For those of us who love to travel, perhaps Isfahan is a familiar name. Isfahan is a stunning and romantic city located in central Iran. It sits majestically on both the east-west and north-south trade routes which traverse the country. The city is famous for its astonishing gardens and architecture as it combines natural elements with manmade components to create a unique artistic achievement that reflects the heights of art, philosophy, and religious concepts. Isfahan 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, Isfahan retains much of its past glory. This truly magnificent city is renowned both domestically and internationally for its many beautiful boulevards, covered bridges, splendid palaces, grand mosques, and impressive minarets. This has led to the Persian proverb "Esfahan nesf-e jahan" which means “Isfahan is half of the world”.Today Isfahan is the third largest city in Iran and a major tourist attraction. It produces fine carpets, textiles, steel, and handicrafts. Isfahan also has excelled in terms of science and technology with the many scientific institutes and young scientists it has.
When the wind blows, the people of Varzane await new signs of the Ancient City to appear. An old city, buried under the sand hills in the western corners of the Gavkhooni Lagoon. They say under these flowing sands, there lays a buried city, a city mentioned in ancient writings. A city which re-emerges again when the wind blows… the city of Saba.
Varzane is a suburb of Bon Rood in Isfahan Province, near the Gavkhooni Lagoon. The city of sand and wind and white vails…
They call Varzane the gem of eastern Isfahan because of its abundant ancient treasures.
Varzane is the capital of Bon Rood district. It’s situated 150 kilometers south east of the city of Isfahan
A trench used to enclose the city in ancient times. But in recent decades, the trench has been covered and is being used as a street
Pigeon houses. A safe place for pigeons… safe from falcons and owls and ravens. Safe from the bellowing local winds… beautiful, organized and identical nests, all made of clay.
Isfahan’s pigeon houses are one of a kind with regards to their number, construction and use
Extensive farming in the plains near Isfahan was one of the main reasons for the creation of the houses.
This was the best chance the farmers had to use the droppings of the birds as fertilizer for their crops.
French historian Jean Chardin has mentioned the pigeon houses in his memoirs of a trip to Iran:
Chardin, the famous French voyager visited Iran in the sixteenth century. In his memoirs he writes: “Iran’s huge pigeon houses are six times bigger than the biggest of the breeding centers. They build these towers with bricks and cover them with plaster and lime. The interior wall of the tower has holes built to house the pigeons. Iran has the best pigeon houses in the world. And they’re all built to access fertilizer.”
We’re on our way to Isfahan, a city which takes up six percent of Iran’s entire area. But to its people, it’s much bigger than that…The city was called Ispahan in the Sasanid Era in the sixth century.
Isfahan’s architecture was perfected in the Safavid Era four hundred years ago They call Isfahan a sister of Florence, Saint Petersburg and Kuala Lumpur.
From constructions still standing from the Safavid Era, there remain a series of schools, markets and motels. They are situated near Isfahan’s Chahar-Bagh Avenue.
The world’s oldest hotel… was built during the Safavid Era.
- Good morning. Can I help you?
- Yes. I’m checking in. I have a reservation.
- Very good. what’s your name?
- Let me check it please… from America. Right?
- Yeah. I’ve got it. Please take a seat for about 2-3 minutes so that I prepare the list and then you need to sign something alright?
- Thank you
This structure was commissioned by Shah Soltan Hossein Safavid and he presented it as a gift to his mother during the era Isfahan was called “half of the world”
This motel was renovated and turned into a modern hotel later on.
A building with a new look but an ancient soul. There are only a few hotels around the world that are 130 or 140 years old, none of which compare to the Abbasi Hotel and its old and traditional paintings still intact.
For example Foojian hotel in Japan is 110 years old and is still a traditional structure. But Isfahan’s Abbasi Hotel is 320 years old.
The suits have been decorated in the style of the Safavid and Qajar Era, but are still dreamy, beautiful and contain an element of religion and history in them.
In the middle of the yard, there are one or two story suits situated like platforms and symmetric in front of the patio, a link between the outside and the inside.
It welcomes thousands of guests and visitors from both inside and outside the country. In the past 40 years, more than 150 famous people have stayed at this hotel.
