INSTC reaches the cultural capital of Iran, Isfahan

INSTC reaches the cultural capital of Iran, Isfahan

Day three of the INSTC sees the convoy reach Isfahan

My closest friend is from Iran and he taught me this phrase, “Esfahan nesf-e-jahan”. It translated to Isfahan is half of the world and basically means Isfahan is so beautiful, so overflowing in awesomeness, that if you’ve seen this city you’ve seen half the world. I always laughed at him. No longer.

Isfahan is spectacular

What a city! Everything that they say about the Iranis – especially about their aesthetic sense, their love for nature, their courteousness, their succulent meats – we experience it all in Isfahan. The crazy side too, going by the hooligan bikers, but its impossible for anything to take away from what is one of the world’s great cities.

We arrive on the eve of a national holiday and the city is packed in the evening, traffic is crazy. Well, by Indian crazy traffic standards it is nothing, but we’ve just driven up on a beautifully empty highway so the traffic is quite a change of scene. This is also where Iran starts to get more prosperous and that’s visible with the cars of the road that are no longer dominated by that Saipa 131 hatchback. There’s an E-Class and 5 Series parked in our hotel lot. The Iranis over here dress quite well too and even though the ladies are covered from head to foot their scarves are more colourful and pulled back framing beautiful, beautiful faces. Their coats are tighter and more vibrant. The men, always in jackets even in the blazing heat of Bandar Abbas, are even better dressed. It’s all a treat for the eyes.

“By Indian crazy traffic standards it is nothing, but we’ve just driven up on a beautifully empty highway so the traffic is quite a change of scene”

We go out for dinner and then take an XUV to find the Naghsh-e Jahan square, the centre of Isfahan and one of the largest city squares in the world. We are told it has a different vibe in the morning and in the evening and despite it being midnight I’m determined not to miss out. I’m not one for colours or architecture but this square puts the jahan in Esfahan nesf-e-jahan. Of course there are water bodies and gardens within the square and the two mosques are the highlights, done in a special blue shade with Persian-Islamic artwork and architecture. The next morning we come back to the square to discover lovely gardens and lazily dancing waterfalls in the square. I make use of the one hour we’ve been given before the convoy moves to explore the two mosques. The She-ie-kh Lutfullah mosque to the east that is claimed to be the most beautiful mosque in the world and certainly I haven’t seen such intricate art work covering every wall and every arch or such a beautiful shade of blue (or is that Indigo, I’m not sure). The architecture is also a marvel, symmetrical to the square but with the prayer hall inside angled towards Mecca (and you cannot make out it’s angled!). At the far end of the square is the blue mosque whose dome is being renovated but despite the scaffolding looks mesmerising. Inside blue mosque there’s a huge courtyard, to one end there’s another courtyard with a beautiful garden with white roses again as big as footballs, and all along the periphery there are arches and minaret and calligraphy. It’s honestly difficult for a car-journo to find the words to describe just how wildly beautiful the square is.

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