Esfahan ( Esfahān, Old Persian: Aspadāna, Middle Persian: Spahān),
historically also rendered in English as Ispahan
or Hispahan, is located about 340 km south of
Tehran and is the capital of Isfahan Province and Iran's third
largest city (after Tehran and Mashhad).
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 Tehran.
of Najafabad, Khaneh Esfahan, Khomeini-shahr, Shahin-shahr, Zarrinshahr, Mobarakeh, Falavarjan 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
Square 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 UNESCO as a
World Heritage Site.
city also has a wide variety of historic monuments ranging from the
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.
Detail of Khaju Bridge.
The history of Isfahan can be traced back to the Palaeolithic
period. In recent discoveries,
have found artifacts
dating back to the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic
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
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.
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
, 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
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
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.
following the defeat of the Safavids in the Battle of Gulnabad, Afghans 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 Netherlands.
Isfahan's wealth originated in its role as
a chief waystation
along the trans-Asia
trade route (such as the Silk Road
land trade dwindled as the cheaper sea routes increased in
popularity for transporting commodities between Asia and Europe
Today Isfahan, the third largest city in Iran, produces fine
carpets, textiles, steel, and handicrafts. Isfahan also has
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
). 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 IAEA in 2006, Iran was building hardened bunkers under
Isfahan to protect UF6 production.
of Najafabad, Khaneh Esfahan,
Khomeini-shahr, Shahin-shahr, Zarrinshahr, Mobarakeh, Fouladshahr
and Falavarjan constitute the metropolitan city of Isfahan.
has an international airport 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
most advanced aircraft manufacturing plant (where the IR.AN-140
aircraft is made), is located
Isfahan hosted the International Physics
Geography and climate
is located in the lush plain of the Zayandeh River, at the foothills of the Zagros mountain
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 Tehran or Mashhad and only a
quarter that of more exposed Kermanshah.
Architecture and landmarks
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.
- Squares and Streets
- Old schools (Madresse);
The Zayandeh Rud (river) starts in the Zagros Mountains, flows from
west to east through the heart of Isfahan, and dries up in the
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 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
- Churches and Cathedrals
- Bathhouses (Hammam)
- Khosro Agha
- Ali Gholi Agha
- Sheikh Bahaei
- Other sites
- Atashgah - a Zoroastrian fire temple.
- Buqe'h-ye Ibn-Sina (Avicenna's Dome) - 12th Century.
- The Tombs of Nizam al-Mulk & Malek Shah - 12th & 18th
Julfa (The Armenian Quarter).
- The Bathhouse of Sheikh Bahai.
- Pigeon Towers - 17th Century.
- Manar Jonban, a famous minaret
An old master of hand-printed carpets
in Isfahan bazaar.
Hand crafted, hand painted
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- Jalal al din Taj
Esfahani,1903-, one of the best vocalists of classical music of
- Hasan Kasaie,1928-, greatest ney
player of Iran (ney is a musical instrument used in Iran's
- Jalil Shahnaz, 1921-, greatest
Tar player of Iran
- Freydoon Rassouli, famous
artist and Founder of Fusionart movement
- Master Ahmad Archang famous
artist and designer of Isfahan rug patterns
- Alireza Eftekhari, 1956-,
vocalist of popular and classical music
- Mohammad Esfahani, popular
