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Why Visit Esfehan at the End of Your Trip to Iran

According to many who have already visited Esfehan, it can be considered the most charming and attractive city in Iran. It seems that there’s something in the air that makes the city so likable. As it’s got some of the highlights of a trip to Iran, the absolute majority of tour operators plan the itineraries in a way that Esfehan is the last stop before getting back to the capital city, Tehran.

Zayandeh Rud (The River) Cuts through the City

Si-o-Se Pol, a Safavid bridge in Esfehan

Si-o-Se Pol, a Safavid bridge in Esfehan

 

As the name explains it, the reproductive river, gives life to the farms all along it for 400 km, creates perfect living condition for people, etc. There are parks on both banks of the river for kilometers and this lets the people from Isfahan and environs to spend some time relaxing at the shade of the trees, stroll with friends and family and revitalize themselves and enjoy their time.

This river has been redirected in form of narrow streams of water snaking through residential areas and irrigating trees on both sides of it thus creating shady neighborhoods and stunning ambiance. Some of the royal gardens of Safavids (16th to 18th centuries) were irrigated this way.

City Planning of Esfehan

A lot can be said about the city planning at this beautiful city, but I suffice to what can be seen immediately. First of all, it’s green. You see several fully-shaded streets with pleasant sidewalks for pedestrians. There are some major boulevards like Chahar Bagh that split the city into Eastern and Western halves. There’s such a broad shaded space in the middle of the street that city hall has placed benches for the people to sit down and relax.

Like I’ve mentioned before, there are parks all along the river on both Northern and Southern banks. You can go jogging, walking, etc for hours. You can go on a picnic like the majority of Iranians do. You can hire a boat and go peddling. There are fabulous bridges with traditional tea houses attached to them where you can sip your tea while enjoying the sound of water and watching the life going on around you.

There are also good highway system that helps you make your inner city trips shorter at the outskirt of the city. A lot of overpasses and underpasses have been constructed to ease the traffic.

The way the city hall is working, like in most of the cities in Iran, the streets and alleys are all very clean. The street sweepers are working around the clock and people care very much about the cleanliness and attractiveness of their cities.

Historical Monuments of Esfehan

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque in Isfahan

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque in Isfahan

Needless to say, when you visit Isfahan at the end of your tour to Iran, you leave the ultimate beauty of Islamic architecture to be seen during the last days of your stay in this country. Iranian architecture of each historical era has got its own charm, but when it comes to the structural techniques, tile glazing and decorating skills, there are no other old monuments in Iran that could match the buildings in Esfehan.

The famous Naqsh-e-Jahan Square (Emam Khomeini Square) is the heart of the historical city. The early 17th century square with its monuments and set of shops all around it has created a unique setting you won’t see anywhere else in Iran. The royal mosques, palace and the famous Qeysarieh bazaar have all contributed to make this place an unforgettable one.

There are other mosques like the old Friday mosque of Esfehan that are astonishing and worth visiting. There are other palaces like Chehel Sotun and Hasht Behesht that couldn’t be ignored while you’re in Esfehan. The old bridges and the arches on which the bridges are built together with their illumination at night are the attractions you cannot simply cross out of your list.

Handicrafts of Esfehan and Its Artists

A group of craftsmen working in a metalworking workshop in Esfehan

A group of craftsmen working in a metalworking workshop in Esfehan

There are several workshops and art galleries where you can see the actual artists and craftsmen who are creating beautiful works of art. Out of approximately 150 different handicrafts produced in Iran, almost half of them are made in this city. Great collections of artistic works, carpets, miniature paintings, etc make Esfehan the city to do the shopping during your stay in Iran.

The globally recognized Iranian miniaturists who are working in their galleries in Esfehan, are open to welcome travelers in their shops. These people are keeping this Iranian art alive by following the traditional styles of centuries of miniature painting in Iran.

Armenian Quarter of Jolf

On the Southern bank of the river, where the community of Armenians have settled since 17th century, the time of Shah Abbas the first, Jolfa is the quarter worth visiting for both its fascinating churches as well as culture. There are lots of good coffee shops here that you can enjoy spending time in and having something to drink. Coffee is part of Armenians’ culture. So, if you want some good ones in some interesting ambiance, Jolfa is the place.

People

The last but not the least is hospitable local people, who are so proud of their city and happy to welcome foreign travelers. Even among Iranians, this is an attractive destination and every Noruz, Iranian New Year,  as well as summer holidays, there are millions of Iranians who visit Isfahan and explore its beauty. So, the local people have got the reason to feel proud of their legacy.

Esfehan, because of what you’ve read so far, is the place where people have been exposed to tourists very much. Tourism has brought business and employment to the city. The local people are happy to see tourists and are helpful to them.

In general, if there’s a reason why some travelers come back to visit Iran again and again, it’s the people who are kind, generous and welcoming. You have to see it for yourselves to enjoy it.

Get to Know the Life under the Skin of Iranian Bazaars

honey-shop-tabriz-bazaar

honey-shop-tabriz-bazaar

As world travelers, you have certainly heard of the world bazaars and seen several of them here and there. On the surface, they may look like shopping centers, but some deeper reality can be found under the skin of Iranian bazaars. I want you to know more about what’s down there and who’s doing what in such living communities in different cities of Iran.

