With some spare time I made a quick visit to Isfahan in Iran .
Landing in Shahid Beheshti International Airport at Isfahan it was obvious that its buildings had not been modernized for years, perhaps since the Iranian revolution.
A relatively quick drive of some 30mins took me into Isfahan’s town centre, where I stayed a short stroll from Naghsh-e Jahan Square. The famed square is a classic Persian ‘garden of paradise’ an enclosed formal space based on a grid, usually sunk and with water features; a descendant of the first formal gardens at Persopolis.
Enclosing the square is an elegant bazar, with identically planned shops having an entrance onto the square and into the covered interior of the Bazar Bozorg; which held a little piece of England. The bazar links three separate major buildings from the early 17thc .
The Ali Qapu Palace appears to be a pavilion from which to see and be seen. Inside a series of often elaborately decorated rooms rise above the square. In the early 17thc Robert Shirley arrived from England into Isfahan, where he married Teresa an Iranian Christian.
In Ali Qapu Palace Isfahan a stucco portrait shows a man and a woman in European style dress, perhaps the Shirleys or maybe Dutch traders.
Opposite Ali Qapu Palace is the much-admired Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, which was designed to have access by tunnel from Ali Qapu Palace and itself is an enclosed space.
The mosque was renovated in the early 20th c. by Reza Shah Pahlavi who also permitted non-Muslims to visit this previously private royal mosque, to visitor’s great benefit.
On the square’s south is the Shah Mosque a traditional open Iwan style mosque from the early 17thc, with a series of substantial courtyards.
The Bazar Bozorg connects Naghsh-e Jahan with an even earlier public square about a 2-kilometre walk north through the amazing arched brick walkways.
These eventually lead to the 8thc Jameh Mosque that is next to this earlier square. Like many public buildings in Isfahan, this mosque is under renovation. Happily, visits are still possible and this enabled me to see the massive paving stones used for the floors, presumably similar stone is used in the other mosques.
To the west of Naghsh-e Jahan Square is another palace, Chehel Sotoun, set in an elegant garden.
As with so many palaces in Isfahan, this has beautiful paintings which portray court life.
South of this impressive area of historic buildings, boulevards extend toward the river.
The mid 17thc Khaju Bridge leads to the Bidekhem Church Isfahan.
Isfahan deserves more time than a couple of days,
perhaps the sight of Oman Air on its way into Tehran means that I will be on a future flight into Iran.