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Added by ilia on 1 Sep 2013 02:38
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Isfahan

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Naqsh-e Jahan Square

known as Imam Square , formerly known as Shah Square , is a square situated at the center of Isfahan city, Iran. Constructed between 1598 and 1629, it is now an important historical site, and one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites. It is 160 meters wide by 508 meters long[1] (an area of 89,600 m2). The square is surrounded by buildings from the Safavid era. The Shah Mosque is situated on the south side of this square. On the west side is the Ali Qapu Palace. Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque is situated on the eastern side of this square and the northern side opens into the Isfahan Grand Bazaar. Today, Namaaz-e Jom'eh (the Muslim Friday prayer) is held in the Shah Mosque.
In 1598, when Shah Abbas decided to move the capital of his Persian empire from the north-western city of Qazvin to the central city of Isfahan, he initiated what would become one of the greatest programmes in Persian history; the complete remaking of the city. By choosing the central city of Isfahan, fertilized by the Zāyande roud ("The life-giving river"), lying as an oasis of intense cultivation in the midst of a vast area of arid landscape, he both distanced his capital from any future assaults by the Ottomans and the Uzbeks, and at the same time gained more control over the Persian Gulf, which had recently become an important trading route for the Dutch and British East India Companies.
The chief architect of this colossal task of urban planning was Shaykh Bahai (Baha' ad-Din al-`Amili), who focused the programme on two key features of Shah Abbas's master plan: the Chahar Bagh avenue, flanked at either side by all the prominent institutions of the city, such as the residences of all foreign dignitaries, and the Naqsh-e Jahan Square ("Examplar of the World").Prior to the Shah's ascent to power, Persia had a decentralized power-structure, in which different institutions battled for power, including both the military (the Qizilbash) and governors of the different provinces making up the empire. Shah Abbas wanted to undermine this political structure, and the recreation of Isfahan, as a Grand capital of Persia, was an important step in centralizing the power.The ingenuity of the square, or Maidān, was that, by building it, Shah Abbas would gather the three main components of power in Persia in his own backyard; the power of the clergy, represented by the Masjed-e Shah, the power of the merchants, represented by the Imperial Bazaar, and of course, the power of the Shah himself, residing in the Ali Qapu Palace.
The Maidan was where the Shah and the people met. Built as a two story row of shops, flanked by impressive architecture, and eventually leading up to the northern end, where the Imperial Bazaar was situated, the square was a busy arena of entertainment and business, exchanged between people from all corners of the world. As Isfahan was a vital stop along the Silk Road, goods from all the civilized countries of the world, spanning from Portugal in the West, to the Middle Kingdom in the East, found its ways to the hands of gifted merchants, who knew how to make the best profits out of them.
The Royal Square was also admired by Europeans who visited Isfahan during Shah Abbas' reign. Pietro Della Valle conceded that it outshone the Piazza Navona in his native Rome.
During the day, much of the square was occupied by the tents and stalls of tradesmen, who paid a weekly rental to the government. There were also entertainers and actors. For the hungry, there were readily available cooked foods or slices of melon, while cups of water were handed out for free by water-carriers paid for by the shop-keepers. At the entrance to the Imperial Bazaar, there were coffee-houses, where people could relax over a cup of fresh coffee and a water-pipe.These shops can still be found today, although the drink in fashion for the past century has been tea, rather than coffee. At dusk, the shop-keepers packed up, and the huzz and buzz of tradesmen and eager shoppers bargaining over the prices of goods would be given over to dervishes, mummers, jugglers, puppet-players, acrobats and prostitutes.
Every now and then the square would be cleared off for public ceremonies and festivities. One such occasion would be the annual event of Nowruz, the Persian New Year. Also, the national Persian sport of polo could be played in the maidan, providing the Shah, residing in the Ali Qapu palace, and the busy shoppers with some entertainment.The marble goal-posts, erected by Shah Abbas, still stand at either end of the Maydan.
Under Abbas, Isfahan became a very cosmopolitan city, with a resident population of Turks, Georgians, Armenians, Indians, Chinese and a growing number of Europeans. Shah Abbas brought in some 300 Chinese artisans to work in the royal workshops and to teach the art of porcelain-making. The Indians were present in very large numbers, housed in the many caravanserais that were dedicated to them,and they mainly worked as merchants and money-changers. The Europeans were there as merchants, Roman Catholic missionaries, artists and craftsmen. Even soldiers, usually with expertise in artillery, would make the journey from Europe to Persia to make a living.The Portuguese ambassador, De Gouvea, once stated that:
“The people of Isfahan are very open in their dealings with foreigners, having to deal every day with people of several other nations.”
Also, many historians have wondered about the peculiar orientation of the maidān. Unlike most buildings of importance, this square did not lie in alignment with Mecca, so that when entering the entrance-portal of the Shah Mosque, one makes, almost without realising it, the half-right turn which enables the main court within to face Mecca. Donald Wilber gives the most plausible explanation to this; the vision of Shaykh Bahai was for the mosque to be visible wherever in the maydān a person was situated. Had the axis of the maydān coincided with the axis of Mecca, the dome of the mosque would have been concealed from view by the towering entrance-portal leading to it. By creating an angle between them, the two parts of the building, the entrance-portal and the dome, are in perfect view for everyone within the square to admire.

