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The moment you step into Isfahan (Esfahan), you realize why the city attracts visitors by the droves. Its numerous tree-lined avenues, mesmerizing Persian gardens and vibrantly colored mosques are a treat for the eyes. You realize that this city is a living museum. All thanks to the artisans creating stunning Iranian rugs, picturesque bridges and UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Isfahan is the capital of Isfahan Province. It is about 340 kilometers south of Tehran, the capital of Iran. The city is located in the fertile plains of the Zayanderood River, along the foothills of Zagros Mountain range. It is at an altitude of 1,590 meters above sea level.
The nearest peak is Mount Soffe, which is south of the city. However, there is no geological barrier preventing the cool winds from the north blowing into City, which offer respite in the humid summer months.
Isfahan has an arid climate, with hot summers despite its altitude. You can expect the average temperature in summer to be about 35 deg Celsius. However, once the sun sets, the temperature falls. With low humidity levels, you will find this City a pleasant place to roam around in the evenings and night.
In the winter months, the days are mild, but make sure you bring enough woolies for the night. As the mercury dips significantly at night. Snowfall is common during the winter months.
Isfahan gets its name from Middle Persian word Spahan. This name has been found in many inscriptions and seals dating back to that era. Ptolemy also made reference to the city in his work entitled Geographia. Here, the town was referred to as Aspadana, which translates to place for the army to gather.
The rich history of City dates back to the Paleolithic era. Archaeologists have found artifacts from not just Paleolithic era, but also from Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age.
Historians have stated that at the end of the 6th century, City was divided into two, with two different communities inhabiting each region. It is believed that the area that later on became Isfahan started out as a settlement and was gradually developed during the Elamite Civilization spanning from 2700 to 1600 BC.
After Cyrus the Great, who ruled from 559 to 529 BC, united Persia and the Median Empire. This form the Achaemenid Empire and City turned into an example of the emperor’s religious tolerance. This made Islamists and Jews living in total harmony.
In 642, the Arabs conquered Isfahan and they turned it into the capital of al-Jibal Province. However, the region experienced development and progress for the first time during the Buyid Dynasty reign. The city continued flourishing under the rule of Toghril Beg from the Seljuk Dynasty after he made this City into his kingdom’s capital. However, true splendor came to Isfahan only after the reign of Tughril Beg’s grandson, Malik Shah I. He ruled from 1073 to 1092
Modern-day Esfahan is Iran’s third largest city. It is famous for producing fine carpets, textiles, steel and a traditional sweet called Gaz. The city is also home to Iran’s nuclear reactors and facilities.
The 2011 census put the city’s population at 1,756,126 and that of the greater metropolitan area at 2,391,738. The majority of the population in Isfahan is Persian and speaks Persian. However, the city also boasts minority communities of Georgians, Armenians, Persian Jews and Bakhtiari Lurs.
While the official language of Isfahan is Persian, the different ethnic communities speak their own language among themselves.
A visit to Isfahan will become more memorable if you try out the traditional dishes of the city. It will allow you to savor what the local love and also introduce you to the unique tastes and aromas.
The most famous preparation from Isfahan is perhaps the Beryani. It is a dish that made using the ground or minced lamb meat and lungs that are cooked just on one side in a pan on an open fire.
Fereni is another dish that is unique to Isfahan. This dish contains milk, water and rice flour and served in bowls. It is a popular street food that most Isfahan love to consume.
There is no question of coming to Isfahan and not indulging in a treat called Gaz. It is a candy made from the stems and juices of a plant called angebin. The juices is a mixing of pistachio nuts or almonds, rosewater and egg white to form nougats. The candy does not come individually. You can purchase it in a box, but once you develop a taste for it, you will love this unique candy.
The city of Isfahan has given Iran many celebrities and well-known personalities. Maybe the most popular celebrity from a bygone era is Shah Abbas I. He was responsible for choosing Isfahan as the capital of the Safavid Dynasty.
Nasser David Khalili is a British school, philanthropist and collector. Khalili was born in Isfahan in a Jewish-Iranian family. They soon left the city to relocate to the US to pursue higher education. Princess Soraya, the queen consort of Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was born in Isfahan to Khalil Esfandiary, a nobleman and Iran’s ambassador to West Germany.
A former prime minister of Iran, Dr. Jamshid Amouzegar, also called Esfahan his home. He was the prime minister from August 1977 to August 1978. Before taking the helm of the nation, Dr. Amouzegar was the Minister of Finance and Minister of Interior.
This might surprise you, but Iran has a women’s football team and the captain of this team is Niloufar Ardalan, was born in Esfahan.
There is no dearth of wonderful historical landmarks and monuments in Isfahan. The most popular is Naqsh-e Jahan Square, which is home to a bazaar, a palace and two mosques. It is the second largest public square in the world after China’s Tiananmen Square. This square is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and will leave you in awe. Surrounded by structures and buildings, this Bazaar dates back to the Safavid era.
You can also visit Imam Mosque. Built in Persian architecture, this mosque is known for its seven-color mosaic tiles and calligraphy. The mosque is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well.
Built in the 17th century, Ali Qapu Palace is 48 meters high with seven stories. The sixth floor of the palace is a musical room that heightens acoustics with its unique circular wall niches.