The City of Isfahan briefly
Esfaha Nesf-e-jahan, ‘Isfahan is half the world’
This well-known saying was originally coined to describe Isfahan in Safavid times, when the city was at the height of its glory Even today, Isfahan remains one of the Iran's most beautiful cities and its monuments can be ranked among the most splendid of the Islamic world The atmosphere in town is a relaxed one: this is a place to wander in, to get to know slowly, with its gardens, its river side and its shopping streets. It is a town that contains a multitude of hidden treasures and a quick visit, even if it takes in the main monuments, will hardly do it justice. However, many Iranians do not share these feelings about Isfahan and will tell you that its inhabitants are mean and unpleasant people; best to see for yourself and make up your own mind.
The main monuments of Isfahan are essentially the work of one man, Shah Abbas the Great, who made the town his capital in 1598 and had it rebuilt according to a precise plan, with large avenues, magnificent gardens and a royal palace. Isfahan history is considerably older than the Safavid Dynasty; some scholars have even identified it with the Achaemenian city of Gaba mentioned by Strabon.
The remains of two Sassanian fire temples suggest that an important centre existed here at that time, a centre which may well have been the city of Djay. The earliest detailed information about Isfahan is from the beginning of the Islamic period The town was then composed of two sections, one of which was the old city of Djay called the shahrestan, that is the town itself. Outside its walls was a Jewish colony, the Yahoudiyeh, founded, according to local tradition by Jews deported from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar (it is, however, more likely that the Yahoudiyeh dates from Sassanian times).
From 935, Isfahan was governed by the Buyid Dynasty, and after that, at the beginning of the 11th century, by a local dynasty, the Kakuyids. The urban development which had begun under the Buyids continued under the Seljuqs, in particular during the reigns of Alp Arslan and Malik Shab, when Isfahan briefly became the capital. It was at this period that work on the Friday Mosque began. In 1228, the town was captured by Genghis Khan's Mongol troops but seems not to have suffered. In 1338, however, at the time of Tamerlane invasion, the inhabitants of the city rebelled rather than pay ransom money to the conqueror. As a result, the entire population was massacred.
The transfer of the Safavid capital to Isfahan by Shah Abbas in 1598 marks the beginning of the city most glorious period. The decision to move the capital was a strategic one, prompted by fear for the safety of the old capitals, Tabriz and Qazvin, which were considered too close to the Ottoman Empire. Shah Ismail (1501-1524) had already begun work on several gardens and palaces in Isfahan but it was during Shah Abbas' reign that the city finally took the form that it still partly visible today, centred around the Royal Square and Chahar Bagh Avenue. Concerned about developing trade in his new capital, Shah Abbas ordered the deportation of entire Armenian families from Jolfa, in Azerbaijn, to the southern suburbs of Isfahan. Due to the presence at the Safavid court of a large number of foreigners-English and Dutch merchants from the East India Companies, European artists, and diplomats hoping to secure alliances against the common Ottoman enemy-Isfahan was opened up to the outside world, and became one of the most glorious cities of its time.
|Chahar Bagh Boulevard|
This splendor and magnificence lasted only just over a century Isfahan was mined by the Afghan invasion at the beginning of the l8th century and by Nader Shah decision to transfer the capital to Mashhad in 1736,a move which relegated the city to the role of a provincial town.
During the l8th and l9th centuries, Isfahan had a half-abandoned look to it; when the French writer Pierre Lott visited it at the beginning of this century, he wrote : ‘Approaching, one is struck by the sad state of these buildings that promised such splendor from afar! ... Where they are exposed to the winter winds, the domes and minarets all but stripped of their long-patient mosaics, seem eaten away by a grey leprosy’.
Isfahan's main monuments are centered around the following areas: the Royal Square and Chahar Bagh Avenue, the Friday Mosque, and on the other bank of the river, Jolt Most of the buildings are from the Safavid period, although a few monuments from the Seljuq dynasty (the Friday Mosque, the Sareban and Forty Daughters minarets, the Shahrestan Bridge) and the Mongol dynasty (the tomb of Baba Qasim, imdmzddeh Jaffar) still remain.
Your feedback is extremely valuable to us, and will be useful for others.
So let us to have your comments.