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Isfahan

Isfahan, historically also rendered in English as Ispahan, Sepahan, Esfahan or Hispahan, is the capital of Isfahan Province in Iran, located about 340 kilometres (211 miles) south of Tehran.

It has a population of 1,583,609 and is Iran's third largest city after Tehran and Mashhad. The Greater Isfahan Region had a population of 3,793,101 in the 2011 Census, the second most populous metropolitan area in Iran after Tehran. The cities of Zarrinshahr, Fooladshahr and Najafabad, Se-deh, Shahin-shahr, Mobarakeh, Falavarjan and Charmahin all constitute the metropolitan city of Isfahan.Isfahan is located on the main north-south and east-west routes crossing Iran, and was once one of the largest cities in the world. It flourished from 1050 to 1722, particularly in the 16th century under the Safavid dynasty, when it became the capital of Persia for the second time in its history. Even today, the city retains much of its past glory. It is famous for its Islamic architecture, with many beautiful boulevards, covered bridges, palaces, mosques, and minarets. This led to the Persian proverb "Esfahān nesf-e jahān ast" (Isfahan is half of the world). The Naghsh-e Jahan Square in Isfahan is one of the largest city squares in the world and an outstanding example of Iranian and Islamic architecture. It has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The city also has a wide variety of historic monuments and is known for the paintings and history.
Persia's Capital
In 1598 Shah Abbas the Great moved his capital from Qazvin to the more central and Persian Isfahan, called Ispahān in early New Persian so that it wouldn't be threatened by his arch rival, the Ottomans. This new importance ushered in a golden age for the city, with architecture, prestige, and Persian culture flourishing. From Abbas' time and on, the city was also settled by thousands of deportees from the Caucasus (Most notably Georgians) wich Abbas and his predecessors had settled en masse in Persia's heartland. At the end of the 16th century the city is said to have at least 250 000 Georgian inhabitants. During the time of Abbas and on Isfahan was very famous in Europe, and many European travellers made an account of their visit to the city, such as Jean Chardin. This all lasted until it was sacked by Afghan invaders in 1722 during the Safavids heavy decline. The capital subsequently moved several times until settling in Tehran in 1795.[citation needed] In the 20th century the city was settled by very large amounts of peoples from south Iran, firstly during the population movements in the early 20th century, but also in the 1980's following the Iran-Iraq war.The city is located in the lush plain of the Zayandeh River, at the foothills of the Zagros mountain range. No geological obstacles exist within 90 kilometres (56 miles) north of Isfahan, allowing cool northern winds to blow from this direction. Situated at 1,590 metres (5,217 ft) above sea level on the eastern side of the Zagros Mountains, Isfahan has an arid climate (Köppen BWk). Despite its altitude, Isfahan remains very hot during the summer with maxima typically around 36 °C (97 °F). However, with low humidity and moderate temperatures at night, the climate can be very pleasant. During the winter, days are mild while nights can be very cold. Snow has occurred at least once every winter except 1986/1987 and 1989/1990. The Zayande River starts in the Zagros Mountains, flows from west to east through the heart of Isfahan, and dries up in the Kavir desert.
The bridges over the river include some of the finest architecture in Isfahan. The oldest bridge is the "Pol-e Shahrestan", which was probably built in the 1100s during the Seljuk period. Further upstream is the "Pol-e Khaju", which was built by Shah Abbas II in 1650. It is 123 metres long with 24 arches, and also serves as a sluice gate.The next bridge is the "Pol-e Jubi". It was originally built as an aqueduct to supply the palace gardens on the north bank of the river. Further upstream again is the Si-o-Seh Pol or bridge of 33 arches. Built during the rule of Shah Abbas the Great, it linked Isfahan with the Armenian suburb of Jolfa. It is by far the longest bridge in Isfahan at 295 m (967.85 ft).
Other bridges include:
•    Pol-e Shahrestan (The Shahrestan bridge)
•    Marnan Bridge
•    Pol-e Khaju (Khaju Bridge) – 1650.