The quiet gory of the hotel along with its tranquil atmosphere reminds you of the glory of Naghsh-e-Jahan square
Naghsh-e-Jahan was commissioned by King Abbas Safavid in the 16th century AD, before Isfahan became the capital of Iran. The square replaced a smaller one which had remained from the Teymouri era. In the Safavid Era, the Naghsh-e-Jahan Garden was one of the biggest polo fields in the world. Two marble walls played the role of goal-posts. Facing the square is the Imam Mosque and behind it, the entrance to the Kaiser Market
Sheikh Lotf Allah is a mosque on the eastern side of the square, patient, calm and facing the sun. A mixture of stillness and motion. Colorful yet without color, in between the sky and the ground, the only mosque in Iran without a court or minaret. Other ancient mosques usually have big courtyards and a minaret or more.
Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque also has a dome different from others. It’s not a big mosque like other mosques. In fact it has a small prayer room. But the beauty and magnificence of the prayer room is enough for you to get lost in. This mosque is the only one which has stairs, right at its door front...
King Abbas the First had the mosque built in honor of Sheikh Lotf Allah Ameli, the Shia cleric who’d traveled to Iran from Lebanon. It was built for his and his family’s prayer services…
The mosque walls, walls with such delicate designs, carry a very heavy dome. There was no choice but to build them so strong and thick, some as thick as two meters. The interior of the dome is designed with stars, colored in gold. Stars that somehow remind you of ivies.
The light inside the mosque is astounding. Around the width of the dome, in equal distances, there are holes which have been blocked by windows from both inside and outside. The light that comes through these walls gives the designs a magical, almost holy look.
When the sun shines into the mosque, the shape of a peacock’s feathers form on the roof. In the day, the peacock’s feathers are spread out and near the evening, they come together.
By controlling the light, the building’s architect has been able to attract our attention to every angel of the mosque.
One of the things people in Isfahan and also tourists do to entertain themselves is riding in carriages around Naghsh-e-Jahan. The carriages are reminders of what up to fifty years ago used to be the one of the main means of transportation for the people, but is now only a part of a distant memory.
During the reign of King Abbas the Great, a small square, which is now a part of the Naghsh-e-Jahan was expanded to its current size. Famous historic buildings such as the King’s Mosque and Sheikh Lotf Allah’s Mosque, the Ali Qapu palace and the Gheisarie Gate were built around the square.
Many world travelers and tourists believe that Naghsh-e-Jahan is one of the largest squares in the world.
Chardin writes of Naghsh-e-Jahan: “there are 200 rooms around the square, all the same size, the same style. The rooms on the lower levels each consist of tow shops, one facing the square and the other the market. The rooms on the upper levels have a terrace facing the square, they have gardens made with brick and lime and are green and red and extremely beautiful. I think Naghsh-e-Jahan is the most beautiful square in Iran”
In the northern section of the square, there sits an entrance portal with tile works; the Entrance-Portal to Gheisarieh Market.
The portal was commissioned by King Abbas and designed on a similar one in the Far East.
Chardin, the French traveler writes in his memoirs:
”On the two sides of the entrance portal to the Gheisariyeh, there are huge platforms. In the past, jewelers and goldsmiths used to do business on these huge platforms. Merchants are extremely respected in the eastern world and trading is a profession more stable than most. And the fortune of merchants is more immune to changes.
This is Isfahan’s pivotal bazaar and has been considered the city’s beating heart since ancient times. It’s a symbol of a mixture of the socio-economics, politics, culture and religion in people’s lives. With an extremely sophisticated structure, it takes in every aspect of life.
In this market there are shops that have been selling only one kind of product for 400 years… Here, you can see one of the main characteristics of Iranian architecture; conjoined space… from one closed space to another, back to back, continuous. And nothing disturbing this continuity. It’s as if you don’t ever need to leave the long passage ways…
One of the famous handicrafts of Isfahan is engravings on copper. The artist focuses diligently on each piece creating detailed designs, sometimes working more than 20 days for one work of art.
I’d heard different things about the scientific activities in Iran and the progress Iranian researchers had made in nano-technology.
