Didem Doğan

From Tehran to Isfahan

We are departing from Tehran by bus before sunrise. Since it was the spur of the moment, we could not find a seat on any flight. We are determined to travel for five hours just to spend a single day in Isfahan. Since the sun has not risen yet, travelling on a straight road in the dark feels like we are in a film stage similar to David Lynch movies. As the scenery is lighted up we realise we are going through deserts. The landscape spread before us is an unchanging image to the right and the left: yellowish-brownish deserts which extend through the whole country in dirt in this colour. We wonder how one of the oldest civilisations exist in a geography that almost sustains no living creature. But our limited perception soon changes. The beautiful city of Isfahan on the riverside, the capitol city during the Safavid period which attained the zenith of its development in the 16th century and became the second capitol city of the Persian Empire, surrounds us with its palaces, bridges, mosques, and shops.

We first watch the city on top of one of the hills that surround it, we then go downtown to get to know both sides of the river. Starting at the southern border of the river, we visit the neighbourhood of New Jolha and the Vank Church Alley is located. Considered as the principal church of Armenians, the Church of the Cathedral is named Saint Joseph of Arimathea - one of the disciples of Jesus Christ who brought Christ’s body down from the cross after crucification-. Armenians were forced to immigrate during the Safavid era at the beginning of seventeenth century and this neighbourhood of New Jolha is where a dominant Armenian population lives. The Music Museum and the Art Faculty is also located here at his neighbourhood.

We then go to the northern side of the river, the historical centre of Esfahan can be discovered on foot and there are so many places to visit that makes it impossible to complete it in one day. Going inside the Chehel Soutoun Palace we see an entrance with a long pool, in fact it is a pavilion not a palace stands behind it, the twenty columns at the entrance of the pavilion seem as forty with its the reflection on the pool, that’s why they call it the forty column palace. The pavilion itself is not too big, it was built mainly for royal receptions and ceremonies. We goo inside and look at the interior walls with its mosaics and frescos where scenes of the war with the Ottomans at the Battle of Chaldiran are depicted. We then continue to the famous Naqsh-e Jahan Square which is one of the biggest squares of the world. Meaning ‘Image of the World’ in Persian, the square is It is surrounded by buildings from the Safavid era of 16th and 17th centuries. It is worth climbing the stairs of the Ali Qapu Palace that is located at the western side of the square, there is an interesting music hall inside it, the terrace gives you fantastic views of the square. The Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is right at the opposite side, at the eastern part. The amazing masterpiece is the Shah Mosque at the southern side. The exterior as well as the interior, with various tones of the blue, a perfect symmetry, the calligraphy art, the tiles, every detail is a proof of the perfection of an architectural heritage taken from the Seljuks and that has reached to a level of masterpiece here at the Shah Mosque.

As the sun is about to set we rush to the Siosepol Bridge, one of the eleven bridges in Esfahan, meaning the bridge with 33 arcs, is about 300 meters, was built in the Safavid period. When the sun day ends, the locals come here to watch the sunset, walk from one side to the other, take pictures, the sunlight reflects on the water and everything looks magical in this town.