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Iran – Discovering the Traces of Old Persia in the Islamic Republic – The Imam Square in Isfahan. Episode 7

Imam Square Esfahan

Isfahan is the pearl of Persia, the pride of the entire nation and one of the most representative Islamic cities of the world. It is a city that one must not just visit, but enjoy it slowly, lose himself (or herself) among gardens, walk on the shores of the river, even if it is all drown up, stay in the Imam Square and admire the incredible city architecture, start chatting with the locals and fulfill their greatest wish – take a photo with them !

The hotel in which I was staying was just two steps away from the Imam Square. In the first evening, I did not have patience and after I threw my luggage in the room, I ran to the Imam Square… it was lit, but very discrete, in some places even artistic… So, next day, immediately after sunrise, I did not miss the opportunity to run again in the square… And in the shining of the Sun, Imam Square unveiled itself in her whole beauty.

Imam Square is the second largest square in the world, after the Tiananmen Square in the post-Mao version. Yes, although it is hard to believe, it is actually larger than the Red Square from Moscow. It is surrounded by an uninterrupted bazaar, but above these shops, the arches and the minarets of the some of the most beautiful mosques in the world rise. The beauty comes from the trademark art of Iran – the art of the mosaic! The huge entrance gates of the mosques (the so called iwan), but also the arches from above the premises are a delight of mosaics.

The square was created by Shah Abbas who after discussing his vision with the architect, ordered him to finish as quick as possible – Shah Abbas was already old when constructions started… To accelerate, the architect realised the old way of putting the mosaics one by one is far too slow for the ambitious deadlines. Instead, he decided not to glue one stone after the other, mosaics already arrived pre-arranged from the manufacturer.

All around the square, there are two mosques and one palace – Imam Mosque, Sheikh Loftfollah Mosque and the Ali Qapu palace. There is an entire theory of the geometries of these buildings and their symbols… what is sure is that the mosques are facing Mecca, which does not help too much for their perfect alignment having in mind the thought before geometry for the square… therefore the actual mosques are not aligned with the square. Instead, before entering the Mekkah – facing mosques, you need to pass some huge  typically Central Asian gates called iwans which open a gigantic door to the proper mosques.

I have entered in all the mosques without any problem. It sounds really weird, but in a country very liberal like Tunisia, the non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the mosques. In a country considered by a lot as fundamentalist, there is not any problem for you to visit. Actually, the mosque is not an exclusive place for praying… It is a place in which one can quiet down, one can meditate or can read. I have met a woman which told me that before her university exams, she went to study in the mosque… because it was quiet and has a proper atmosphere for deep memorizing of what one was reading… In fact, in Imam Mosque you have the sensation that all the centuries pass slowly besides you.

The whole square gravitates around some huge pools. As I have said, the water is a critical element for the Iranians… And the houses with pools in the middle cannot be but of only rich people.  Therefore, it is impossible for Imam Square not to have pools in which the elegance of the buildings to be reflected. And in which some children willing for a little adventure jump from time to time.

Probably, this is the place in which you can socialize best… The picnic is a national sport in Iran and in the central square, a lot of families come to sit and have fun. On top, one of the most enjoyed entertainments is to ride in a carriage. As the cars are not too much allowed in the square (they just cross its southern section), the carriage drivers feel the need of adrenaline and rush! Due to that, I do not remember how many times had I had to get out of their rush in a hurry… In the last instance, delivering post on horseback was invented by the Persians, what else is there to comment upon?

The square is also packed with artists… I have seen several high school classes (especially girls) brought in the square to paint. And the shops around it are full of paintings, sculptures, miniatures, old books… And because we were speaking about Iran as a so called intolerant country… One of the arts salesmen in the bazaar is Jewish, an old Jew with a small cap on his had… Torah and other holy Jewish books are in sight, in the middle of the city… Could he be the last Jew from Isfahan? And since we were talking about shops, in a corner of the market, there is a small area with two – three small shops which sell military effects – do you want an uniform of the Iranian special troops? No problem! So I bought a cap of the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force!

Obviously, just as I have arrived in the square, I have looked where I could climb in order to have the best possible panorama… There are a few restaurants, there is also a famous café at the southern end, but surely the best view can only be from the Ali Qapu palace – the Shah’s palace that has a huge terrace from where you can have a truly imperial view. The view almost makes you forget the palace’s other 6 floors full of wonders.

I have spent enough hours in the Imam Square. Honestly, I did not regret it one minute… But I have to take a few steps outside the square as well… because Isfahan has a lot to offer.

Pictures of Ima Square:

 Imam square Isfahan: Sheikh mosque

Welcome to Imam Square

 Imam square Isfahan: Ali Qapu

The Ali Qapu palace

Imam square Isfahan: Sheikh mosque

The Sheik’s Mosque

Imam Square Isfahan: Imam Mosque

The Imam’s Mosque

Imam square Isfahan: Imam Mosque

The Imam’s Mosque – interior

Imam mosque Isfahan: Imam Mosque

The cupola – where the mosaics mean art

Imam square Isfahan: Imam Mosque

The entrance in the mosque

Imam square Isfahan


Imam square: The old Bazaar of Isfahan

The Bazaar

Imam square Isfahan: Jew in the bazaar

The last Jew of Isfahan

Western female tourists in Iran

Imam Square Isfahan - military pilot of the Iran Air Force

Yes, Sir !!!

Imam square: Imam Mosque

Images from the terrace of the Ali Qapu palace – Imam Mosque…

Imam square: Sheikh Mosque

Sheikh Mosque

Imam square - cupola of Sheikh Mosque

And its incredible cupola

Imam square

Imam square

Imam square: Western girls in the Ali Qapu palace

In the Ali Qapu palace

Imam square - Iranian high school girls in uniforms

High school years

Imam square Isfahan by night

The square during the night

Imam square Isfahan

Good night, Isfahan !


Până acum există "1 comentariu" la acest articol:

  1. Siadeh says:

    Hi dear friend
    I’m a student at Isfahan University of art & doing a survey for my master thesis on” tourist preferences toward Isfahan handicrafts”.
    I have 400 questionnaire & time is running out for me.
    Can you please help me and answer my questionnaire and share its link with others?
    All the best.
    Saideh Salehi

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