Esfahan, half of the world

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“Half of the world”, the most famous nickname of Esfahan, earned by showing, since its origins, an absolute example of beauty and tolerance

The words of Ibn Battuta

“On the same day, continuing among gardens, streams and beautiful villages with many dovecotes, we reached Isfahan, in Persian Iraq, one of the most beautiful and largest cities in the world.

Ibn Battuta

The Jerusalem of Persia

The area around the current Esfahan was inhabited since the Bronze Age and is probably connected with the Elamite civilization, which developed in these areas. With the fall of the latter at the hands of Cyrus the Great, a very strong sense of religious tolerance developed throughout Persia, visible even more with the Jewish population. The latter had in fact been brought to Babylon by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar II and the Great sovereign freed them all, allowing them to go wherever they wished, no longer as servants but as friends. Precisely for this reason many of them decided to give up the promised land to Abraham in favor of that allowed them by the Persians.


The birth of the first nucleus of today’s Isfahan will be due precisely to the union of these two peoples, but we will have to wait for the arrival of the Sassanids. The latter set up a military camp near it, calling it “Spahan” or “place where the army gathers”; not long after, King Yazdagard I married Shushandukht, a Jewish woman of noble origin who demanded a stable settlement from her husband for her people. The place chosen was right near Spahan which, according to the historian Ibn Faqih “had the same water and land as Jerusalem“.

The anger of the Mongol king

From the union of the two places, Isfahan was born which, under the Arabs, became the capital of the Persian province of al Jibal, then remained for a long time under the control of the Buyide dynasty. The first leap in quality, however, was obtained with the fall of the latter in favor of the Seljuk who, first, will take care of its beauty, soon making it one of the pearls of Persia.


Unfortunately, after the fall of the latter the city will suffer an increasingly evident decline, certified by the arrival of Tamerlane. The Mongol ruler first made an agreement with Esfahan but then, when she revolted, he unleashed all his fatal wrath on her. According to some visual witnesses, after his arrival, there were more than 28 towers in the city, each consisting of at least 1500 heads of the inhabitants; estimates speak of 70,000 killed by his soldiers.

Esfahan, half of the world

Under the Safavids the city earned the famous nickname “half of the world”, becoming their capital and most representative city of the Persian golden age. Shah Abbas I chose it for its central and more defensible position than Qazvin, populating it with every people of the immense empire. As already seen for the Kurds of Iraq, in fact, this dynasty tended to move the peoples of borders to safer and more controllable places, such as Esfahan. It is no coincidence that many Caucasian communities flourished here such as: Georgians, Circassians, Dagestans and, above all, Armenians.

Vank Cathedral in New Jolfa, the Armenian quarter

The latter should be mentioned with pride, as it gave the city one of the most incredible and wonderful places in Christianity and the whole world: the Vank Cathedral, the most extraordinary example of the Armenian-Persian union. Such was the splendor and tolerance breathed in this city, which soon became one of the most fascinating places in the world, with men and women coming from all over, to pay homage to their eyes and hearts, including Europe.


With the fall of the Safavids and the subsequent movement of the capital to Tehran, Esfahan underwent an inevitable decline, which however stopped with the industrial rebirth of the country. Today it is in fact one of the largest industrial centers in the country, with large productions of: steel, so much so that it is the largest producer in the Middle East and North Africa, manufacturing, gastronomic and textile industries (closely linked to carpets).

Naqsh-e jahàn square

However, it remains one of the most visited destinations in the whole of Iran due to iconic places such as: Naqsh-e jahàn square “image of the world”, the Si-o-se pol and the legendary Grand Bazaar. A unique city, so much so that it is nicknamed “Half of the world”.

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