Located in center of Iran, Isfahan is the cultural capital and the third largest city. This city which was the capital of Persian Empire during the Safavid dynasty (1501-1722 AD) is famous for its Persian-Islamic architecture thanks to many amazing ancient monuments. Thus, it is no surprise to say: “Isfahan is half of the world” (Persian proverb).
The “Naghsh-e Jahan Square” in Isfahan is second largest city square after Tiananmen Square (China). Designated as the UNESCO World Heritage Site, this square encompasses various masterpieces around it: Ali Qapu Palace, Shah Mosque and Grand Bazaar as the representatives of power of the King, clergy and merchants, respectively. It is worthwhile to mention that most of the masterpieces in Isfahan were conducted by the famous polymath and architect, Sheikh Bahai.
Located along the Silk Road, Isfahan was a vibrant stop for exchanging the goods from the Eastern and Western countries. Thus, many caravansaries were built to provide lodging for travellers and merchants coming from far distances. One of these caravansary has now been renovated and converted into the luxury “Abbasi Hotel”. Another masterplan of Persian Empire’s capital was building a six-kilometer long boulevard, named “Chahar Bagh” connecting the northern parts of the city to the southern sections. It is reported that the Champs-Elyséé Boulevard in Paris was inspired by the Chahar Bagh Boulevard in Isfahan due to close relation of Persian and French Empires during that era.
Isfahan is also the town of bridges. The Zayandehroud River splits the city to two sections of northern and southern part. Several bridges were built over this river during Safavid era which two of them are well-known for their significant architecture: Khajou Bridge and Si-o-se-pol Bridge. The Si-o-se-pol Bridge which was constructed under supervision of Allahverdi Khan, the Georgian chancellor of Shah Abbas, is the longest (approx. 300 meters) one amongst 11 bridges of Isfahan. Despite of serving as both a bridge and a dam, the original function of Khajou Bridge was as a community building including a centric pavilion with its significant vantage point for the Shah Abbas (King) reception. The shady lower level of the bridge can be accessed by pedestrians and remains a popular place for relaxing. Also, it is a custom these days that folklore sings are performed by local people between the arches of the bridge. In addition, the mausoleum of famous American Professor of Persian Arts, Arthur Pope and his wife, Phyllis Ackerman is situated nearby this bridge.
On the other hand, Isfahan city has many other potentials in various aspects. This city serves for 40% of Iran industrial production. Mobarakeh Steel Company (biggest steel producer in MENA region) and Esfahan Steel Company, in addition to oil refinery, petrochemical and power plants are consisting the Isfahan heavy industrial sites. Also, 76 industrial estates are existing in Isfahan province, mostly in outskirt of Isfahan city.
Isfahan has some biggest markets in Iran for various commodities including steel, gold, carpet, fresh and dried fruits. Isfahan City Center which constitutes the fifth largest shopping mall in the world is the home for the famous Iranian and universal brands. Isfahan is also well-known for its significant high quality educational and cultural institutions. There are three public universities in addition to several Azad (private) University branches in this city.
Isfahan is the home for several religious minorities and ethnicities. The official religion is Shia Islam, but three main religious minorities are Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians. Although the majority of habitants are Persians, but Bakhtiari Lurs, Qashqais, Georgians and Armenians are the other ethnicities residing in Isfahan. All these minorities have the equal rights as the majorities’ and they live in peace in neighbourhood of their townsmen. For instance, the New Julfa was established in 1606 AD as an Armenian quarter by the edict of Shah Abbas for accommodating more than 150,000 Armenians who were fleeing the Ottoman Empire’s persecution. This quarter as one the largest ethnic Armenian quarter encompasses several churches which the most famous one, Vank Cathedral is a touristic attraction.