With the help of a friend I went to Isfahan’s Scientific Research Center.
This center provides university graduates with the opportunity to expand their research and to commercialize their achievements.
Isfahan’s Research Center was established in 1983 just like any other technological center in an effort to coordinate the activities of different scientific and technical centers, universities and industries in the province of Isfahan. The charter of the Isfahan Research Center has the following activities as its order of work.
To increase national capability in research and technology continued efforts in obtaining current and future needs and increasing scientific knowledge and helping commercialize the result of research.
- Ok, thank you. nice meeting you
- Hi, Nice to meet you.
- Thank you. I’ll be happy to explain about our Isfahan Science and Technology Town.
- Right. Can you tell me about this industrial complex?
- Yes. Isfahan’s Science and Technology town is an institution to help small and medium enterprises, small and medium companies which are knowledge based, establish their ideas and go to all the different stages of creating an innovation and establishing a new business and going to the market. So basically the main idea of this institution is to help small companies to go through all the different stages from incubation and then post incubation and then finally we are going to have a science park which will host these companies and help them grow and hire more people and create a new industry in the hole country. Isfahan’s science and technology town was established in 1983. The basic idea was created at that time and then afterwards in about 2001 the first companies were admitted here and now we are hosting several incubation centers, post incubation pre incubation and at the current time we have more than 200 companies here in different stages of development. Now if I may I will have to go and I’ll ask my friend to take you to that place.
- So, what kind of work is done in this complex?
- This complex is for the technology incubation. Isfahan science and technology town has started 12 years ago in Isfahan. We have the nanotechnology group, we have bio technology groups, we have ICT information technology groups. The environmental talented engineers from Isfahan university of technology and other universities like to work in Isfahan. They’re observed by the small companies here and working on the field of the research and development. I’m expert in nanotechnology but we are developing our patterns and ideas in the field of biotechnology means how we improved the industry of the biotechnology with the nanotechnology .
- Ok, like food and prows
- Yeah, it’s like food and agriculture. Agricultural products. These products that you are seeing and something like this as well is an edible coating and is extracted from rice and honey and kitozan and nano syodo.
- so the combination , what it will do it keeps food and vegetables fresh longer and improves the shelf life. It goes in the industry of the post harvesting means one liter of this is used for one ton of citrus.
- One ton?!
- Yeah. Nanotechnology means small but it works very hard.
- Yes. This one is very strong.
- So everyone’s concentrating really hard. What are you working on today?
- Actually this team, they are team members of the nano reactors. For example Neda is head of the team. She’s working here for 3 years and she’s graduated from Isfahan’s university in the field of chemistry. I think it’s better you talk to her.
- It’s easier to get the first-hand information from her.
- Hi Neda
- I’m Page .Nice to meet you
- Nice to meet you too.
- So can you tell me about what you’re working on here?
- We are working in agriculture field and especially in this project I’m working in NNMBR. It’s nano bio membrance reactor that we produce compost and liquid fertilizer
- So what is your plan for the future as a woman in Iran in the field of science?
- I have a lot of dreams in science. I like to progress in my field; chemistry and also agriculture. I think agriculture is the first field to work in Iran and other countries and maybe I’ll study PHD and after that maybe I like to be a manager.
- Thank you for your time. it was nice to meet you.
- You’re welcome. Nice to meet you too. Glad to see you.
Isfahan’s exotic night… with the colors and lights and the stars. You can’t help but love it… man-made wonders… under the darkness of the night… it’s as if it suddenly becomes difficult to tell the sky and the earth apart.
a place you can only feel and watch. A place that cannot be reached and is always on the go.
Chardin said: “I am obliged to write this, to say that when you walk around in this city, you can’t help but to fall in love. Looking at the different aspects of the city makes your heart beat and make you lose control. I’m sure the climate has something to do with the fun loving nature of the people here.
The Vank Cathedral. It’s a church and a museum in Isfahan’s Jolfa district… it’s a historic church, dating back to the Safavid Era… Vank in Armenian means the Grand Church. This church was commissioned in the sixteenth century by King Abbas the Second. Vank in Armenian means Grand Church. A mixture of details and entirety which is a key element of Iranian art can be seen in this church as well.
