Iman Square, Esfahan

The second largest square in the world (after Tiananmen Square), Esfahan’s Iman Square is a stunning civic space, lined with beautiful architecture and filled with history. The closest comparison for me is if Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaar were co-located.

It’s also one of the few places in Iran I found not overrun with cars and bikes, though you do need to watch out for the horse drawn carriages endlessly lapping the square.

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is regarded as one of the most beautiful Islamic buildings in the world, and it is certainly impressively decorative, both inside and out, particularly as daylight streams in.

However unlike any other mosque I visited it felt like a tourist attraction rather than a place of active worship. It was filled with the noise of tourists and their cameras (which I am as guilty of as anyone) which took away from the experience.

The Imam Mosque dealt with this through it’s vastness, and particularly in the evenings it is clearly a place of worship. Although regarded as one of the masterpiece of Islamic architecture I was a little underwhelmed, felt like an exercise in quantity over quality. I much preferred the Friday mosques in Shiraz and Yazd for their craftsmanship and attention to detail. It’s still an impressive place to visit though, with superb acoustics. Ali Qapu Palace is a gravity defying (for the time) six stories and 38m high, and offers the best views of the square from it’s fourth floor balcony.

Though before reaching there you past under more elaborate ceilings.

The best is saved for last, with the quite wonderful and unique music room, on the top floor.

Finally surrounding the square is part of the even larger bazaar, home to endless carpet, copper, miniature, cloth, woodwork, and trinket shops, plus a few nice cafes.

Author: jontycrane

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