Esfahan was my last major stop in Iran, and what better way than to end my trip in the most beautiful city in the country! Above is Naqsh-e-Jahan square, the largest square in all Iran. It’s length is about four football fields long, and it is said that the sport polo was first played here centuries ago. The square was built in 1602 and is an excellent example of Iranian and Islamic architecture. The surrounding historical buildings are filled with museums, mosques and other important sites. Next to the square are some of the largest bazaars I’ve ever visited.Like the photo above? It’s far sale here!
There are all types of shops and restaurants in the bazaar that surround Naqsh-e-Jahan square. Above are two shots I took while exploring the bazaar. The man on the right is a locally well known artist who paints traditional Persian paintings on plates made out of camel bones. These are quite common in Iran, but this artist’s detail was amazing.
Also in the bazaar I visited a well respected shop in Esfahan with some of their carpets on display above. The carpet on the right was actually my favorite because of the different colors and details that were put into it. I was told it costs $27,000!
The Zayande River that has its source in the Zagros mountains runs straight through the heart of Esfahan bringing much needed water in the arid climate. The river is crossed many times within Esfahan by some beautiful bridges such as Si-o-Seh Pol above, which is translated as bridge of 33 arches. This foot bridge was built in 1602 and is a great place to go for a walk on a nice day or evening.
Further up the river is Khaju bridge built in 1650 with 24 arches. This bridge seemed to be a popular hangout spot for locals. There was a small group of about three people who were singing a song that attracted the attention of locals as well as the police who came by to check it out. I never saw uniformed police officers while walking around in Iran except for here. The police watched the crowd and singers for a short while then went about their business.
I’d compare Tehran to New York City and Esfahan to Washington DC. Although Esfahan is the country’s third largest city with lots to do, it doesn’t have the overcrowded feel as parts of Tehran do. The main streets of Esfahan are lined with electronic and clothing stores, and plenty of restaurants and shopping malls. It was here that I tried “Kentucky House”, a knock off of KFC that also offered pizza. I didn’t try the actual ZFC that I photographed on the right. I’m not sure if KFC being so popular in other parts of the middle east and Asia decided to franchise their company out to someone from Iran under the name of ZFC, or if a local just copied them on their own.
There are a number of religions in Iran, such as the few remaining Zoroastrians and a small population of Jews and Christians. In Tehran I hear there are about a dozen Synagogues throughout the city. In Esfahan and Tehran I saw many Armenian churches, one example is this 17th century Vank Cathedral.
The inside of the church was beautifully decorated just like the mosques I had visited in Iran. Unlike their Islamic counterparts though, the church had painted several morbid scenes from hell at the bottom of some of their murals while the center parts showed earth and the very top depicted heaven.
The monastery had a large museum inside that showed everything from bibles and artifacts, to photos from the Armenian genocide when over a million people were killed in Turkey. The museum had over a dozen ancient bibles on display such as these two above. They also had portraits of Armenian religious leaders and artifacts from their history. Since I had already visited Armenia I was aware of the genocide that occurred by the Turks in the early 20th century. It’s one thing to read about it, but seeing some of the gruesome photos of torture and death really showed how evil the Ottoman empire had been.