Destination Esfahan

It has been given the historical title of being “half of world”  for a reason.  To see it was to see half the world.  To miss Esfahan would be missing a big part of modern Iran.

Naqsh-e Jahan Square
Sunset in Naqsh-e Jahan Square

It was named the capital of Persian twice under two different ruling powers and is a place that has both vastly prospered and suffered at the hand of Arab and Mongol conquers through the centuries.  It divided by the great Zayanderood River and historically was a central stop along the ancient Silk road. Its trade status ended when the shipping giants like those found in the Netherlands took over with their faster transport and water routes.

This city dates back to the hunter gatherer Paleolithic Era still remains Iran’s cultural and agricultural center. It’s been sacked a number of times and rebuilt.  Most of what is seen today was built during the Safavid times. Shah Abbas I united Persia and made Esfahan its capital once again during this period and built an elegant city that was all the envy of the east as well as the west.

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque
Morning at Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque

Many of its neighborhoods found here in a way shows how diverse this city was due to its importance in trade along the Silk Road. There is a large Armenian Quarter called New Julfa in Esfahan. Here there are many churches still open for Christian worshipers including the large Vank cathedral. Many remain but the numbers are dwindling and many are leaving for cities outside of Iran including Marseilles and Los Angeles.

Vank Cathedral
Courtyard the Vank Cathedral in the Julfa Armenian Quarter
Shah Mosque
Imam Mosque in Naghsh-i Jahan Square

Esfahan is amazing at night so hang out as much and as long as you can during your visit;  No going to bed early:

Late day arrivals still have plenty to see after the sunsets.  Esfahan lights up like a stage at night. The bridges of the Zayanderood River offer coffee houses, evening picnic areas and entertainment.  It is common to hear local men singing beneath the arches of the Khaju bridge.  The Iman square, once a polo field, is now a place where kids on bikes raise alongside the horse-drawn carriages. The posts found on either side of the square were once goal markers. Photographers get some of their best chances to capture Esfahan under the stars and in all of its illuminating splendor well into the evening.

Khaju Bridge
Beautiful evening at the Khaju Bridge
Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque
Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque in Naghsh-i Jahan Square
Naqsh-e Jahan Square
Naqsh-e Jahan Square late at night

Esfahan is a city that is full of things to see and one which needs at least three full days to a few months if you really want to experience it.  Getting a visa for such a long stay is another question.  With that said,  three full days is perfect.  I would almost say stay less in Tehran and spend more time here since it’s a better walking city and much less polluted. Keep a fair amount of your shopping budget available for here. There’s a great deal of things to choose from. There’s plenty of postcards and are it’s the place to splurge on a carpet or miniature painting. By the way, stamps to the US and elsewhere are expensive, so when the shop keeper is saying you need to put over $1 USD on a postcard believe him/her – it’s expensive. Big surprise, right?

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