The Wheel and Axle

Persia 2017: Bazaars and Bridges

by on Oct.12, 2017, under My Life, Travel & Culture

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Naqsh-e Jahan Square
Isfahan, Iran
26 September 2017

About four centuries old and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Naqsh-e Jahan Square is a highlight of the city of Isfahan, situated right at the center of the busy city. It is surrounded by the Ali Qapu Palace, two mosques, and the Isfahan Grand Bazaar. Historic and grand, the Square has been a haven for tradesmen as well as ceremonies for hundreds of years.

The Square was commissioned by Shah Abbas as a show of power after the capital of Persia was moved to Isfahan in 1598. Designed by chief architect Bahā’ al-dīn al-‘Āmilī, the Square consolidates the three symbols of power of Persia into his own domain: the clergy, as represented by the mosque; the merchants, as represented by the bazaar; and his own power, represented by the palace.

Maidan, the Royal Square itself, was an arena for commerce as well as entertainment. This was (and remains to be) a glory Isfahan, which was a significant central stop in the Silk Road. It was essentially a place where East met West. Here, goods as well as culture were exchanged between Asia and Europe, adding to the unique flavor and atmosphere of the city.

Exploring the Square requires an entire day’s worth of touring. Not only is it expansive, but one will also get caught in just as admiring the architecture, chatting with shopkeepers, doing shopping  and eating. Due to time constraints, we only went inside the Shah Mosque and the Bazaar, and we weren’t able to enter the Ali Qapu Palace any more. That’s okay; at least we have something more to look forward to next time.


The Shah Mosque
Isfahan, Iran
26 September 2017

Also known as the Imam Mosque and the Royal Mosque, the Shah Mosque is located on the south side of the Naqsh-e Jahan Square. Like the Square itself, the Shah Mosque is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is over four hundred years old. Aside from its religious significance, it is also considered an artistic and architectural masterpiece. The Muslim Friday prayer, known as Namaaz-e Jom’eh, is held at this mosque.

We spent about an hour or two inside the mosque. It is huge and beautiful, although there were sections undergoing construction. The intricate designs on walls and ceilings are simply amazing. A highlight is one of the central domes, underneath which the acoustics are fantastic – speak softly, and your voice can echo across the vast room. This was perfect for religious leaders who spoke to large crowds during those days without microphones.


The Imperial Bazaar
Isfahan, Iran
26 September 2017

The Isfahan Grand Bazaar, also known as the Qeysarriyeh Bazaar and the Imperial Bazaar, has its roots in the 11th century, even before it was incorporated into the Square. It acts almost like a border or wall around Naqsh-Jahan Square as it snakes almost around the entire area, opening at the northern Keisaria gate. Shopkeepers here sell various goods that will whet the appetite of many tourists who want to bring a piece (or ten) of Isfahan – and of Persia – back home.

The Bazaar is quite extensive. We were not even able to visit all the stores that went all around the Square, and we already spent many hours that lasted until mid-afternoon. It is a cultural shopper’s orgasmic dream. There are spices, food, candies, “costumed” photography, souvenirs, handwoven carpets, copper plates, clocks, intricate lamps, and literally hundreds of things that can somehow take you back to a time when ancient merchants plied their trade here.

Really, the Bazaar is not just a shopper’s paradise. It is a trip into culture and history.


Si-o-se-pol
Isfahan, Iran
26 September 2017

After returning to our hostel from shopping at the Bazaar and then freshening up, we made our way to one of the many beautiful bridges of Isfahan late in the afternoon, with the purpose of seeing the bridge before and after sunset.

Popularly known as Si-o-se-pol, the Allahverdi Khan Bridge is the longest of eleven Isfahan bridges along the Zayanderud River. At over four hundred years old, it has 33 arches and is magnificent to behold, especially at night. It is a pretty busy bridge that saw a lot of people walking and even just hanging out in the many arches.

After spending time in the Si-o-se-pol area until early evening, we went back to the Naqshe-e Jahan to see it at night and to the Imperial Bazaar to have a glorious dinner. We then retired back to our hostel for our final overnight in this beautiful country.

 

Naqsh-e Jahan Square

 

The Shah Mosque

 

The Imperial Bazaar

Behind the scenes: photography in costume!

Prince of Persia

 

Si-o-se-pol

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