Masjed-e Shah - The Pinnacle of Safavid Architecture

The Crown Jewel in the Naghs-e Jahan Square was the Masjed-e Shah, which would replace the much older Jameh Mosque in conducting the Friday prayers. To achieve this, the Shah Mosque was constructed not only with vision of grandeur, having the largest dome in the city, but Shaykh Bahai also planned the construction of a religious school and a winter-mosque clamped at either side of it.

The Lotfollah Mosque - The Private Room of the Shah's Harem

Of the four monuments that dominated the perimeter of the Naqsh-e Jahan square, the Lotfollah Mosque, opposite the palace, was the first to be built. The purpose of this mosque was for it to be a private mosque of the royal court, unlike the Shah mosque|Masjed-e Shah, which was meant for the public.For this reason, the mosque does not have any minarets and is of a smaller size. Indeed, few Westerners at the time of the Safavids even paid any attention to this mosque, and they certainly did not have access to it. It wasn't until centuries later, when the doors were opened to the public, that ordinary people could admire the effort that Shah Abbas had put into making this a sacred place for the ladies of his harem, and the exquisite tile-work, which is far superior to those covering the Shah Mosque.

Ali Qapu Palace

Ali Qapu (pronounced, ah-lee gah-pooh) is in effect but a pavilion that marks the entrance to the vast royal residential quarter of the Safavid Isfahan which stretched from the Maidan Naqsh-i-Jahan to the Chahar Bagh Boulevard. The name is made of two elements: "Ali", Arabic for exalted, and "Qapu" Turkic for portal or royal threshold. The compound stands for "Exalted Porte". This name was chosen by the Safavids to rival the Ottomans' celebrated name for their court : Bab-i Ali, or the "Sublime Porte"). It was here that the great monarch used to entertain noble visitors, and foreign ambassadors. Shah Abbas, here for the first time celebrated the Nowruz (New Year's Day) of 1006 AH / 1597 A.D. A large and massive rectangular structure, the Ali Qapu is 48 m (157 ft) high and has six floors, fronted with a wide terrace whose ceiling is inlaid and supported by wooden columns.
On the sixth floor, the royal reception and banquets were held. The largest rooms are found on this floor. The stucco decoration of the banquet hall abounds in motif of various vessels and cups. The sixth floor was popularly called (the music room) as it was here that various ensembles performed music and sang songs. From the upper galleries, the Safavid ruler watched polo games, maneuvers and horse-racing below in the Naqsh-i-Jahan square.

The Imperial Bazaar
The Bazaar of Isfahan is a historical market and one of the oldest and largest bazaars of the Middle East. Although the present structure dates back to the Safavid era, parts of it are more than a thousand years old, dating back to the Seljuq dynasty. It is a vaulted, two kilometer street linking the old city with the new.
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Ali Qapu

