Edit Blog Post
Published: October 5th 2014
Ali Qapu - Musical hall
The walls are overlaid with thin plaster work these little alcoves of musical instruments. Why? Its not for storage. Its to absorb reverberation so that when musicians perform in this hall the audio is crystal clean.
Esfahani rulers had too much money. That's my conclusion. How many palaces and fancy mosques do you really need. And how many gardens is too many. To the Safavid dynasty who ruled in the 1600s, it seems enough was never enough.
We started our morning at Chehel Sotoun, which is easy to confuse with Vidal Sassoon but has nothing to do with hair products. This was the palace used by Shah Abbas II for entertaining his guests and thus was designed to impress the pants off guests when they first arrived. However, its not opulence alone that impresses an Iranian dignitary, but rather careful and intellectual design. Chehel Sotoun means forty pillars literally, and when you walk in you see a long Taj-Mahal-esque pool terminated by a large pavillion with twenty pillars. Twenty, not forty. So why the name forty pillars? Here's where the intellectual design comes in. If you stand at the base of the pool and look towards the pavillion, you will see twenty physical pillars, and twenty pillars reflected in the pool. The perfect little riddle to make your visiting feel dignitaries feel dumb and thus put you at a psychological advantage.
Inside the pavilion is
Imam Mosque - Naqsh-e Jahan Square
The spectacular inside dome. The thing is enormous - how did they get it up there?
a room full of paintings depicting famous battles and political meetings in the 1600s. This is where having a guide really pays off because we were carefully lead through the various paintings and the significance of each detail was pointed out. For example, did you know that it was rude to show both hands, so frequently one hand would be retracted inside a sleeve. Or did it ever occur to you (a fairly obvious fact in hindsight) that in a lot of historic paintings the people depicted were real person - for example the really fat bellied official that showed up in many of the paintings was a real official. As a side note, there were huge crowds of girls schools out visiting that day. They look like little Florence Nightingales in their head scarves - really cute. The girls enjoyed seeing some foreigners and particularly our little girls. We were really impressed by how confident and eloquent these girls were, once again shattering those stereotypes of demure education-denied women in Iran.
We then headed over to Hasht Behest, yet another opulent palace, this time used as the hideaway of the royals for some peace and quiet. One thing
Count carefully and see if you can see 40 pillars - 20 real ones and 20 reflected. Hint - in this photo you probably can't due to the angle.
that struck us about the historic buildings in Iran is that they have not been wrapped up in tourist isolation and behind paid walls, but rather are open and accessible parks for the average person to use at their will. So you can have your lunch sitting next to a 400 year relic, or entertain your kids on a swing with a gorgeous Iranian royal garden as a backdrop. History is everywhere and part of everyday life.
After lunch in Naqsh-e Jahan in a tourist restaurant marauding as a local hangout, we decided to check out the famous buildings around Naqsh-e Jahan square - the most gorgeous and one of the largest town squares in the world. First was Ali Qapu, yet another Safavid palace overflowing with extravagance. This multi-storied compact palace looks over the Naqsh-e Jahan square and provides a brilliant platform to take in the full panorama of this gorgeous square. Alas, the interiors of the palace on the lower floors are not well restored. The top floor however is delightfully interesting. It’s a hall where the walls and ceilings are covered in small alcoves shaped like musical instruments. The walls are made from thin fragile plaster,
so we were curious to understand the purpose of these seemingly decorative but rather useless alcoves. It turns out that these were designed to absorb acoustic echo so that when musicians played, there was no reverberation but just the single clear sound of the musician. Brilliant and beautiful!
The next stop was Imam Mosque. A word about the word Imam. Iran are Shiite muslims, and one difference from Sunni muslims is the reverence of the twelve Imams - historically important God-ordained people since the start of Islam, of which Imam Khomeni was the most recent. Well this mosque used to be called the Shah or Royal Mosque, but after the Iranian revolution was renamed to Imam mosque in celebration of the revolution. Being the Royal mosque no expense had been spared when it was constructed. This was undoubtedly one of the most impressive mosque interiors we saw. The interior is covered with ornate blue tiles and gold trimmings and well restored calligraphy. Every inch has a distinct meaning or purpose, every random stroke of ink is actually part of a greater part of art that extolls one of the Imams or God. It’s a fascinating place to just recline
and gaze at. Its also incredibly cool inside so if for no other reason it’s a great retreat from the boiling heat outside.
The evening was spent wandering the bazaar alleyways looking for ways to spend our money on treasures that vendors were willing to at special prices 'just for us' since they really like people from our part of the world. ie. lots of junk that is overpriced. But in reality there actually were some really nice vases that were well worth filling a suitcase with.
That night we headed to the amazing Abbasi hotel for a late night snack of Ash. Ash is a vegetable soup made from chickpeas, lentils, lots of spices and topped with a dollop of cream that is incredibly popular at the Abbasi hotel. Apparently its for the soup, but we suspect the main reason the beautiful persian garden courtyard of Abbasi hotel is overflowing with people at 10pm is that you can enjoy an evening in a spectacular garden and feel like royalty all for the price of an incredibly affordably priced bowl of soup. This garden was gorgeous and highly recommended if you are looking to be impressed.
Tot: 3.948s; Tpl: 0.049s; cc: 22; qc: 101; dbt: 0.0635s; 3; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.5mb