- Moein, 1951-, popular and classical
- Hassan Shamaie zade, music
- Actors & Movie Directors
- Sumbat Der Kiureghian,
سمبات دِركي وُرقيان, the best Isfahanian Armenian painter
حسين مصورالملكي, one of the best painters and miniaturists
- Yervand Nahapetian, 1917-,
يرواند نهاپطيان, Isfahanian Armenian painter
- Freydoon Rassouli, An American
painter born and raised in Isfahan
- Ostad Javad
Rostamshirazi, 1919-, Isfahanian painter
- Mahmuod Farshchian, 1930-,
the best miniaturist of Iran
- Political figures
- Shapour Bakhtiar, Ex Prime
Minister of Iran
- Ahmad Amir-Ahmadi, 1906-1965,
military leader and cabinet minister of Iran
- Hossein Kharrazi, chief of army
in the Iran & Iraq war
- Abdollah Noori, ?-, reformist
politician and cleric
- Mohsen Nourbakhsh, 1948-2003,
economist, Governor of the Central Bank of Iran
- Hossein Fatemi, 1919-1954, PhD,
- Nusrat Bhutto, Chairman of
Pakistan Peoples Party from
1979-1983, wife of Zulfikar Ali
Bhutto, and mother of Benazir
- Religious figures
- Allamah al-Majlisi,
1616-1698, Safavid cleric, Sheikh
ul-Islam in Isfahan
- Ayatollah Yousef Sanei,
1927-, reformist cleric
- Ayatollah Rahim Arbab, 1847-?,
- Ayatollah Mohammad
Beheshti, 1928-1981, cleric, Chairman of the Council of Revolution of
- Writers and poets
- mohamad ali
jamalzadeh,1891-1977, father of story writing of Iran
- Mokrame Esfahani,
- Hatef Esfahani,1198(died) moral
- Houshang Golshiri, 1938-2000,
writer and editor
- Mirza Abbas Khan Sheida,
1880-1949, poet and publisher
- Hamid Mosadegh, 1939-1998, poet
- Hassan Safdari, poet and
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.
Isfahan has two football (soccer) clubs that have been title
contenders in Iran's
Premier Football League
. These are:
Twin towns — Sister cities
Isfahan is twinned
File:Naghshe Jahan Square Isfahan
modified.jpg|View of Shah
Mosque from Naqsh-e Jahan Square.File:Zeer pol e khaju.jpg|Pedestrians are
offered tea in the resting areas under the historic Khaju Bridge.File:Sio se pol.jpg|The famous Si-o-se Pol over the Zayandeh rud is considered the epitome of Safavid bridge
Vank, the Vank
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 BridgeFile:Khajou.jpg|Khaju Bridge at night.File:Shah mosque.JPG|Shah Mosque at night.File:Abbasi Hotel.jpg|Abbasi
HotelFile:Sheikh lotfolla.jpg|Sheikh Lotf
Allah MosqueFile:Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque dome
orange.jpg|Interior view of the dome, Sheikh Lotf
Allah Mosque.File:Jamé_Mosque_Esfahan_courtyard.jpg|Jamé Mosque of IsfahanFile:Es23.jpg|Chahar Bagh School
- 2006 Census Results (Statistical Center of
Iran, Excel file, in Persian.)
- "Isfahan Is Half The World", Saudi Aramco
World, Volume 13, Nr. 1, January 1962
- Fisher, W.B.; Jackson, P.; Lockhart, L.; Boyle, J.A. : The
Cambridge History of Iran, p. 55.
- "Iran - is military action feasible?",
The Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 25
- Contact Us (from the HESA official
- Isfahan Technical and Vocational Training
- Governmental websites
- Other websites
- Esfahan on Iran Chamber Society
- Isfahan Cultural Heritage Organization
- Isfahan Architecture (Quicktime required)
- Isfahan (a video documentary)
- Esfahan, half the world
- Shapour Bahrami, Esfahan, Iran, Photo Set, flickr
- HORIZON, Isfahan, Photo Set, flickr
Note: This is an outstanding photo set of which
almost all photographs have been provided with explanatory
captions. The set also contains a brief history of Esfahan and its
magnificent architecture. For details, one should view the expanded
- Ali Attār, Isfahan's Ancient Pigeon Towers, Jadid
Online, 2008, link .
Slide Show, with a Persian narration and English
subtitles, Jadid Online, 2008: 5 min 21 sec.
- Isfahan History in carpets and rugs
- Hamid-Rezā Hosseini, Persian Bath (Hammam-e
Irāni), in Persian, Jadid Online, December 19, 2008,  .
A slide show of the Ali-Qoli Āqā bath in Esfahan: 5 min 57 sec.