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Posts Tagged ‘Naqsh-e Jahan Square’

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Mosaic of Ali Qapu-Esfahan Bazaar


With 52 rooms spread over 6 floors, the Ali Qapu Palace in Esfahan is sometimes known as the first Iranian skyscraper and when you consider that it was completed in the 17th Century, that’s pretty impressive. It sits on the east side of Naqsh-e Jahan Square almost directly opposite the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque and  overlooks the beautiful landscaped gardens and fountains.

The Palace has performed a number of functions over the years at some point being administrative headquarters whilst at the same time housing the Shah’s private bedrooms and acting as a buffer between the public square and the royal harem. The Palace was also considered lavish and sufficiently ornate enough to welcome visiting dignitaries, ambassadors and heads of state and even now you can see why.

The entrance door is more than 5m high  and whilst the first 2 stories have been ravaged by vandals in the immediate aftermath of the Islāmic Revolution, it is not difficult to imagine how startling this building must have been in its hey-day.

I am no engineer, but it is the examples of practical engineering found upstairs that impress me most.

View of Naqsh-e Jahan Square from Ali Qapu verandah

View of Naqsh-e Jahan Square from Ali Qapu verandah

Climbing the steps to the third floor you step on the verandah which is not only beautiful itself, but has the most magnificent view across the square. It is simply breathtaking. The verandah is 28m long and 16m wide and the wooden ceiling is beautifully decorated. The verandah is supported by 18 columns each carved from the trunk of a plane tree and which were originally covered in mirrors.

Ali Qapu verandah painted ceiling

Ali Qapu verandah painted ceiling & carved wooden column

You would never dream of finding a pool on the third story of a building, but here not only will you find a pool but also a fountain. The pool was filled by hydraulic machines which brought the water up from ground level. Ingenious!

The palace is full of lovely paintings and murals and some of the decoration which has been preserved will take your breath away but my favourite room in this building is the Music Chamber.

If you love  music then the Music Chamber on the upper story of the Ali Qapu Palace will both surprise, delight and amaze you.

Music and poetry have always been important to the Persians and here you will find what could be called one of the earliest Dolby stereo systems. Elaborately carved out of stucco work and at 400 years old, it is impressive.

As already mentioned, the Music Chamber is on the upper floor. The musician’s quarters however are on the ground floor. The Shah sat on a platform in the Music Chamber listening to the music whilst watching parades and celebrations in the square.

Stucco carvings Music Chamber Ali Qapu

Stucco carvings Music Chamber Ali Qapu

Stucco carvings Music Chamber Ali Qapu

Stucco carvings Music Chamber Ali Qapu

Stucco carvings Music Chamber Ali Qapu

Stucco carvings Music Chamber Ali Qapu

Stucco carvings Music Chamber Ali Qapu

Stucco carvings Music Chamber Ali Qapu

So how was this achieved without blaring out music at uncomfortable decibels?  It is all in the design of the building which meant that the music travelled from the ground floor up to the Shah’s Music Chamber by way of the hollow columns built into the walls and was then transmitted around the Music Chamber through carvings in the plaster. The carvings were designed to create echoes and thus improve the sound quality of the music. Sadly we weren’t able to test this theory out but I have no doubt that like the rest of the engineering, it works perfectly!

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The amazing panorama that is Naqsh-e-Jahan Square, Esfahan, the second largest Square in the world, taken from a balcony in the Ali Qapu Palace.

In the centre of the picture, you can just make out two lines of horse-drawn carriages (Doreshkeh) waiting to drive tourists around the perimeter. Riding in the carriage you see the sights of the Imam Mosque, Ali Qapu and the bazaar from a completely different perspective and you realise just how large and incredibly impressive this Square is. (more than 500m long and 163m wide)

 No matter how many times I’ve trotted round the Square behind ponies like Samanu, I never tire of this inexpensive treat and I look forward to riding round this UNESCO designated heritage site it every visit.

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Iranian teahouses (Chai-Khaneh) are traditionally men-only hideaways where they can sit and drink tea (chai) all day and well into the night. My favourite teahouse (subject to my comments below)  is the Azadegan Teahouse near the Naqsh-e-Jahan Square where women are allowed albeit in the family area only. I am not allowed to venture beyond the dividing curtain and smoke Hubble-Bubble.

Not being a Hubble-Bubble smoker, I like this place because of its unique ambiance and fun decoration which is over-the-top to say the least. The place is crammed full of lamps and pictures, pots, mirrors and ephemera of all kinds. A bohemian cave if ever there was one.

There is a prominent sign saying “No Photographs” and normally I’m happy to respect their wishes and oblige. But as everyone else was taking pictures and I wasn’t offending anyone I took a few for posterity.

 Back to my comments above. Previous visits to this teahouse have been charming but this time I have to say that the toilets were rank, and the waiter fair threw the tray of tea and naabot at us. He may just have been having a “bad hair day” but it spoilt my visit. He also charged us for something we didn’t ask for and didn’t eat (Baklava) which represented £1.20 out of a total bill of £1.60!  But at those prices it seemed incredibly churlish to complain so Feri paid up in full and we left vowing never to return! (of course we will.) It is very out of character for the Iranians to be so surly and unhelpful. From my experience, they are not rude or impatient at all but are more than happy to pander to your custom.

For me, I’m quite happy to make my way past chickens in wire pens, and huge vinegar vats to get to this teahouse hidden in the corner (and you certainly wouldn’t find it if you didn’t already know it was there) and I’m sure that like Arnie, ” we will be back”.

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A mere 5 minute walk from Naqsh-e Jahan Square in Esfahan is the spectacular Chehel Sotun Pavilion and gardens. Chehel Sotun literally means “40, or many, columns”. In fact there are only 20 columns supporting the front of the structure, but when you take into account the reflection of these columns in the very blue pond in front of the building, 20 becomes 40.

The pavilion was built to receive foreign royalty, ambassadors and dignitaries and you only have to imagine being introduced to the resident Persians on home territory in the great mirrored hall to realise how imposing it must have been.

Any trade or diplomatic discussions would probably have been conducted with the visiting envoy already on the back-foot and in awe of the magnificent decor and architecture rarely seen elsewhere circa 1650AD.

As well as the beautiful building itself, the paintings, murals, artefacts and elaborate decoration, the pavilion stands within the lovely Chehel Sotun gardens. The flower beds are bright with blooms and the grass very green and lush. Clearly both are well-maintained in these often dry conditions.

 

 

 

An outstanding attraction in the late summer sunshine, it must be equally beautiful in the frosty conditions of winter.

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