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Isfahan or Esfahan ( Esfahān, Old Persian: Aspadāna, Middle Persian: Spahān), historically also rendered in English as Ispahan or Hispahan, is located about 340 km south of Tehranmarker and is the capital of Isfahan Provincemarker and Iranmarker's third largest city (after Tehranmarker and Mashhadmarker). Isfahan city had a population of 1,583,609 and the Isfahan metropolitan area had a population of 3,430,353 in the 2006 Census, the second most populous metropolitan area in Iran after Tehranmarker.

The cities of Najafabadmarker, Khaneh Esfahan, Khomeini-shahrmarker, Shahin-shahrmarker, Zarrinshahrmarker, Mobarakeh, Falavarjanmarker and Fouladshahr 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 Squaremarker in Isfahan is one of the biggest city squares in the world and an outstanding example of Iranian and Islamic architecture. It has been designated by UNESCOmarker as a World Heritage Site. The city also has a wide variety of historic monuments ranging from the Sassanid to the Safavid dynasties. Remaining Islamic architectural sites were built from 11th to the 19th century, while older, pre-Islamic monuments date back to 1000 B.C.

History

Detail of Khaju Bridge.


Prehistory

The history of Isfahan can be traced back to the Palaeolithic period. In recent discoveries, archeologists have found artifacts dating back to the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze and Iron ages.

Elamite Empire

Ancient Isfahan was part of the Elamite Empire. Under the name of Aspandana, it became one of the principal towns of the Median dynasty. Subsequently the province became part of the Achaemenid Empire. After the liberation of Iran from Macedonian occupation by the Arsacids, it became part of Parthian Empire. Isfahan was the centre and capital city of a large province, which was administered by Arsacid governors. In the Sassanid era, Isfahan was governed by "Espoohrans" or the members of seven noble Iranian families who had important royal positions, and served as the residence of these noble families as well. Moreover, in this period Isfahan was a military centre with strong fortifications.

Islamic Era

Isfahan fell temporarily under the rule of Arabs until the Abbasid era, only being attended to by Al-Mansur. In the 10th century, under the Buwayhid Dynasty, Isfahan regained its importance. In the reign of Malik Shah I of the Seljuk dynasty, Isfahan was again selected as capital and commenced another golden age. In this period, Isfahan was one of the most thriving and important cities of the world. The famous Persian philosopher Avicenna lived and taught there in the 11th century.

In 1387, Isfahan surrendered to the Turko-Mongol warlord Timur. Initially treated with relative mercy, the city revolted against Timur's punitive taxes by killing the tax collectors and some of Timur's soldiers. In retribution, Timur ordered the massacre of the city residents and his soldiers killed a reported 70,000 citizens. An eye-witness counted more than 28 towers, each constructed of about 1,500 heads.

As the result of its suitable geographic situation, Isfahan flourished again especially during the Safavid dynasty.

The Golden Age of Isfahan arrived in the 16th century under Shah Abbas the Great (1587-1629), who conquered it and made it the new capital of the Safavid dynasty. During the reign of Shah Abbas I, who unified Persia, Isfahan reached its pinnacle. Isfahan had parks, libraries and mosques that amazed Europeans, who had not seen their like on their continent.

The Persians called Isfahan, Nesf-e-Jahan (half the world), meaning that to see it was to see half the world, and also referring to it as a point where many cultures and nationalities meet and mingled. In its heyday, Isfahan was one of the largest cities, with a population of over half a million; 163 mosques, 48 religious schools, 1801 shops and 263 public baths.

In 1722, following the defeat of the Safavids in the Battle of Gulnabad, Afghansmarker raided Isfahan after a long siege, which left much of the city in ruins. Although the Afghans were a primary cause of Isfahan's decline, it can also be attributed to competition from maritime commerce developed by European merchants from such countries as the Netherlandsmarker. Isfahan's wealth originated in its role as a chief waystation along the trans-Asia trade route (such as the Silk Road). Such land trade dwindled as the cheaper sea routes increased in popularity for transporting commodities between Asia and Europe.

Modern age

Today Isfahan, the third largest city in Iran, produces fine carpets, textiles, steel, and handicrafts. Isfahan also has nuclear experimental reactors as well as facilities for producing nuclear fuel (UCF). Isfahan has one of the largest steel-producing facilities in the entire region, as well as facilities for producing special alloys.

At Isfahan uranium is converted into uranium hexafluoride (UF6). In its gaseous form it is spun at high speed in the centrifuges to extract the fissile isotope. Isfahan is Iran's only domestic source of UF6. According to IAEAmarker in 2006, Iran was building hardened bunkers under Isfahan to protect UF6 production.

The cities of Najafabadmarker, Khaneh Esfahan, Khomeini-shahrmarker, Shahin-shahrmarker, Zarrinshahrmarker, Mobarakeh, Fouladshahr and Falavarjan constitute the metropolitan city of Isfahan. The city has an international airportmarker and is in the final stages of constructing its first Metro line.

Over 2000 companies are working in the area using Isfahan's economic, cultural, and social potentials. Isfahan contains a major oil refinery and a large airforce base. HESA, Iran's most advanced aircraft manufacturing plant (where the IR.AN-140 aircraft is made), is located nearby.

Isfahan hosted the International Physics Olympiad in 2007.

Geography and climate

The city is located in the lush plain of the Zayandeh Rivermarker, at the foothills of the Zagrosmarker mountain range. The city enjoys a temperate climate and regular seasons. No geological obstacles exist within 90 km north of Isfahan, allowing cool northern winds to blow from this direction. Situated at 1590 meters above sea level, Isfahan is still very hot during the summer with maxima typically around . However, with low humidity and moderate temperatures at night, the climate can be very pleasant. During the winter, days are mild but nights can be very cold and snow is not unknown. However, on the whole Isfahan's climate is extremely dry. Its annual precipitation of is only about half that of Tehranmarker or Mashhadmarker and only a quarter that of more exposed Kermanshahmarker.

