The city has about two million inhabitants. It is located at an altitude of 1500 meters and set in the very heart of Iran. For centuries it has represented the centre of the scientific and intellectual life of Iran. What to see in Esfahan?
The city is unique from all angles and one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. In the traffic craze and crowds of Tehran, I remember Esfahan in melancholy, its shady streets, rivers and numerous bridges. Parks surrounding the river and palaces are the centre for people gatherings till deep into the night. Illuminated bridges and freshly mowed lawns emit sense of relaxation and zen after a hot and busy day.
The Safavid rule has embodied spirit into this city by creating it in the 16th century. Until then, there were two cities in the desert oasis. The capital of Safavid reached its peak during the time of ruling of Shah Abash the Great (1588- 1629). It was then and it still remains the most beautiful city of Persia.
The main square is one of the largest in the world – it is said the second largest – Naqsh-e Jahan (Picture of the World), now the Imam Homeini Square, is 525 meters long and 162 meters wide. It is seven times larger than St. Mark’s Square in Venice. It was used to hold various fairs, to play polo, and to host New Year’s Eve celebrations, which were then held on March 21st.
The square is surrounded on all sides by access roads where the bazaar is located. The dominant building is the Shah’s Abash mosque, located on the south side. It is called the Imam’s mosque. On the west side is Abash’s palace – Ali Qapu, famous for the music room on the upper floor. In the east is the beautiful mosque of Abash’s father-in-law, Lotfallah. In the north, there is an entrance to the bazaar, which is one of the biggest ones in the Middle East.
Bridges across the river Zayandeh Rud are especially attractive. They are very old pedestrian bridges, where local studs on their motorbikes are only traffic tolerated. The famous Si-o-se Pol, Khajoo and Joui are the best examples of Safavid architecture.
The Royal Bridge, 137 meters long, is known to the people as the Bridge of Encounters. It has been a meeting point for the people of all nations and religions ever since the old days. It unites people and couples. It should be seen during the day, but it is especially beautifully lit at night. Many gather in and around it on some kind of picnic and for casual walks after dark.
Esfahan, Isfahan, Sepahan, Spadana or after the nickname of Nesfe Jahan – “The Half of the World” – is a city definitely to be seen. I have not seen anything like that and after a long time I have been dazzled by one city so much that I have a desire to return.
There are several flights from Europe daily. My favourite was a five-hour long flight with Austrian to Vienna, with which we also returned. We entered Iran in Tehran, which is some 370 kilometres away or about 6-hour drive away, mostly through the desert. Approximately the same distance is to Shiraz in the south. Flight tickets for domestic flights are inexpensive, about fifty euros.
In addition to Iran Air, there are several other companies present and all aircrafts I have seen at the airports are the new Airbus 319 and 320. I would recommend public transport or taxi in the cities of Iran, and it is best to have a car with a driver because traffic is a total chaos. There are not many rules respected in traffic. Drivers do not stop for pedestrians at the marked crossings, so be careful.
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