Thursday, October 11

Turkey-Iran, Day Seventeen: Isfahan

As our hotel was is a decent location we decided to dismiss the tour guides for the day and set out to as much of Isfahan as we could by foot. Due to the sheer number of things we wanted to see here it was the most efficient way of getting it done. In other words, it was yet another tourist blitz we were going to do on a city.

The main centre of sights is the Naqsh-e Jahan Square, well worth seeing even if you weren't interested in the many other sights it contained. For example on the west we had the Ali Qapu Palace (the most interesting in which are the music rooms on the top most floor), while on the east and south of the square we had two mosques of varying sizes and architecture.

Mosque #35: Abbasi Great Mosque

The larger of the two mosques was laid out in the typical fashion - its own courtyard, with various wings and large domes. The Abbasi Great Mosque felt almost tardis-like in its deceptively small size - particulalry given the stature of its entrance from the square.

Mosque #36: Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque

The second mosque was much smaller and only really consisted of a domed hall (although there was a basement which I'm assuming made up for the size difference. It could have been the smaller size that allowed the mosque to be decorated and maintained to such an impressive standard.

Next we saw the two palaces of Chehel Sotoon and Hasht Behesht, the former of which was just about more interesting. Containing lots of frescoes and paintings, it was almost European in style and definitely in contrast to the places of worship from before.

Passing by the Grand Bazaar, we reached our third mosque of the morning.

Mosque #37: Hakim Mosque

Although less ambitious in stature (and decoration) than the two mosques on Naqsh-e Jahan Square, Hakim was nevertheless impressive not least due to its relative isolation and spaciousness.

After rejoining our guides, lunch was equally tourtastic with us enjoying a Beryani at Haaj Mahmoud Shefa'at. With not a single grain of rice in sight, it was unlike any biryani I've ever had. It was pretty good though!

After lunch we were back on the tourist trail. The main ticket to the north of Naqsh-e Jahan was the Jameh Mosque and adjoining Majlesi Shrine.

Mosque #38: Jameh Mosque
Mosque #39: Majlesi Shrine

It was unclear if this was still a functioning mosque - it certainly didn't seem so, but our guides did suggest that it was only used for Jummah prayer. That would certainly explain its size anyway.

The rest of the afternoon was spent checking out the Ali Gholi Agha Bathhouse and Seyyed Mosque, the last mosque of six we saw in total today.

Mosque #40: Seyyed Mosque

Another deceptively small mosque, it's well worth hunting this one down as of all the places we visited today this was the quietest and possibly the most peaceful. If you're looking for an intimate place of worship without sacrificing size and scope this is the one to see.

We did try to visit the rocking towers of Monar Jonban but arrived too late - we took our consolation prize of Iranian ice cream instead. We were then dropped off to our final sights for the day - along the river Zayanderud to see the two most famous historical bridges of SioSe Pol and Khajoo.

Quite spectacularly, the river was completely dry - we even walked along the bed at some points between the two bridges. I can only imagine what it would have been like with water actually flowing, but this as an experience in itself was pretty cool - and turned each bridge into hotbeds of socialising and music and fun as locals hung out under the dry arches.

That brought us to dinner, and then to the end of our first day in Isfahan. Even though today was pretty crammed, we still had a few items left to see - but those could wait till tomorrow.

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