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Isfahan travel story

It was about 5 pm that I arrived at Isfahan. As I was exhausted, I took a taxi and went straightly to the hotel for check-in. Among the hotels of Isfahan I chose Abbasi Hotel because I had read about it and wanted to see it. A Safavid(The dynasty ruling in Iran during 17th century) caravanserai that was renovated and turned into a hotel. Although the services were not as perfect as I expected, generally everything was good. I had dinner and slept early because I knew I have a big day tomorrow.

The next day I walked to Naghshe Jahan Square. It was not far and I got there about 15 minutes. I can say just one thing: Amazing. This magnificent structure with such a beauty demonstrates the prosperity of Iran and Isfahan during 17th and 18th century. With 87000 meters square area, it is the 2nd larrgest square in the world and it was built in 17th century by the order of Shah Abbas the 1st. The place is surrounded by 4 buildings that each one is another masterpiece. The north side, Qeisarieh Bazaar Gateway is located and on the south Shah Mosque, on the east, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, on the west Ali Qapu Palace and around the square the bazaar is located.

I didn’t which one I should start with. Finally I made my mind and decided to start with Ali Qapu Palace. I took the ticket and went inside. The heart of the Safavid Kingdom since this was the place that all the importing decisions were made here. An interesting point that I noticed about Ali Qapu was that if you stand in front of the monument, it looks like it has 2 floors. From the sides, looks like a 3 floor, and from behind 5 floor one but it is an actually a 6 floor palace. In the narrow halls inside, I saw some guide posters that explained about the gradual construction of the building. As I got to the stairs, there was a massive crowd waiting for some way to pass in those curly stairs. Anyway, I made my way and went to the balcony. I got to the balcony where we could have a view of the whole square and some parts of the city. It’s a strange feeling that we were exactly where Safavid kings used to sit and watch polo games or watch fireworks during the New Year ceremonies in the square. The wall paintings here are amazing. We keep going up to see the last floor known as the Acoustic Room. Here was the place that anyone admired Iranian art and engineering. They made some holes in the walls in the shape of Iranian musical instruments functioning as stabilizers and when the players played their instruments in the room, the king and the associates heard a clearer and softer sound.

After Ali Qapu I went to Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque which with no exaggeration is the most breathtaking place that I have seen in my life. As I stepped foot in the corridor I realized this is not a kind of place just to visit but to get drowned in. I passed the corridor and reached the main hall and suddenly I gasped at the view.

 “Is this really a man’s work?” that’s what I was thinking in that moment. As I went under the dome with tiles full of colors and that smooth light, I saw myself in the gate way of heaven; a heaven made by Iranian Architectures. In comparison to other historical mosques in Iran this one is small because this was not a public place for all people to come and say the prayers but just for the royal family and that’s why there is no yard or minaret for it. In the center of the dome there is a design of a peacock that if you stand through the front door you can see it. It is interesting that actually there is no such a painting or design and it is totally made by the light. Isn’t it brilliant? The more I looked the more I got stuck by surprise; I couldn’t get enough of the mosque so I lied down under the dome to stare at that beauty for hours. After the mosque I wandered in the square and the bazaar and after that went to hotel to sleep.

The next day was my last day in Isfahan and I had time to take a stroll in the city and I chose to go to Chahar-Bagh Street. Literally meaning Four Gardens, the street was built by the order of Shah Abbas the First in 17th century. It is really a garden-like street especially if you be there in the spring. At the two sides of the street you can see tall elm trees and the sidewalk in the middle. It has been a year that they turned the asphalt street to pavement and no motor vehicles are allowed in there. It was weekend and some of the shops were closed but the street was less crowded and while I was walking, a gentle spring breeze blew and caressed young leaves and blooms. Everything was ready for me there to start a wonderful day. It was 11 in the morning; the sun was shining although with all those trees I just could see a set of soft sun rays crawling out of thick branches of trees. By a taxi I went to the neighborhood of Armenians where there are lots of great cafés and teahouses and also some churches that all date back to the 17th century. I chose the most famous one which was called Vank. I found it on the map and went towards it. After a 10 min walking I got there. I took the ticket and got inside. A big yard, that on the corner I saw a few tombs belonging to the bishops working there in the recent centuries. At the left side was a museum and on the right, the doorway of the church. I was so curious to see what a Christian structure would look like in an Islamic country. I went inside and literally got amazed. An unbelievable combination of Persian and Christian architecture. The paintings, tiles, colors, each and every one was a complementary for the other parts. The church was full of paintings telling the stories of the Old Testament. There were a series of paintings picturing the life of Jesus from his birth until his crucifixion by a storyline painted clockwise on the walls. But the most important painting was under the dome, in the main hall that they called it Heaven and Hell. It showed different layers and stores of heaven, inferno and hell. Above all, God has been painted and then Virgin Mary and Jesus. In the middle was the Scale of Justice and the bottom lines were dedicated to sinners. As the painting descends from heaven to the hell, the use of warm colors increases; the first layer is full of green, blue and white colors and the last layer is a mixture of black, brown and red that represents fire and blood. We can also see the portrait of the devil in the painting. I spent almost 2 hours in there and after that I went to the museum of the church. The objects mostly circled around two subjects: The participation of Armenians in Iran’s constitutional war in the beginning of the 20th century, and the massacre of Armenians by The Ottoman Empire during the First World War. There was an Interesting hair under a microscope there, with an Armenian sentence written on it. Very delicate!

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