Naghsh-e-Jahan is one of the most famous Iran’s UNESCO heritage sites and is known as Isfahan’s main tourism attraction. This beautiful square is an illustration of the power of Safavid dynasty. It dates back to 1602 and was made during the reign of Shah Abbas, one of the most powerful rulers of the Safavid dynasty.
There are several reasons for visiting Naghsh-e-Jahan square. In the first place, it is one of the most brilliant examples of post-Islamic Iranian architecture. Secondly, it is one of the largest squares in the whole world. It’s noteworthy that you cannot find another square in Iran’s cities with as large open space as Naghsh-e-Jahan square.
Why should every traveler who visits Isfahan make it a point to see Naghsh-e-Jahan square? Here are our top compelling reasons!
What makes Naghsh-e-Jahan Square so special?
First of all, let’s see what Nagsh-e-Jahan really means in Farsi. It can be translated as “the image of the world” or “the pattern of the world”. This square showcases some of the best examples of Safavid-era architecture. Not only it displays the delicacy of post-Islamic detail-oriented design, but it also illustrates the elegance of classic Persian art.
With the two-story arcades framing the square and the four famous buildings on each side of it, it comes as no surprise that Naghsh-e-Jahan makes one of the most significant attractions of Iran.
What was Naghsh-e-Jahan square used for after all?
As you enter the square and glance at all the beauties on each side of it, soon you’ll realize that this place was built for different functions in the time that Isfahan was the capital of Safavid dynasty.
A square as big and remarkable as that, was made to have several functions for sure.
As Ali Qapu palace is located in Naghsh-e-Jahan square, it’s obvious that this square used to have political functions. Royal ceremonies, military parades and such events took place in here.
In addition, as Naghsh-e-Jahan embraces two prominent mosques, it’s not difficult to realize the religious purpose of this square. Therefore, several religious ceremonies have been performed in this place throughout history.
Furthermore, the proximity of the square to bazar makes it an important trade center for sure.
Besides having political, religious and commercial functions, Naghsh-e-Jahan square has always played an important role as a center for entertainment. This square was used as a site for sports such as Chovgan (a traditional Iranian game similar to polo) and Ghapoon Andazi (another traditional Iranian game). It was also used as a place for national celebrations and festivals.
Moreover, Naghali (Persian tradition of oral storytelling), Kheyme Shab Bazi (Iranian traditional puppetry) and other types of national performing arts were usually performed in Naghsh-e-Jahan square.
Masjed-e-Sheikh Lotfollah: Not a Typical Mosque
Masjed-e-Sheikh Lotfollah was made during the reign of Shah Abbas I in the honor of Sheikh Lotfollah. Sheikh lotfollah was the father in law of Shah Abbas I. Besides, he was a great and respected Lebanese scholar of Islam. In the first place, this mosque – often known as the most beautiful mosque of Iran – is famous for its cream-tiled dome that changes color throughout the day. Different colored tiles and mosaics, the delicate arabesques and other intricate designs make this mosque an exclusive architectural masterpiece.
Unsurprisingly, Masjed-e-Sheikh lotfollah is one of Iran’s UNESCO world heritage sites.
Masjed-e-Emam: the Elegant Mosque of the Square
Masjed-e-Emam, also known as Masjed-e-Shah is a magnificent mosque with iconic blue tiles that proudly stands at the head of Naghsh-e-Jahan Square. This 400 year old mosque is regarded as one of the symbols of Safavid era art and architecture.
If you are into Persian art and Islamic architecture, you will fall in love with this beautiful mosque!
Ali Qapu Palace: Enter the Royal Residence!
Ali Qapu palace, often known as Khakh-e-Ali Qapu, is another brilliant building on one of Naghsh-e-Jahan square borders. It was built at the end of 16th century and was used as a residence for Shah Abbas I. It is noted that this palace went after five construction phases before being finished.
Ali Qapu is a 6 story mansion with an elevated terrace dominating one side of Naghsh-e-Jahan square. You can have one of the best views of the square from this terrace. Moreover, this terrace features a wooden ceiling with intricate inlay work that are valuable examples of Persian art.
There is a throne room off the terrace of Ali Qapu palace that displays valuable examples of paintings and mosaics. Furthermore, if you go to the upper floor of this palace, you will be amazed by seeing a very special music room. This room features a stucco ceiling with shapes of vases and rose-water shakers stenciled on it. They were made for the purpose of enhancing the acoustics while the music was played by royal musicians.
It should be pointed that Ali Qapu was known as the tallest building in Isfahan until the recent decades and it took nearly 100 years to finish the construction of this palace.
Qeysarieh Gate: A Portal to the famous bazar of Isfahan
Qeysarieh Gate known as Sardar-e-Qeysarieh is one of the architectural structures of Naghsh-e-Jahan square that should not be missed in your visit to Isfahan. It is modelled on a building in Kayseri of Turkey and that’s why they call it Qeysarieh Gate. It is located on the north side of the square, right next to the Qeysarieh bazar. As can be guessed, this gate was used as the main entrance of the bazar in the past.
Qeysarieh Gate has beautiful arabesque decorations with colorful tiles and a vaulted ceiling. In addition, it has a wall with paintings that depict a war between Shah Abbas and the Uzbeks. The wall in the right side of the gate depicts Europeans dancing and singing while the wall on the left has illustrations of a hunting ground.
Don’t miss out on this place!
As it turns out, Naghsh-e-Jahan square, a UNESCO heritage site, is not a simple and typical square to be skipped in your visit to Isfahan. It is therefore not surprising that a lot of Iranian and non-Iranian travelers fly to Isfahan every year to visit this square and enjoy exploring each of its architectural structures.
Besides, don’t forget to take a look at the souvenir and handcraft shops located on the borders of the square. If you enter the Qeysarieh bazar, you will be surprised to see how it’s packed with souvenir and pastry shops! We bet you’ll love looking at the Mina Kari (enamelwork), Khatam Kari (wood work) and Persian miniature paintings while tasting delicious Iranian sweets!
Here at Land of Turquoise Domes, we have designed several cultural tours for those who are fond of Persian architecture, history and culture. If you are interested to visit Iran and enjoy a tour to Naghsh-e-Jahan, please feel free to contact us for more information.