap hostel (Amir Kabir Hostel) for two nights; and as the whole trip went, we had nothing plan.

Never some doors open to such a beauty as those at Nasqh-e Jahan Square, it means something like the pattern of the world as Shah Abbas the Great saw it. Three grand buildings framed by the gardens and the pool, stand out in the square: the royal mosque Masjed-e Shah, Masjed-e Sheikh Lotfollah and the palace Kakh-e Ali Qapu.

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The mosque Masjed-e Shah was Shah Abbas I idea and started its construction in 1661, its tiles are all shades of blue and it is as symmetric as possible. Its entrance is oriented to the square but its mosque to the Meca but it doesn’t look like it was in the wrong place. Once inside, each and every one of its areas and its dome will leave you speechless. But that is not all, in the main sanctuary and right under the dome, scientists have found that it creates up to 49 echoes, although humans can only hear 12 of those sounds.

Masjed-e Sheikh Lotfollah would have the same effect on you but gradually. Built in honor of Lotfollah, father in law of Abbas in the first decade of 1600. First, you would see its dome from the square, majestic in its creme-colours. If you watch it through the sunset you’ll perceive its changing colors. As soon as you walk in you think of the work that must have taken to built such a beauty, so many details… and at the end of the corridor, almost without realizing it, you turn… If the exterior dome was exquisite, its interior would make you shudder (goose-flesh). And you go crazy taking picture after picture and none of them show what you are seeing, not the light, no the detail, but more importantly not the rush you are feeling; you calm down and enjoy.

Kakh-e Ali Qapu was where it all started. What today is a six storey building was in the beginning, something simple, but the terrace…  It’s worth it just to see the square to its fullest.

And if you thought that was it in the square you were wrong: Esfahan’s bazaar (Bozorg) is built around the square and extends through the city’s streets. If you still have the strength for it go to Si-o Seh Bridge at night when it is light, marvelous. Only a week before we got there they had closed the dam, so there was still water (maybe it’s not so pretty in the summer). During the day, and thanks to No Ruz, we found lots of families having a picnic and sailing the river.

We found an old man in his shop in the bazaar, he used camel bone in his art which could be boxes, mirrors (like the one he is doing in the photo), pictures, etc. He draws in the tiles freely, first the drawing then the color. Although his whole body is shaken already, he has very delicate hands…

The guidebook recommended having dinner at Shahrzad and so we did. Delicious food (chelo fassenjan, chelo kebab barg and lamb kebab) but for such a fancy restaurant the service was disappointing, maybe it was one of those days.

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The Armenian neighborhood, Jolfa, is in the middle of the city and we loved it. It is the most famous Armenian church in Iran. Vank Cathedral looks modest on the outside but it is another of the wonders of Esfahan. Who could thought something that hidden could be that beautiful? Its decoration inside is full of color and harmonious between styles: Islamic painted tiles with Christian figures, these frescos have been restored before and are very protected. Next to it there is a museum that reminds the world the horrors Armenians have suffered through its history.

And wanting much, much, much more time in Esfahan we say goodbye, but before we want to remember the taxi driver who took us to the station: you couldn’t be nicer… See you in Yazd, the desert awaits.

All the pictures and videos of Iran are in the Gallery and if you want to see other places around the country check our Iran section

Oh! PS: next time we are biking through Esfahan.

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