Culture

Architecture and landmarks

Khaju Bridge.
33 Pol Bridge.


The architecture of Isfahan is made up of eight traditional forms which taken together form the foundation in the same way that music was once based on a finite number of notes. These are modulated by the use of colors and textures to leaven the surfaces and are held together in an overall construction akin to that of a sonata in which connection leads to culmination through a transition space. To appreciate the skill of the architects and designers fully, it is necessary to have an appreciation of these fundamental concepts, i.e., garden, platform, porch, gateway, dome, arched chamber, and minaret, although in the geometry and architecture of the buildings they are woven together to present a seamless whole.A full discussion of the underlying principles can be found in the paper entitled "The Alchemy of the Mosque", given to a joint meeting of the School of Architecture and the Islamic Society of the University of Manchester in 1997.

Historical sites

Squares and Streets




Palaces


Old schools (Madresse);


Mosques


Caravanserais
  • Shah Carvanserai


Bazaars


Bridges


The Zayandeh Rud (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 nicest architecture in Isfahan. The oldest bridge is the "Pol-e Shahrestan," which was probably built in the 12th century 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 it 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 Polmarker 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 295m.

Churches and Cathedrals


Bathhouses (Hammam)
  • Khosro Agha
  • Ali Gholi Agha
  • Khajouha
  • Shahzadeha
  • Bigdeli
  • Sheikh Bahaei
Houses
Other sites
  • Atashgahmarker - a Zoroastrian fire temple.
  • Buqe'h-ye Ibn-Sina (Avicenna's Dome) - 12th Century.
  • The Tombs of Nizam al-Mulk & Malek Shah - 12th & 18th Century.
  • New Julfamarker (The Armenian Quarter).
  • The Bathhouse of Sheikh Bahai.
  • Pigeon Towers - 17th Century.
  • Manar Jonban, a famous minaret


Art

An old master of hand-printed carpets in Isfahan bazaar.
Hand crafted, hand painted pottery.


Mina
Ghalam Zani
Rug manufacture


Isfahan has long been one of the centers for production of the famous Persian Rug. Weaving in Isfahan flourished in the Safavid era. But when the Afghans invaded Iran, ending the Safavid dynasty, the craft also became stagnant.

Not until 1920s, between two world wars, was weaving again taken seriously by the people of Isfahan. They started to weave Safavid designs and once again became one of the most important nexus of the Iranian rug weaving industry. Esfahani carpets today are among the most wanted in world markets, having many customers in western countries.

Esfahani rugs and carpets usually have ivory backgrounds with blue, rose, and indigo motifs. Rugs and carpets often have very symmetrical and balanced designs. They usually have a single medallion that is surrounded with vines and palmettos and are of excellent quality.

Food

  • 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.


  • Isfahan is famous for its Beryooni. 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. Beryooni is generally eaten with a certain type of bread, "nan-e taftton". Although it can also be served with other breads.

    See also Biryani.


Famous people

Artists


Actors & Movie Directors
Painters
Political figures
Religious figures


Sportspeople


Writers and poets
Others


Education

Central library of Isfahan.
Aside from the seminaries and religious schools, the major universities of the Isfahan metropolitan area are:



There are also more than 50 Technical and Vocational Training Centers under the administration of Isfahan TVTO which provide non-formal training programs freely throughout the province.

Sports

Isfahan has two football (soccer) clubs that have been title contenders in Iran's Premier Football League. These are:



International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Isfahan is twinned with:


Gallery

File:Naghshe Jahan Square Isfahan modified.jpg|View of Shah Mosquemarker from Naqsh-e Jahan Squaremarker.File:Zeer pol e khaju.jpg|Pedestrians are offered tea in the resting areas under the historic Khaju Bridgemarker.File:Sio se pol.jpg|The famous Si-o-se Polmarker over the Zayandeh rudmarker is considered the epitome of Safavid bridge design.File:Vank_Cathedral,_Armenian_Quarter,_Esfahan,_Iran.jpg|Kelisa-e Vank, the Vank Cathedralmarker.File:Inscription-Esfahan.JPG|Geometric calligraphy at the Friday Mosque.File:Carpet-Trader.jpg|Isfahani carpet trader.File:Ali Qapu night.jpg|view of Ali Qapu Palace at nightFile:Choobi.JPG|Choobi or Joui( پل جویی ) bridge.File:Khaju Bridge.jpg|Khaju BridgemarkerFile:Khajou.jpg|Khaju Bridgemarker at night.File:Shah mosque.JPG|Shah Mosquemarker at night.File:Abbasi Hotel.jpg|Abbasi HotelFile:Sheikh lotfolla.jpg|Sheikh Lotf Allah MosquemarkerFile:Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque dome orange.jpg|Interior view of the dome, Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosquemarker.File:Jamé_Mosque_Esfahan_courtyard.jpg|Jamé Mosque of IsfahanmarkerFile:Es23.jpg|Chahar Bagh School


See also



References

  1. 2006 Census Results (Statistical Center of Iran, Excel file, in Persian.)
  2. "Isfahan Is Half The World", Saudi Aramco World, Volume 13, Nr. 1, January 1962
  3. Fisher, W.B.; Jackson, P.; Lockhart, L.; Boyle, J.A. : The Cambridge History of Iran, p. 55.
  4. "Iran - is military action feasible?", The Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 25 January 2006
  5. Contact Us (from the HESA official company website)
  6. Isfahan Technical and Vocational Training Organization




External links

Governmental websites
Other websites






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