Esfahan nesf-e jahan
“Esfahan is half the world” – Persian poetry
My guide book was correct in saying that the above quote could only be truer in the geographical sense. This statement Esfahan is Iran’s most stately metropolis; a true city of class and sophistication, ranking amongst Rome and Athens in terms of history, cultural and architectural wonder. Esfahan is still, after 40 countries and 12 years of travelling, one of my favourites places in the world.
In central Esfahan is Imam Square. It is the world’s second largest square (after Tiananmen Square in Beijing). It is home to at least 5 mosques (there might be smaller ones hidden), a bazaar, fountains and countless tea-shops. All of these are tiled intricately with blue mosaic and some truly breathtaking designs. These buildings are regarded by historians as being among the world’s most spectacular Islamic architecture.
Imam Square is also where most of Esfahan‘s touts hang out, although they are soft-core compared with in other Middle Eastern cities. If you say that you don’t want to buy a carpet, they say “No? Ok… well you’re always welcome to drop by for tea if you like!” Very civilised indeed!
But the real star here is the square itself – walking among the tea shops and narrow marketplaces which ring the square; sitting and watching the breathtaking sunset over the fountains and domes; or getting lost in the cavernous, labyrinthine mosques, sideswept by the unfolding displays of mosaic beauty and spiritual devotion.