Esfahan, One of the Greatest Iranian Cities
Some cities must work to unveil and develop elegance as they evolve over centuries, others seem to be created with a type of charisma that is in the very DNA of a place. Esfahan is one of these places. As we explored in Part 1 Esfahan is the Paris of Persia, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that it was also a former capital of Persia, not once but twice - in the 11th and 16th centuries. In modern times it’s become a must-visit in Iran and in Part II we’ll dive into the magic waiting to be uncovered when visiting this beautiful city.
The grand architecture is as important to Esfahan as its Western sister city Paris, stunning boulevards and noble buildings have been preserved and are revered not just for the architectural feats but for their importance in Persian culture.
One building of this ilk is the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Great Mosque of Esfahan, which heavily influenced early Islamic mosque architecture from the moment construction began in the 8th century. During this time simpler design under pillars evolved to become more complex, eventually emerging completed in the 11th century to become a new design norm. The new style featured a large space that closes in on three sides and opens onto a fourth side with a courtyard.
From the 11th Century, Islamic architecture adopted the design blueprint for the new style and replicated the design across future structures.
Qeysarie Gate was built in the 17th Century and is also UNESCO registered, as a World heritage object. A large fountain is surrounded by stunning walls featuring two stories of ornate tiling and large arched windows. Originally there were three floors, but sadly the third floor was destroyed. Qeysarie gate provides a spectacular entrance to the Grand Bazaar of Esfahan.
The carpets are the stars of the bazaar, stars which sellers and buyers
have been discussing since the 11th century when the bazaar first began. The bazaar has been through many incarnations since then, destroyed and rebuilt a few times, but the modern-day bazaar is two glorious kilometres of streets that connect old Esfahan to new Esfahan, threaded together like the beautiful carpets housed within.
Persian carpets are considered the best in the world and Esfahan is the spiritual home of Persian carpet where they are made using soft work wool and quite often feature silk detailing in a tightly woven pile that is usually very low. It’s the ultimate Esfahan souvenir to find a carpet that reflects the region and captures your heart, you’ll return home able to enjoy it for years to come and relive the magical memories of the bazaar.
Anyone who has browsed a market understands it’s exhausting work and makes for a hungry shopper by the time lunch rolls around. Luckily there are fantastic local eateries close to the bazaar such as Azadegan café, ranked among the best in Esfahan. You can enjoy Persian cuisine and great coffee and refuel ready to shop the afternoon away.
It wouldn’t be Iran without drinking tea, stroll around and explore a hole in the wall that grabs you - sit and sip tea and bite into something sumptuous like a 20 layer honey cake from Roozegar. Talk to the friendly local sitting beside you - Esfahan locals love to chat - and soak in everything about enchanting Esfahan and its people - this is the real Iran, and this is the epitome of Esfahan.