Naqsh-e Jahan Square, Isfahan, Iran
GPS: 32.657423480987, 51.677850668002
Built between 1598 and 1629 during the reign of Abbas the Great, the 5th Safavid Shah (king) of Iran, Naqsh-e Jahan Square is located in the heart of the historic city of Isfahan. Under the Safavid dynasty, whose rulers led the country from 1501 to 1736, Isfahan became the capital of Persia from 1598 after a military victory over the Uzbeks of Khorassan. It imposed itself to the detriment of the city of Tabriz, considered too close to the borders of the Ottoman Empire by Abbas the Great.
Naqsh-e Jahan Square (which can be translated literally as “Image of the World Square”) is the second largest urban square in the world after the Tiananmen Square in Beijing (China). Measuring 560 metres long and 160 metres wide, it symbolizes the religious, commercial, cultural and political centre of the powerful Persian Empire before its influence declined. In the early 18th century, the Afghan prince from Kandahar Mirwais Hotak, rose up against the Persian army occupying southern Afghanistan. His son, Mahmud Hotak, succeeded him to power and invaded the province of Isfahan. He was proclaimed Shah of Iran and then crowned emperor in 1722 in the capital of the Safavids. Tehran then definitively replaced Isfahan as capital of Iran from 1786.
Formerly called Shah Square after its founder, Naqsh-e Jahan Square is now known as Imam Square or Meydân-e Emâm, in reference to the leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution of 1979 (Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini). It is embellished with gardens and fountains, lined with two-storey arcades and has many craft shops (jewellery, Persian carpets, ceramics, ancient objects, decorative fabrics…). This square is not typical of urban units in Iran as cities are generally laid out without large open spaces. In Isfahan, Naqsh-e Jahan Square occupies a vast pedestrian area always full of life, where inhabitants, traders, worshippers, national and foreign tourists converge. It is an outstanding example of Iranian and Islamic architecture. Magnificently structured, this large esplanade is surrounded by elegant buildings built in the 17th century, characteristic of Persian and Safavid styles: the Shah Mosque to the south (with an impressive dome), the Ali Qapu Palace to the west (a superb five-storey architectural building), Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque to the east (with no courtyard or minaret as it is reserved for the royal family) and the Grand Bazaar of Isfahan to the north (one of the largest craft markets in the Middle East).