Last week I shared with you a glimpse of Scenes from Naqsh-e-Jahan Square in Esfahan, mainly the southern and eastern part of the square – Imam Mosque and Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque – both feature beautiful and jaw-dropping Persian-Islamic architecture and mosaics.
Moving on to the western side of Naqsh-e-Jahan Square is the Ali Qapu Palace. The palace was used by the first Shah Abbas of Persia in the 17th century to greet and entertain noble visitors and foreign ambassadors. It has 7 floors and is accessible by a spiral staircase. We climbed the stairs all the way up to the 7th floor which was the upper gallery for Safavid rulers to watch polo matches and horse racing in the square.
Restoration works on the palace roof and frescoes were in process on the upper gallery. Some frescoes were still intact such as the ones depicting Persian women during the Safavid era.
We moved down to the 6th floor which is the Music Hall or Banquet Hall; back in the day when various ensembles performed music and sang songs. Deep circular niches are found in the walls for acoustic reasons, and the hall was suitably decorated with motifs of vessels and cups.
The last site to explore at Naqsh-e-Jahan Square was the Grand Bazaar which is at the northern entrance of the square. The Grand Bazaar of Esfahan is one of the largest and oldest bazaars in the Middle East. Our guide, Maryam, walked with us in the bazaar and while it was great having her around to help translate price tags from Persian to English, we wanted to have more time to ourselves especially during this last part of our journey in Iran.
Fortunately, Maryam finished her “official duties” with us pretty fast, thus we went back to Naqsh-e-Jahan Square for the second time the next morning to explore the square and the bazaar at our own pace. We window-shopped, ate ice-cream while watching the fountains and school children enjoying the horse carriage rides around the square. We also spoke to a few Iranian college students who approached us and asked if they could “practise their English” with us.
Later, as we walked inside the bazaar, a George Clooney lookalike approached us and invited us to his grandfather’s shop which sells Persian handicraft. He was so charming a salesman that I couldn’t help myself but bought a US$45 table runner which was absolutely perfect for my console table at home! I won’t go into details about the fine artistry of their handicraft but suffice to say that I had the intention of buying something for my home but never thought that a smooth-talking, 6-footer George Clooney lookalike would be the one selling the item to me!
After paying for my purchase, then comes an interesting and hilarious conversation with Persian George Clooney’s co-worker.
You like what you buy?
Yes, it’s very nice. I like it. Thank you very much.
Do you know the actor Javier Bardem?
Erm, ya…why do you ask?
Do you think I look like Javier Bardem?
Well, he did, sort of. Not the rugged handsome look but more of a comical look.
Then he pointed to his friend, And do you think he looks like George Clooney??
Instantly, my sister and I looked at each other and laughed so loud because we both had the same thought throughout our time in that shop but we didn’t say to each other what were in our minds.
Then very smoothly, they tried to coax us to buy more of their products. By that time, I whispered to my sister in our Malay language that we had better get out of there, otherwise, I would be spending more money!
We told them that we had to leave, interspersed with lots of “would you be interested in other handicraft?” and “oh, no, I’m not interested, thank you” in between, and then we said our final “good bye” and “thank you” to Javier Bardem and George Clooney. As soon as we left and turned round the corner, we had a really good laugh about the whole experience, and I said to my sister, “I cannot believe that I met George Clooney in Esfahan and I bought a table runner from him!” 🙂