Now, let’s continue my buried travel-tales 🙂
Isfahan, Nefse Jahan, or which literally means Half of the World, is one of the largest cities in Iran. It is located 340 kms south of Tehran. Isfahan served several times as the capital city in the past. It was seemingly during Shah Abbas I (Safavid Dynasty), Isfahan experienced its golden era when the shah made the city his capital, which was rather safe from the threat of his arch-rival, Istanbul-based Ottoman Empire. Shah Abbas I also turned Isfahan into a beautifully cultured metropolitan city of that time, which can still be easily noticed today.
Our minibus departed from Kashan around 9 am and arrived at Isfahan at around 1 pm. Isfahan is quite accessible by several means of transportation, such as airplane, bus, car and train. In the current times, Isfahan is associated with technology. Industrial areas were seen to be set up adjacent to the city.
We arrived at Isfahan around lunch time. We soon headed to an Isfahan’s Armenian Church. Vank Cathedral, that’s how it is called, was built in 1606 by the Armenians, ordered by Shah Abbas I. The cathedral has profound Persian influence on its architecture. At that time, Safavid provided shelters for Armenians, as a result of Safavid-Ottoman war.
After enjoying tasty lunch, we checked-in at our hotel, took a rest and were ready to roam at Naqshah-e-jahan Square/ Imam Square/ Shah Square, which was only by walking distance from our hotel. The square, one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, was constructed between 1598-1629. It is surrounded by Imperial Bazaar and two masjids, Masjid Imam and Masjid Lotfollah.
We also took some time to visit Chehel Sotun Museum, which is another UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Isfahan. Chehel Sotun literally means Forty Columns. In reality, there were only 20 columns, which supported the front terrace plafond, the other 20 were from water reflection of the pool in front of the terrace. I personally admired the interior design and painting decorating the building. Unfortunately, the building was renovated at that time so the front terrace was covered here and there by scaffolding. The pool was not filled with water as well. However, I could still enjoy its meticulous floral and painting details.
There was a beautiful garden nearby the Chehel Sotun museum. I don’t remember its name, however it was also worth to visit.
The trip continued to Monarjonban, the Shaking Minaret. It is actually the mausoleum of ‘amm Abdollah Ibn Muhammad Ibn Mahmood, which is believed to be one of the mystic men, who passed away in 1316 AD. The building itself includes two minarets, 17 meters high from the ground level.
So, why is it called the shaking minarets? The reason being, if one minaret is shaken, the other minaret, which is 10 meters away, will move at the same frequency. I did not get satisfying explanation from the officer, but it obviously has something to do with the structure. By the end of the visit, I enjoyed pomegranate juice to quench my throat. In addition to Istanbul, Iran is the place where I could find the fresh drink.
Zoroastrianism seems to be always a part of Persians. One of many fire temples in Isfahan we visited was still preserved until today. However, I am not sure how many people still use it as the worship place. It looked well-maintained. We did not have time to climb up to the top of the hill to see the furnace. I was excited enough to pose for photos tho :).
And learning other cultures is always energizing!
When the sunset approached, we stopped by Siose-Pol Bridge. There were several other equally beautiful bridges in Isfahan, which were also main tourist attraction. We chose Siose-Pol Bridge because that was the most accessible at that time. Isfahan’s traffic jam could be painful after office hour, similar to Jakarta.
Just like other historical sites in Isfahan, Siose-Pol (33-arch Bridge) was built during Safavid era. It has two levels. The lower level is used for pedestrian and serves as the shady place for relaxing. The upper level is also used for pedestrian, but in the past, it was also used for horse riders and carriages.
What to buy/ souvenir
- Persian traditional snacks
- Persian-ethnic clothes. Aw, I still regretted that I did not buy that cardigan…
- Persian-ethnic table cloth, pillow cover, etc.
- Hijab, although most of them are ‘Made in Turkiye’.
- Isfahan is the perfect place to purchase Persian carpets. Its price ranges from USD 50 to bloody expensive. I found one silk carpet, its size is around 30 cm x 60 cm, the price was USD 400! If you are really interested, the merchant can arrange international shipping for you. And please keep in mind that you might have to pay for costums charges when collecting the goods in your country.
Note about Isfahan:
- Some sources cited that Salman al Farisi, one of Prophet Muhammad’s companion, was born in Isfahan. Salman al Farisi is known for his brilliant idea to suggest of digging the trench during the Battle of Trench. Prior to converting to Islam, he was a Zoroastrian and subsequently a Christian.
- If you find a souvenir or something you like at Isfahan, even it is just a fridge magnet, I’d recommend you to buy it. From my experience, Isfahan is the perfect place for shopping. Simple souvenir in Isfahan might not be found in other cities. It is better regret to buy things rather than not to buy it, haha.
- Isfahan people are decent with elegant attitude. The city is clean and cultured. The areas I visited were organized with blocks, just like typical European cities.
- You can find a wide range of food variety in Isfahan, from western to Asian kitchen, however it was already Iran-ised :). And please expect the ‘generous’ portion.
- Iranian are nice, however please ask for permission when taking their pictures. After all, who likes being candidly photographed by a stranger?
So, that is about Isfahan. At the end of my journey, Isfahan was the city I miss the most. Vibrant, yet elegant. It is an icon of technology and art in the past, present and hopefully future. Isfahan, like other cities in Iran, is starting to wake up from hibernation. And I would like to see more glowing from Isfahan in the years to come…