Ali Qapu is a grand palace in Isfahan, Iran. It is located on the western side of the Naqsh-e Jahan Square opposite to Sheikh lotf allah mosque, and had been originally designed as a vast portal. It is forty-eight meters high and there are seven floors, each accessible by a difficult spiral staircase. In the sixth floor music room, deep circular niches are found in the walls, having not only aesthetic value, but also acoustic
The name Ālī Qāpū, from Arabic Ālī, "Imperial or Great", and Turkic Qāpū meaning "gate", was given to this place as it was right at the entrance to the Safavid palaces which stretched from the Maidan Naqsh-i-Jahan to the Chahār Bāgh Boulevard. The building, another wonderful Safavid edifice, was built by decree of Shah Abbas the Great in the early seventeenth century. It was here that the great monarch used to entertain noble visitors, and foreign ambassadors. Shah Abbas, here for the first time celebrated the Nowruz (New Year's Day) of 1006 AH / 1597 C.E.
Ālī Qāpū is rich in naturalistic wall paintings by Reza Abbassi, the court painter of Shah Abbas I, and his pupils. There are floral, animal, and bird motifs. The highly ornamented doors and windows of the palace have almost all been pillaged at times of social anarchy. Only one window on the third floor has escaped the ravages of time. Ālī Qāpū was repaired and restored substantially during the reign of Shah Sultan Hussein, the last Safavid ruler, but fell into a dreadful state of dilapidation again during the short reign of invading Afghans. under the Qajar Nasir al-Din shah's reign (1848–96), the Safavid cornices and floral tiles above the portal were replaced by tiles bearing inscriptions.
Shah Abbas II was enthusiastic about the embellishment and perfection of Ālī Qāpū. His chief contribution was given to the magnificent hall, the constructures on the third floor. The 18 columns of the hall are covered with mirrors and its ceiling is decorated with great paintings.
The chancellery was stationed on the first floor. On the sixth, the royal reception and banquets were held. The largest rooms are found on this floor. The stucco decoration of the banquet hall abounds in motif of various vessels and cups. The sixth floor was popularly called (the music room).
Here various ensembles performed music and sang songs. From the upper galleries, the Safavid ruler watched polo, maneuvers and the horse-racing opposite the square of Naqsh-i-Jahan.
The palace is depicted on the reverse of the Iranian 20,000 rials banknote.
The Ālī Qāpū has multiple connotations, but generally connotes entrance or supreme gate to the complex of palaces and public buildings of the Safavid Government.
The Ālī Qāpū building was founded in several stages, beginning from a building with a single gate, with entrance to the government building complex, and gradually developed, ending in the existing shape. The period of the development, with intervals lasted approximately seventy years.
First Stage : The initial building acting as entrance to the complex was in cubical shape and in two stories, with dimensions measuring 20 x 19 meter and 13 meter high.
Second Stage : Foundation of the upper hall, built on the entrance vestibule, with cubical shape, over the initial cubic shape structure with the same height in two visible stories.
Third Stage : Foundation of the fifth story, the music amphitheater or music hall, built on the lower hall, using the central room for sky light, and thus the vertical extension being emphasized.
Fourth Stage : Foundation of the eastern verandah or pavilion advancing towards the square, supported by the tower shaped building. By foundation of this verandah, the entrance vestibule was extended along the main gate and passage to the market, perpendicular to the eastern flank of the building.
Fifth Stage : Foundation of the wooden ceiling of the verandah, supported by 18 wooden columns, and contemporaneous with erection of the ceiling, an additional stairway of the southern flank was founded and was called the Kingly Stairway.
Sixth Stage : During this stage a water tower was built in the northern flank for provision of water for the copper pool of the columned verandah. Plaster decorations in reception story and music hall.
The room on the sixth floor is also decorated with plasterwork, representing pots and vessels and one is famous as the music and sound room. It is certainly well worth visiting for the cut out decorations round the room, which represent a considerable artistic feat. These cut out shapes were not placed there to act as cupboards: the stuccowork is most delicate and falls to pieces at the highest touch. So we conclude that it was placed in position in these rooms for ornament and decoration. The rooms were used for private parties and for the King's musicians, and these hollow places in the walls retained the echoes and produced the sounds of the singing and musical instruments clearly in all parts.
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Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is one of the architectural masterpieces of Safavid Iranian architecture, standing on the eastern side of Naghsh-i Jahan Square, Isfahan, Iran.
Construction of the mosque started in 1603 and was finished in 1618. It was built by the chief architect Shaykh Bahai, during the reigh of Shah Abbas I of the Safavid dynasty.
It is registered, along with the Naghsh-i Jahan Square, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Of the four monuments that dominated the perimeter of the Naqsh-e Jahan Square, this one was the first to be built.
The purpose of this mosque was for it to be a private mosque of the royal court, unlike the Masjed-e Shah, which was meant for the public.For this reason, the mosque does not have any minarets and is of a smaller size. Indeed, few Westerners at the time of the Safavids even paid any attention to this mosque, and they certainly did not have access to it. It wasn't until centuries later, when the doors were opened to the public, that ordinary people could admire the effort that Shah Abbas had put into making this a sacred place for the ladies of his harem, and the exquisite tile- work, which is far superior to those covering the Shah Mosque.
To avoid having to walk across the maydān when getting to the mosque, Shah Abbas had the architect build a tunnel spanning across the piazza, from the Ali Qapu palace, to the mosque. When reaching the entrance of the mosque, one would have to walk through a passage that winds round and round, until one finally reaches the main building. Along this passage there were standing guards, and the obvious purpose of this design was for the women of the harem to be shielded as much as possible from anyone entering the building.At the main entrance of the mosque there were also standing guards, and the doors of the building were kept closed at all times. Today, these doors are open to visitors, and the passage traversing underneath the field is no longer in use.
The entry gateway, like those of the Grand Bazaar and the Masjed-e Shah, was a recessed half-moon. Also, like in the Masjed-e Shah, the lower facade of the mosque and the gateway are constructed of marble, while the haft-rangi tiles ("seven-coloured", "polychrome mosaics") decorate the upper parts of the structure.Creation of the calligraphy and tiles, which exceed, in both beauty and quality, anything created beforehand in the Islamic world, was overseen by Master calligrapher Ali Reza Abbasi.
One of the unique characteristics of the mosque is the peacock at the center of its dome. If you stand at the entrance gate of the inner hall and look at the center of the dome, a peacock, whose tail is the sunrays coming in from the hole in the ceiling, can be seen.
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Half Of The World

Isfahan historically also rendered in English as Ispahan, Sepahan or Hispahan, is the capital of Isfahan Province in Iran, located about 340 km south of Tehran. It has a population of 1,583,609 and is Iran's 5th largest city after Tehran, Mashhad, Karaj, Tabriz . 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.
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)

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