Here, you can see more seven-shade tiles than anywhere else. The main prayer room of the church is parallel shaped. It’s made up of two rectangular sections, the first part is the building’s courtyard and the second which is under the dome is where the church’s choir performs.
The grand bazaar in Isfahan leads to the Grand Mosque. A mosque which is one of the oldest religious structures in Iran. The discovery of a part of a column, with decorations which date back to the sixth century AD, in the north of the mosque tells us that the structure dates back to before the emergence of Islam. The Grand Mosque is a series of constructions and works of art built in the era after Islam, all built under the order of Iranian kings, ministers, governors, leaders and women.
The constructions show the changes art went through in the years since Islam’s arrival in Iran. The mosque is also known as Ancient Grand Mosque and Friday Mosque. It’s situated in the old section of Isfahan, and is one of the most significant architectural gems in Iran and the world. And since the different parts of the structure were built in different eras, the current building is like a huge museum, showcasing changes in the style of Iranian architecture.
Every part of this construction was built in a different era. They’ve been adding and taking away from this structure for two thousand years, and the last time…the last time it was renovated was after the consecutive bombings of Isfahan during the Iraq-Iran war.
Doctor Arthur, archaeologist writes: When I went to see Isfahan’s Grand Mosque and stood under its dome, I realized that I had been completely overwhelmed. Because under this dome, you can realize the everlasting masterpiece and creativity of Iranians and realize the beauty of the mosque and the dome. I’ve gone to the mosque and seen it many times since then. I’ve talked a great deal about its beauty and seen myself falling in love with Isfahan and Iran more and more every day.
- Most welcome to Iran and Isfahan.
- Thank you
- Where are you from?
- I’m from New York
- I’m the local guide of Isfahan and this mosque. Nay I help you?
- Yeah. What’s the story about this place?
- Well, actually this part is known as Oljato podium and the Mongolian part of the grand mosque of Isfahan. It was built in early fourteenth century, exactly 1310 AD by the order of Oljato the Mongolian ruler as I told you and is considered as the most beautiful plaster work among the Grand mosques in Iran. In some parts you see calligraphies, different writings and in some parts there are very beautiful stock works
- What does the calligraphy mean?
- In some parts under the arch is the name of the minister and also the ruler of Mongols, Soltan Mohammad the ruler and Mohammad Assavi the Iranian minister of Mongolians . And also the date it was built which is 1710 in lunar calendar, Islamic lunar calendar or 1310 A.D. Looking carefully at the prayer place and on the pulpit which is a very fine woodwork, you can see similar shapes in the big star. They expect it was built the same time and carved on wood but 700 years ago this pulpit of course Safavi era early 17th century.
- Wow, thank you so much for your information
- You’re welcome. if you need more information I’m at your service.
- Thank you.
Royan is a research center for fertility. It was established in 1991 as a surgery institute by Doctor Saeed Kazemi Ashiani. But later, a lot of important research on stem cells was conducted here.
- This institute is part of the Royan institute. The main institute is in Tehran and is made of three research centers. The biomedicine which we do infertility work and then we have the stem cell’s center which we do research on stem cells and then we have the biotechnology which is sited in Isfahan and it was founded about 5 years ago. This is a new building which we moved in about two month ago. One of the main things that we do here is cloning. We are hoping to produce genetically engineered animals in which we can produce drugs in their milks so that one day we can use their milk to produce medicine for people and so far there is only one medicine in the world which is produced from the milk of goat. So let’s have a look at what we do.
- Which animals do you use?
- We use goat here. We are working on goat mainly. We have established our work on goat. Ok you can see here the …………. And then you can see we are inoculating, taking the nucleolus off. Then we shine ……………….
- That’s the nucleolus right there?
- Yes this is it. Now the next step is to add the cell to this thing. We call it cell attachment. You can see the inoculated ………….. and then you can see few cells here. Slowly we bring it and just by touching, the cells get attached to our …….. so now we have a cell attached to our …… now we have to do fusion and here you can see the …… is few. We have mentioned our system and our initial system was the original. The orthodact system used in the whole world. Now we have tried to make our system very efficient and now we have even made it hand-made. You can use it on ordinary microscope which is very user friendly and we can do in many labs so this technology was set up here and this is the research we do.