There are certain people within specialized guilds working in the bazaars facilitating the business transactions. Also, there are various institutes forming the particular identity of the bazaars in Iran. We will look at them one by one.

Various Institutes inside Iranian Bazaars

Religious Institutes:

There are mosques, shrines and mausoleums inside these places. The people who are shopping, working or living in the vicinity of such centers, may need to pray or practice some religious beliefs. Therefore, these institutes are there for such people. Some may have fervent belief in praying at a particular mosque or shrine inside such bazaars. Some may want to meet others from other part of the bazaar. Noon prayer time could be a time to meet up.

In the history of each city, there could have been certain people whose contribution to the community have been preferred to be remembered by those living and working there. To honor such well-known people, mausoleums may have been constructed inside Iranian bazaars. People go to such places, pray for the peace of their souls and revere them.

Education Centers:

You may get surprised to know that there have been madrasas inside the bazaar compounds where religious students study. Those old structures have been well-maintained and still used as education centers. Many of the bazaars in Iran still have those schools in which Islamic doctrines are being taught. Therefore, students and teachers have to walk through the bazaar passageways to get to classes.

Of course, I must mention that modern colleges and universities aren’t found at these places. Bazaars are traditional communities in which you may buy modern commodities and find modern instituts like banks, but you won’t find modern education centers there.

Money Exchange Shops:

You may need to buy lots of things in the bazaars for which you will have to have Iranian currency, Rial. Such shops aren’t found in large numbers. They are usually at one part of the bazaars. Sometimes, some gold shops exchange various currencies like in the bazaars of Rasht and Kermanshah.

Sport Centers:

Zoorkhaneh is the traditional sport center in Iran that could also be found in Iranian bazaars. As it’s a mixture of exercising physical and ethical values, people of all walks of life may participate in it. Therefore, people of the bazaars are no exceptions. Many of those who work in these places go to such gyms everyday.

Various Guilds inside Iranian Bazaars

Traditional Craftsmen:

There are many craftsmen and artisans who are working in a number of workshops where traditional arts are practiced. Handicrafts are being created and sold to the shops where Iranians and non-Iranian visitors buy as souvenirs or even purchase them for personal use.

During your visits to Iranian bazaars, you may hear a lot of noise in particular parts of the bazaars where metals are hammered, wood is cut, fabrics are block-printed, etc. These are the shops in which traditional artists are working to create interesting items for other shops. You will certainly find them quite attractive parts of such communities.

Food Sellers:

There’ alway a part of the bazaars in Iran that is for selling foodstuff. Some sell food and some sell items for eating. Both are interesting to see as you will learn a lot about what people eat at home or in the restaurants.

If you go shopping in the bazaar or plan to have your business there, you will need to eat after some time. Bazaars are such large areas that you cannot easily get out of them just to eat and come back. This will not be practically ideal. Therefore, you have to eat inside the bazaars.

If you like traditional food, make sure you go to one of these places where you can find dishes like dizi, which is a mix of beans, chickpeas, potatoes, meat, dried lime, etc. If you like to go to a traditional tea houses instead of modern coffee shops that could be found everywhere, don’t forget to take the opportunity as long as you’re there.

Animal Sellers:

At particular parts of some Iranian bazaars, there are some of these shopkeepers working. These are some tradesmen who sell animals that people keep as pets like nightingale, parrots, myna birds, etc. On the other hand, some sell living animals who are soon slaughtered to be eaten like geese, chickens, quails, turkeys, ducks, etc.

Find Life in Iranian Bazaars

In a nutshell, if you’re traveling in Iran trying to find out more about life and how it continues in Iran, you can touch under the skin of Iranian bazaars by going to various corners of such living communities and learn a lot.

The people working at Iranian bazaars play major roles in politics, economy and social activities of the society. They are the traditional supporters of economy. They can raise fund for particular causes and they can ban laws, products, etc to block some new trends appearing in the entire country.

In general, bazaars are pro-traditions and support business enhancing laws that help them grow their capitals. They aren’t so much pro-modernity as it may bring about different systems of beliefs and jeopardize their businesses. They’re not very much pro-change. They are often conservatives who support old lifestyles and traditions.

 Find Life in Iranian Shopping Malls!

You may wonder why I’m taking you to an entirely different world – modern shopping malls in Iran! That’s a reality, which cannot be denied. You can find a lot of such modern centers. Cities are growing larger and larger. Therefore, it’s not practical to buy only in the traditional bazaars. They turn to be time-consuming and people will have to go long distances, spend a lot of time to buy some items that can be easily bought in a shopping center at their neighborhoods.

You cannot find traditional bazaars’ variety in shopping malls. They are imitations of western countries’ malls. Modern life has dictated its rules in large cities. You find coffee shops and restaurants (not teahouses) in these modern places. You find some of the latest clothing items offered by fashion brands. Even some of these centers are supplied with supermarkets, large and small.

The new middle class people and young generation, of course, prefer to go shopping in these places. They don’t feel the need to go to some of those traditional communities or buy from those traditional guilds. However, their needs are answered with what’s available to them.

I can briefly say that you can find varieties of true life in Iran only when you visit both traditional Iranian bazaars as well as modern shopping malls. Iran is in a transitional stage between traditionalism and modernity. You will find this distinct comparison a wonderful discovery in one country. I’d recommend you to explore it for yourself.