We continue our series of Islamic cities with Isfahan, often referred to as “Half the World.” Enjoy 🙂
The City Known as “Half the World”
Isfahan is the third-largest city in Iran. Speaking of Iran’s location, it is surrounded by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman to the south, and the Caspian Sea to the north. It shares land borders with Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Turkmenistan. Isfahan is a historic city located in the central-western part of the country. The city is rich in Islamic architecture, boasting magnificent bridges, stunning palaces, and remarkable mosques and minarets. During the Safavid period, Isfahan was famously referred to as “Isfahan is half the world.”
The Meaning of Isfahan’s Name
In written records, Isfahan appears as “Aspadana.” The name “Aspadana” means a gathering place for the army. It is apparent from this name and its meaning that the city held a strategic position in both early and modern times.
Islamic Dominion and Development Level
Isfahan joined the ranks of Islamic cities in 642 AD. The city’s development and prosperity were realized along with the spread of Islam. In the mid-11th century, during the Seljuk Sultanate, Isfahan became the capital city, and its growth began. After the decline of the Seljuks, a period of decline set in. The city was captured by Genghis Khan in the 13th century and later destroyed by Timur in the 14th century. However, Isfahan experienced a resurgence when Shah Abbas made it the capital of the Safavids in 1598. While it is not the capital today, it remains a city rich in Islamic history.
The Country’s Largest, the World’s Second-Largest Historical Square
Known as Imam Square, Shah Square, or Naqsh-e Jahan Square, this square was built by Shah Abbas in 1612. The square hosts two grand and magnificent mosques, a historic palace, and a bazaar. This square is the world’s second-largest historical square and has been on UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 1979. Speaking of its size, let’s put it in numbers: the width of the square is 163 meters, and its length is 512 meters.
One of the mosques located in Imam Square, the mosque was built in 1612 and stands as a magnificent piece of art with its architecture and exquisite tilework. The mosque, with its two minarets and grand entrance, is particularly eye-catching. Inside, there is a large courtyard with a massive pool in the center. The open area outside the pool has been constructed as a madrasa.
Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque
Another mosque in Imam Square, this mosque is notable for the absence of minarets. It also lacks a courtyard. To enrich the structure, an octagonal plan was used instead of the typical square plan. The mosque is adorned with enamel tiles. Its dome, with a diameter of 13 meters, exhibits rarely seen beauty due to its intricate tile decorations.
Population of Isfahan
As of 2017, Iran has a population of 81 million. As for Isfahan, which is the subject of our discussion, it has a population of 1,961,000, making it the fourth most populous city in the country.