- Wow, so they’re doing that right now?
- Yes, they are working on this. What we can do the cells which we are using to attach our ………. We can manipulate it genetically and there for our animals when born are genetically engineered animals.
- Ok, what kind of changes do you make?
- For example if we want to make a drug like insulin because insulin is very well-known so we can use the insulin gene and put it beside a gene which is expressed or produced only in milk so when the animal produces milk it also produces insulin.
- But our aim is not insulin. We are working on different proteins and therefore we can use any protein that we want. We might be able to make it in the milk. We hope to be able to provide this service to people’s health with this setup.
- Wow, that’s fascinating. Very exciting
- Hi, I’m Page
- I’m Paria
- Nice to meet you
- Nice to meet you too. Where are you from?
- I’m from New York
- Where are you staying in Isfahan?
- I’m staying at hotel Abbasi. Do you know it?
- Yes. Would you like to come to my home for dinner?
- Ok, sure.
- I’m living with my parents
- Ok, it will be Persian food?
- Perfect. ok
- Here’s my number
Manar Jonban: situated six kilometers west of Isfahan, on the road from Isfahan to Najaf Abad.
It’s been 700 years since its construction and it’s been standing tall for 700 years, so tall you’d think you could move it. It was built 700 years ago with a unique design. And it’s still the only “swinging minaret” in the world.
Mannar Janban is in fact a resting place, the resting place of a mystic named Abdollah Karladani. They say it was built around 700 years ago during the Mongul Ilkhanian Era. It was a single patio and then during the Safavid Era, around 400 years ago, they added the two minarets on the two sides. The design of the minaret has Safavid art written all over it. The fame of this small construction is because it swings. It is only nine meters wide and each minaret is more than 17 meters long. If you swing one of the minarets, the other one and also the entire building swings.
A simple greeting is enough for them to invite you to their house…and they treat you as if you’ve known each other for years.
I accepted Parya’s invitation to dinner and went to their house. I’d met her at Royan Institute
Chardin write: They put some butter in a pot, then they add a layer of rice on the butter, about an inch of rice. Then they chop onions on the rice, then fried, chopped almonds and dried raisons. The rice is always delicious, no matter how it’s cooked.
Iranians have a knack in frying nuts and the seed of fruits
The life of Iranians, a mixture of participation and hospitality is truly interesting to me.
We’re going to Nayin, a small city but an ancient one. It’s a suburb of Isfahan in the Kavir Desert with a desert climate.
This mosque is one of Iran’s most ancient mosques and includes a courtyard and a huge alter on three sides.
Pirnia’s ancient house is a perfect example of the architecture of houses in the central desert of Iran.
A house dating back 400 years and the Safavid Era
- It’s a pleasure for us to welcome you visiting Kavir ethnographic museum of Naeen
- Thank you
- This is a lovely house and they expect to 16th century and consists of several parts. Spring part is here, summer part is down there, pall part is there, winter part is on the other side and the garden is as a picnic area of the house. In the beginning you see that there is a room in which there is some kind of jars which were used for keeping grain, wheat and barely and at the bottom of each jar there is a little hole for taking wheat and grain out. So this is about this one.
- And then you can have a look at this painting of miniature which means that here we have different stories. In the beginning on the left side this is the story of Leily and Majnoon. The second one is about Khosro and Shirin. On the corner of this side… come here and look at that. You see the story of Joseph and Zoleikha. Zoleikha is sitting up there and Joseph is in he middle of the picture. You see some scattered orange which was distributed between the group and finally at the end there are some girls and ladies whom when they saw Joseph they cut their hands and fingers. At the other side you see that the stories are about hunting animals and hunting scenes. In the corner we have angels, trees and flowers and between them we have a small window which has been built recently and on the other side we have a story of life and nature and lion and animals.
This trip to Isfahan was a true adventure. My first-hand experience in Iran was more magical that anything I had imagined. The city and its people have a spirit that I won’t forget.