Esfahan – Safavid glow and the ghost river

09th of August 2017 ​(18 Mordad 1396), 39°C, clear sky and no wind. Arrived at the capital of the Safavid empire the day before.

Farnaz, a sweet medical doctor, friend of Samaneh (with whom I stayed in Tehran), was waiting for me at the bus station to take me to see the most turistic place in all Iran, the Nasghe Jameh Square. This jaw dropping Safavid architectural marvel is composed by a huge garden surrounded by a two storey building (nowadays full with souvenir shops). On the south side sits the Shah Mosque, on the east side the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, on the north the entrance to the Bazaar and on the west the Ali Qapu Palace. As it was already too late to visit them we just sat down on the grass and watched​ the spectacle… Turists riding horse carriages around the square, hundreds of selfie sticks raised into the air, children playing in the fountain pool, the sun setting down, local families preparing the carpets for the picnics and the full moon rising… It’s one of those places where you can feel joy in the air, everybody was​ smiling!

Nasghe Jameh Square
Shah Mosque detail
Iranians picnicking with Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque on the background

We had dinner together with Farnaz’s friend Amir, a laid-back chemical engineer. And we had it the local way, picnicking in the middle of the square surrounded by Iranian families laying on their carpets, under a magical full moon. The food was the traditional Iranian vegetables and noodles soup, Ash reshteh (I’m not sorry that I was living the moment and completely forgot about the photos :-P).

As Farnaz couldn’t host me and I didn’t found any Couchsurfing host either, spent the night at Amir Kabir Hostel (10€, very international, crappy bathroom, good breakfast), where I met a wonderful swiss couple that had been traveling Asia for nine months already, thus we stayed up till late talking about travel experiences… they gave me really nice tips and advices. Merci beaucoup mes amis! (They are from Lausanne, hence the French)

The next morning went to the Bazaar to do some shopping, after which went to visit the Shah Mosque, which was under restoration works… And the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, the “most beautiful mosque in the world” as they say, although they also say that “Esfahan is half of the world” so I’m not sure where it leaves us… Anyway Sheikh Lotfollah is the most beautiful I had seen so far, you can’t compare it with the grandiosity of Süleymaniye mosque in Istanbul (view post), this one is very small, but has a sublime simplicity, everything in there is in perfect harmony and exhales peacefulness. It was built by order of Shah Abbas I in 1602AD, originally has a mosque exclusively for women. 

Visited also the Ali Qapu Palace, where the Shah used to receive nobel visitors, another masterpiece of the Safavid architecture, it hosts beautiful (badly preserved) frescoes.

Clothes shop at Esfahan Bazaar​
Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque interior
Ali Qapu Palace

After a break for lunch (an ordinary burger) went to the south side of the city and visited the trendy Armenian quarter, Jolfa, and it’s churches, especially the Vank Church. From the outside it might look like just another mosque to the more distracted, but inside the intensity of its frescoes depicting scenes from the Bible is overwhelming. In there one can also visit a museum explaining the origin of the place: the Armenian genocide (in the beginning of the 20th century the Ottoman Empire undertook an ethnic cleansing killing approximately two million Armenians and forcing another two million to flee from their lands).

Vank Church

After Jolfa, headed east to watch the sunset colouring the fomous bridges over the Zayandeh ghost river (it was completely deviated for human consumption).

Khaju brigde

Farnaz’s and another Amir joined me for dinner (chicken sandwich). We talked a lot about music and their plans to go to Europe to study and work. They helped me recharging my mobile data and I ended up spending the night at Amir’s nice apartment.

Farnaz and Amir

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