Esfahan – Half the World

Written by Donovan January 7, 2018 Category: Asia, Iran Tags: , , , , , , , , Comments

Esfahan is a city in central Iran, south of Tehran and is the capital of Esfahan Province. The Persians call it “Nesf-e-Jahan”, meaning “Half The World”. Due to its beautiful hand-painted tiling and magnificent public square, it is considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. An ancient town and capital of Persia from 1598 to 1722, it was long noted for its fine carpets and silver filigree. Today, textile and steel mills take their place. Its architecture, tree-lined boulevards and relaxed pace make it one of the highlights of Iran.

My favourite place in Esfahan is Naqsh-e Jahan Square. It is a square situated at the center of the city. Constructed between 1598 and 1629, it is now an important historical site, and one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. It is 160 metres (520 ft) wide by 560 metres (1,840 ft) long. The square is surrounded by buildings from the Safavid era. The Shah Mosque is situated on the south side of this square. On the west side is the Ali Qapu Palace. Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque is situated on the eastern side of this square and at the northern side Keisaria gate opens into the Isfahan Grand Bazaar. With beautiful fountains in the middle and sunny weather on an autumn day, it attracts many people to just sit around at the benches or picnic on the grass patch. At night, it gets chilly so most people would walk inside the bazaar where they are sheltered from the wind.

Being interviewed to do a music video for the promotion video of Esfahan.

There are two mosques in the vicinity of Naqsh-e-Jahan square and each mosque has beautiful turquoise tiles symbolic with Islamic architecture.

Just outside Naqsh-e-Jahan square lies Chehel Sotun palace.

Chehel Sotoun is a pavilion in the middle of a park at the far end of a long pool, in Isfahan built by Shah Abbas II to be used for the Shah’s entertainment and receptions. In this palace, Shah Abbas II and his successors would receive dignitaries and ambassadors, either on the terrace or in one of the stately reception halls.


Esfahan is a city of bridges. There are several bridges which serve as crossings over the Zayanderud river. Some of the bridges are for pedestrians only while others are for cars. Unfortunately, due to a water crisis, the river was dried up when we visited. So people were seen walking on the river bed which had rocks exposed. These bridges appear more magnificent at night due to the lighting.

Most of Iranians call it Si-o-Se Pol – the bridge of 33 arches. The bridge connects central Chahar Bagh to the lower part of Chahar Bagh Avenue. It was built in 1602. Allah Verdi Khan supervised construction of this bridge. The bridge is 300 meters long and 14 meters wide. On the two sides of the bridge low arcade can be seen. A beautiful view of river can be seen from alcoves located on two sides of bridge. The bridge is covered to traffic, only pedestrian pass over it.
The Khaju Bridge is very famous bridge in Iran, due to its pleasing construction idea. It looks similar to the Si-o-se Pol bridge. It is one of the oldest bridge in Isfahan, Iran. The bridge serves as a link between Zoroastrian quarters and north banks, through the river Zayandeh River.
Ferdowsi bridge for vehicular traffic.

Besides Persians, there is also a sizeable Armenian community in Iran. They fled Armenia during the Armenian genocide to seek refuge in Iran. Now they are Iranians by nationality but they continue to uphold their Armenian traditions and also their religion which is Christianity. Walking around the Julfa neighbourhood in Esfahan exposed some interested facets of their lives.

New Julfa is still an Armenian-populated area with an Armenian school and sixteen churches, including Surp Amenaprgitch Vank, which is a Unesco World Heritage site, and undoubtebly one of the most beautiful churches in Iran.

Holy Savior Cathedral , also known as Vank Cathedral and The Church of the Saintly Sisters, is a cathedral in Isfahan, Iran. Vank means “monastery” or “convent” in the Armenian language.One of the largest and most beautiful churches of Iran, the cathedral was completed in 1664. It includes a bell-tower, built in 1702, a printing press, founded by Bishop Khachatoor, a library established in 1884, and a museum opened in 1905.
Julfa neighbourhood

During our time in Esfahan, we were lucky enough to be invited to a baby’s first tooth party. The baby, whose name is Rasa, had just grown his first tooth and our host threw a party for him at the secondary mansion. It was an enormous house with a private swimming pool located on the outskirts of the city, so making lots of noise would not disturb any of the neighbours. We also had a chance to stir a huge cauldron of almond paste which was being prepared for a religious ceremony.

Celebrating the first tooth party for my host’s baby. It is not really a tradition but something celebrated by more well-to-do families.
Me and Rasa, the boy whose first tooth just grew out.
As part of a religious ceremony, almonds were cracked and thrown into this huge pot to be simmered together with some sugar and water, forming a thick paste. The mixture was left to cool overnight and was served the next day.
With two of the children at the party. The one on the left spoke quite good English as he was willing to practise while his brother does not understand much English.

Overall, I enjoyed my 3 days in Esfahan as I got to meet many Iranians and chat with them about their perception of life in Iran and the young people shared with me their aspirations.

Lastly, here is The Central post office where I sent out many postcards to my friends. I was transferred from counter to counter as I wanted to buy philately stamps, to send a postcard and a letter. Sending a letter in an envelope cost $6.25, but my friend wanted it so I did it on his behalf. Sending a postcard only costs $0.75. Such a huge difference!

Central post office in Esfahan
Daniel helped us to order a snapp taxi at the bus terminal, then he showed us around the city. He is studying in Iran while his family is in Kuwait. He does not look forward to serving his military service after his studies.

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