Isfahan is one of the most beautiful cities in Iran and it’s worth spending more than 3 days there, actually. The city has always been an important religious and architectural center. It was chosen as the capital of the Seljuk Empire in 1047 and of the Safavid Empire in 1587 under Shah Abbas I. Thanks to him, Isfahan became an important center for the production of handcrafted carpets and increased its splendour. Indeed, the stunning Nasqh-e Jahan (Imam) square was built, which is today one of the UNESCO world heritage sites.
Nasqh-e Jahan (Imam) square is huge and genuinely amazing. We accessed it from the bazar and it left us in awe. There is no traffic but only people enjoying their time outdoors. It’s the main meeting point of the city and its peak time is at 5.30pm when people gather to eat an ice-cream or give a surprise birthday party to a friend. That was actually a real surprise for me too! Guido was looking for a money exchange and I was chilling on a bench looking at and taking pictures of people around me when suddenly some young women gathered around another one and surprised her with foam, confetti and a birthday cake. Many tourists started taking pictures of them and their children and I actually did the same from far away; after a while I got closer and showed them the pictures. They immediately asked me to take a group one and to send them on whatsapp. I did so as soon as I could and they were super happy 🙂
Few hours in the square and you actually feel very welcomed. One day we met our teacher of farsi and we had a very meaningful chat about politics, religion and traditions.. We compared a lot our countries and we can definitely say the Italy and Iran as a similar corrupted system in place. Another day, a girl got closer to welcome us and speak a bit of English and so did others. Overall, people greeted and welcomed us all the time in the street as well as helped us when we needed something. It’s so unfair that Iran and Iranians are generally considered dangerous and scary…
Let’s get back to our tour in the city. The main square is so beautiful also thanks to its four symbolic buildings, one for each side: two awesome mosques, the Ali Qapu palace and the access door to the bazar. The biggest mosque is the Masjed-e Shah. It is characterized by two doors covered by blue and white moarragh kashi (a particular type of decorative mosaic) that lead the visitor to the huge and beautiful open air court and its four important iwans. The other one is the Masjed-e Sheikh Lotfollah and is smaller and very different from the former. It characterized by blue and jallow mosaic and it’s just one room. It’s very cosy – maybe as it was built for Sheikh Lotfollah’s wife – and we recommend to stay inside till it’s empty to sit down to relax and admire its architecture and decorations.
Isfahan is big and it’s worth walking around. We walked through its parks, the river bed – there was no water in October 😉 – and the beautiful bridges in order to get to Jolfa, the Armenian neighbourhood. We had delicious falafel in the main little square and then visited the church and the surrounding area.
Another place which is worth visiting are the following:
The Safavid Chehel Sotun (1647) palace and its garden, near the main square. The name, meaning “forty columns” in Persian, was inspired by the twenty tall wooden columns supporting the entrance pavilion, which are said to be forty when reflected in the water of the fountain in front of it. The interior is also very peculiar as contains many frescoes and painting on ceramic. The surrounding garden is very peaceful and perfect to have a little rest.
The other important mosque in the city: Masjed-e Jameh. It’s actually the biggest mosque in Iran and the most used by devoted people; it’s beauty is given by the clear colors and decorations of the iwans. It’s on the opposite side of the bazar compared to Nasqh-e Jahan (Imam) square – so easy to find – and you can get an audio tour there and have the chance to ask all your questions about Islam to a religious expert of Shi’a Islam. We asked lots of questions, of course! You can’t miss it!
For some more useful tips have a look at our journey.