Mar 28, 2011

Iran - Esfahan/Tehran

Esfahan is defenitively the most beautiful city of Iran. Its jewel? Imam square, the second largest square in the world after Tiananmen! Polo games played on this square were very popular 400 years ago!

On Imam square, we visited three exquisite sights. Imam mosque is gorgeous with its blue mosaics. A lot of those are used as patterns for persian carpets. A special feature you can find in this mosque is the almost perfection of its construction and decorations: the architect respected a perfect symmetry, except some minor details to express that the humankind cannot defy Allah's perfection.

Imam Mosque

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is a lot smaller but the interior is even more radiant. This mosque was used privately by the royal family. To protect the king's wives from being seen outside, a tunnel was constructed from the Mosque to Ali Qapu Palace, the royal residence just across the square. This palace is fully painted with frescos inspired by the nature (flowers, birds, etc.) and some portraits. Its main attraction remains the elevated terrace with a fantastic view over the Imam Square. Ali Qapu Palace was in fact the dorway of a former huge royal complex. Chehel Sotun Palace was part of this complex, and is the last palace still standing.

Cupola of the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque

 Ali Qapu Palace

 North part of the Imam square
View from the elevated terrace of Ali Qapu Palace

South part of the  Imam square with the Imam Mosque on the right
View from the elevated terrace of Ali Qapu Palace

Chehel Sotun Palace or the forty columns palace was a pavilion for entertainement and reception. The Great Hall, the main room of this palace, is covered with amazing and very precise frescoes. The designs are so rich and varied that you just don't know where to land your eyes on!

On the fa├žade of the Chehel Sotun Palace

Great Hall, Chehel Sotun Palace

Like a Parisian passage, Bazar-e Bozorg links the Imam square and the old Jameh Mosque. You can find there typical miniatures of ancient scenes. Some of these are inspired by the paintings in the fourty columns palace.

In Espahan we had a very nice and peaceful bicycle ride in the park along the Zayandeh river. Some bridges are part of the historical heritage of the city and a must see. The park is well liked by the inhabitants who come for picniking, pedal boating and just relaxing.


Then, the capital: Tehran! The city is famous for its chaotic traffic and related air pollution but we experienced a complete different Tehran. We had read about the Nowruz (New Year) festivities and holidays but we never would have imagined a deserted capital, like Paris in the middle of August but without the tourists! And the Nowruz holidays last at least thirteen days, with the administration (post offices, etc.) closed during a full week! 

A really incredible feeling, to be in such huge city where nearly every shop and museum, the bazar and even the mosques (!!) are closed. Our days in Tehran were shadowed by the long walks to find the closed doors of a museum we wanted to visit. We found only one museum (the national museum) and one palace open, the Golestan palace.

This palace is composed of several buildings set around a carefully looked after garden. The old royal administration ruled the country from those pavilions, sumptuously decorated. Also the private art gallery in the Negar Khane reflected a taste for European art and museums.

Negar Khane in the Golestan Palace

In one pavilion of the Golestan Palace

We were very surprised to discover that the north part of Tehran is bordered by high and snowy mountains that can be seen in many spots of the city.

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