THE ZYANDEH-RUD AND ISFAHAN’S BRIDGES
The bridges over the Zayandeh-rud, the river that separates Isfahan from its southern bridge is the pol-e Shahrestan, which was probably built in the l2th century during the Seljuq period. Until recently, it was still located outside the town limits. This ten-arch bridge of stone and brick is the simplest of the old bridges and was originally defended on one side by a tower.
Further upstream is the pol-e-Khaju, perhaps the most famous of Isfahan bridges, and which has the unusual feature of serving as a sluice gate. in this desert climate, ensuring a sufficient and constant supply of water is of vital importance to the survival of a settlement. The problem was solved in various ways in Iran over the centuries most notably by building the famous qanat. In Isfahan this sluice gate was devised to allow the accumulation, in times of changes in the level of the river, of reservoirs of water. The gates are set in the water channels which run between the pillars of the bridge.
The pol-e Khaju was built by Shah Abbas II in 1650 on the site of an older bridge. It has 24 arches and is 132 metres (433 feet) long. The monotony of the arches is lightened by the presence of semi-octagonal pavilions on each side of the bridge. With its two storeys of arcades and its stone steps over which the water flows, the pol-e Khaju is certainly one of the most picturesque spots in the city The next bridge is the pol-e jubi, or Canal Bridge, 147 metres (482 feet) in length and formed of twenty-one arches, which was originally an aqueduct (now covered over) which supplied the gardens on the north bank of the river.
Slightly further upstream, at the end of Chahar Bagh Avenue and Enqelab-e Eslm Square, is the Allahverdi Khan Bridge, named after one of Shah Abbas generals who was responsible for its construction. It is more commonly known as Si-o-Se pol, or Bridge of Thirty-Three Arches. Built around 1600 during the reign of Shah Abbas I, it linked Isfahan with the Armenian suburb of jolfa. At 295 metres (968 feet) long it is by far the longest bridge in town. It has two levels of arcades and resembles the pol-e Khaju without being as architecturally complex. The small chaikhdneh (tea house) under the bridge on the south is a fun place to have tea or an ice cream or to smoke a qalian.
The last of the old bridges is the pol-e Marnan in the far west of town. It was partly destroyed by floods a few years ago and has been rebuilt recently.
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