The melancholic Persian songs played on the car radio lulled us to sleep. I don’t know what the songs were about as Mustafa, our driver from Shiraz, spoke very little English, but it must have been about love, lost love, heartache, or…perhaps a lost goat.
Although the car had air-conditioning, we could see the weather outside was hot. It was spring in Iran but there were times when temperatures shot up to mid 30 degrees Celsius and got uncomfortably hot. We drove past dry and rugged landscape – though some areas were dotted with cypress trees – but the land was arid and barren.
Mustafa was a careful driver and he took care of us during our 5-hour journey from Shiraz to Esfahan. He made sure we were comfortably cool with the air-conditioning, and he helped us find someone in a restaurant to translate the menu to us 🙂 Actually we didn’t need translation, we’d thought we could glimpse at what others are eating, and if it looked good, we would order whatever they were having!
But Mustafa went all out to help us. Lo and behold, he managed to find a tour guide who was dining with a group of Italian seniors. This guide recommended us to try fesenjan, a local dish of grilled chicken with walnut and pomegranate sauce. It was so yummy that I literally drowned my chicken with the sauce, and the plate was clean by the time I finished! Sorry, no photo again but if you’re ever in Iran or dine at an Iranian restaurant in your city, do try fesenjan.
We arrived in Esfahan about 5pm and it was a refreshing change from the bone-dry landscape that we saw for so many hours that day. Well, it looks like any other cities but we fell in love with Esfahan because of its beautiful boulevards brimming with maple trees, bridges with majestic arches and grand Persian-Islamic architecture.
Interestingly, we also noted that their road dividers are actually pathways made for pedestrians to stroll or to rest while watching…the traffic go by. Once again, their pathways are lined with trees. With numerous trees, gardens and flowers in Iran, I must applaud them for conserving nature and realising the importance of our environment, something which my Malaysian government and city councils have to seriously learn!
Esfahan is Iran’s third largest city after Tehran and Mashhad, and it has one of the largest city squares in the world. Naqsh-e-Jahan Square (translated to Image of the World Square) is situated in the centre of Esfahan city, and has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The square features the finest example of Persian-Islamic architecture – a dream come true for me to see such exceptional artistry,
Naqsh-e-Jahan Square has other names too – the Imam Square or formerly known as the Shah Square. The buildings surrounding the square are from the Safavid era: Esfahan Grand Bazaar (north), Shah Mosque (south), Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque (east) and Ali Qapu Palace (west).
*Related Post: Ali Qapu Palace and the Grand Bazaar
The first site we went to was the Shah Mosque. The Shah Mosque was renamed to Imam Mosque after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, it was commissioned for construction in 1611 by the first Shah Abbas of Persia.
While the Imam Mosque (or Shah Mosque) was spectacular in terms of size, I particularly like the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque.
Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is smaller in scale and does not have minarets, unlike the Imam Mosque. This is because the mosque was constructed to be a private mosque of the royal court, specially for the ladies of Shah Abbas’ harem.
In those days, women were not to be seen and had to be shielded, hence an underground tunnel was built from the Ali Qapu Palace (west) to Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque located on the east of Naqsh-e-Jahan Square. Upon reaching the entrance of the mosque, apparently the women had to walk through many passages to finally reach the main building. And this was where we were inside the main mosque:
*Linking with #CityTripping and #TheWeeklyPostcard.