Half the World’s Wonders

Menār Jonbān

The proverb Isfahan nesf-e Jahan (Isfahan is half of the world) shows Iranian’s propensity to exaggerate. Nevertheless, it is a wondrous city with numerous UNESCO World Heritage sites. No previewed photos or guidebooks prepared me for the feeling of dizzying beauty when I finally saw the mosaics of Naqsh-e Jahan mosque. The Pol-e Khāju and Si-o-se Pol bridges are amazing, and the frescoes at the Armenian Vank Cathedral simply breathtaking. Visiting Kākh-e Ali Qāpu and Chehel Sotun were dreams come true and attempting to shake a minaret at Menār Jonbān well….unforgettable.

Another day we window-shopped until our feet were sore in the vibrant Bāzār-e Esfahan. While marveling at all the hand-hammered art in the copper section, we were surprised that my Mexican companion was invited to a workshop behind the storefront. He was served a Chai (tea) and had a wonderful time laughing and chatting with all the craftsmen – with sign language of course. In the meantime, I chatted with the shop owner and by the time we were ready to leave, a most intricate copper Gol o bolbol had made its way into our hearts (and our baggage).

After visiting all these must-sees on our first visit, subsequent trips brought out other wonders…like the people who gather every Friday evening under Pol-e Khāju bridge to sing, or the delicious Biryani I simply had to try one night – despite my inner voice telling me to refrain from greasy street food.

Pol-e Khāju

At the opposite gastronomic extreme, even our national specialty, Chelo kabāb tasted extra special when surrounded by the paintings in the restaurant of the 300 year-old Abbasi Hotel.

Bursting with all we had seen of architectural, artistic and gastronomic wonders, we left the city-center to visit yet another. The Atashgāh, Zorastrian fire temple, dates back to the Sassanid Empire. As we viewed the city from above, I tried to imagine a world where the three pillars of Zorastrianism: Good thoughts, Good words and Good deeds could some day prevail.

Atashgāh, Zorastrian fire temple

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