•    Si-o-Seh Pol (The Bridge of 33 Arches) – 1602.
•    Pol-e-Joui or Choobi (Joui Bridge). - 1665
Churches and cathedrals
•    Bedkhem Church - 1627
•    St. Georg Church - 17th century
•    St. Mary Church - 17th century
•    Vank Cathedral – 1664
Emamzadehs
•    Emamzadeh Ahmad
•    Emamzadeh Esmaeil, Isfahan
•    Emamzadeh Haroun-e-Velayat - 16th century
•    Emamzadeh Jafar
•    Emamzadeh Shah Zeyd
Gardens and Parks
•    Birds Garden
•    Flower Garden of Isfahan
•    Nazhvan Recreational Complex
Houses
•    Alam's House
•    Amin's House
•    Malek Vineyard
•    Qazvinis' House - 19th century
•    Sheykh ol-Eslam's House
Mausoleums and Tombs
•    Al-Rashid Mausoleum - 12th century
•    Baba Ghassem Mausoleum - 14th century
•    Mausoleum of Safavid Princes
•    Nizam al-Mulk Tomb - 11th century
•    Saeb Mausoleum
•    Shahshahan mausoleum - 15th century
•    Soltan Bakht Agha Mausoleum - 14th century
Minarets
•    Ali minaret - 11th century
•    Bagh-e-Ghoushkhane minaret - 14th century
•    Chehel Dokhtaran minaret - 12 century
•    Dardasht minarets - 14th century
•    Darozziafe minarets - 14th century
•    Menar Jonban - 14th century
•    Sarban minaret
Mosques
•    Agha Nour mosque - 16th century
•    Hakim Mosque
•    Ilchi mosque
•    Jameh Mosque
•    Jarchi mosque - 1610
•    Lonban mosque
•    Maghsoudbeyk mosque - 1601
•    Mohammad Jafar Abadei mosque - 1878
•    Rahim Khan mosque - 19th century
•    Roknolmolk mosque
•    Seyyed mosque (Isfahan) - 19th century
•    Shah Mosque - 1629
•    Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque - 1618
Museums
•    Contemporary Arts Museum Isfahan
•    Museum of Decorative Arts
•    Natural History Museum of Isfahan - 15th century
Schools (madresse)
•    Chahar Bagh School - early 17th century
•    Harati
•    Kassegaran school - 1694
•    Madreseye Khajoo
•    Nimavar school - 1691
•    Sadr school - 19th century
Palaces and caravanserais
•    Ali Qapu (The Royal Palace) – early 17th century
•    Talar Ashraf (The Palace of Ashraf) – 1650
•    Hasht-Behesht (The Palace of Eight Paradises) – 1669
•    Chehel Sotoun (The Palace of Forty Columns) – 1647
•    Shah Caravanserai
•    Najvan Forest Park
Squares and streets
•    Naqsh-e Jahan Square also known as "Shah Square" or "Imam Square" – 1602.
•    Meydan Kohne (Old Square)
•    Chaharbagh Boulevard – 1596.
•    Chaharbagh-e-khajou Boulevard
Isfahan is an important historical center for different groups of tourists in the domestic and international world. The central historical area in Isfahan is called Seeosepol (the name of a famous bridge).
Other sites
•    Atashgah – a Zoroastrian fire temple.
•    New Julfa (The Armenian Quarter). - 1606
•    The Bathhouse of Bahāʾ al-dīn al-ʿĀmilī.
•    Pigeon Towers – 17th century.
•    Takht-e Foulad
Food
•    Isfahan is famous for its Beryuni. This dish is made of baked mutton & lungs that are minced and then cooked in a special small pan over open fire with a pinch of cinnamon. Beryuni is generally eaten with a certain type of bread, "nan-e taftton." Although it can also be served with other breads.

•    Fesenjan – a casserole type dish with a sweet and tart sauce containing the two base ingredients, pomegranate molasses and ground walnuts cooked with chicken, duck, lamb or beef and served with rice.
•    Gaz – the name given to Persian Nougat using the sap collected from angebin, a plant from the tamarisk family found only on the outskirts of Isfahan. It is mixed with various ingredients including rose water, pistachio and almond kernels and saffron.
•    "Khoresht-e mast" (yoghurt stew) is a traditional dish in Isfahan. Unlike other stews despite its name, it is not served as a main dish and with rice; Since it is more of a sweet pudding it is usually served as a side dish or dessert. The dish is made with yogurt, lamb/mutton or chicken, saffron, sugar and orange zest. Iranians either put the orange zest in water for one week or longer or boil them for few minutes so the orange peels become sweet and ready for use. People in Iran make a lot of delicate dishes and jam with fruit rinds. This dish often accompanies celebrations and weddings.
•    Pulaki – the name given to a type of Isfahani candy which is formed to thin circles like coins and served with tea or other warm drinks.

 

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AMIR H. HESHMATI
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