Naqsh-e Jahan Sq, Sepah St, Imam Husein Sq, Isfahān city, Isfahān province, Iran
Naqsh-e Jahan Square (Maidān-e Naqsh-e Jahān; trans: Image of the World Square), is a square situated at the center of Isfahān city, Iran. Built by Shah Abbas I the Great at the beginning of the 17th century, and bordered on all sides by monumental buildings linked by a series of two-storied arcades, the site is known for the Royal Mosque, the Mosque of Sheikh Lotfollah, the magnificent Portico of QeySārieh and the 15th-century Timurid palace. They are an impressive testimony to the level of social and cultural life in Persia during the Safavid era. Constructed between 1598 and 1629, it is now an important historical site, and one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. It is also referred to as Shah Square or Imam Square. Today, Namāz-e Jom’eh (the Muslim Friday prayer) is held in the Imam Mosque.
In 1598, when capital of his empire from the north-western city Shah Abbas decided to move the of Qazvin to the central city of Isfahān, he initiated what would become one of the greatest programs in Persian history; the complete remaking of the city. By choosing the central city of Isfahān, fertilized by the Zayandeh-Roud (The life-giving river), lying as an oasis of intense cultivation in the midst of a vast area of arid landscape, he distanced his capital from any future assaults by the Ottomans, the arch rival of the Safavids, and the Uzbeks, and at the same time gained more control over the Persian Gulf, which had recently become an important trading route for the Dutch and British East India Companies.
The chief architect of this colossal task of urban planning was Sheikh Bahaei (Baha’ ad-Din al-`Ameli), who focused the program on two key features of Shah Abbas’s master plan: The Chahar Bagh Ave, flanked at either side by all the prominent institutions of the city, such as the residences of all foreign dignitaries, and the Naqsh-e Jahan Square (The Image or Exemplar of the World). The ingenuity of the square, or Maidān, was that, by building it, Shah Abbas would gather the three main components of power in Persia in his own backyard; the power of the clergy, represented by the Masjed-e Shah, the power of the merchants, represented by the Imperial Bāzār, and of course, the power of the Shah himself, residing in the Ali Qapu Palace.
Outstanding Universal Value
The Maidan Imam is a public urban square in the center of Isfahān, a city located on the main northsouth and east-west routes crossing central Iran. It is one of the largest city squares in the world and an outstanding example of Iranian and Islamic architecture. A homogenous urban ensemble built according to a unique, coherent, and harmonious plan, the Meydān was the heart of the Safavid capital and is an exceptional urban realization.
The Royal Square
The Royal Square was where the Shah and the people met. Built as a two story row of shops, flanked by impressive architecture, and eventually leading up to the northern end, where the Imperial Bāzār was situated, the square was a busy arena of entertainment and business, exchanged between people from all corners of the world. As Isfahān was a vital stop along the Silk Road, goods from all the civilized countries of the world, spanning from Portugal in the West, to the Middle Kingdom in the East, found its ways to the hands of gifted merchants, who knew how to make the best profits out of them. Every now and then the square would be cleared off for public ceremonies and festivities. One such occasion would be the annual event of Nowrouz, the Persian New Year. Also, the national Persian sport of polo could be played in the Maidan, providing the Shah, residing in the Ali Qapu palace, and the busy shoppers with some entertainment. The marble goal-posts, erected by Shah Abbas, still stand at either end of the Maidān.
In Shah Abbas era, Isfahān became a very cosmopolitan city, with a resident population of Turks, Georgians, Armenians, Indians, Chinese and a growing number of Europeans. The Europeans were there as merchants, Roman Catholic missionaries, artists and craftsmen. Even soldiers, usually with expertise in artillery, would make the journey from Europe to Persia to make a living.
The Imperial Bāzār (Qeysarieh)
The Bāzār of Isfahān is a historical market and one of the oldest and largest Bāzārs of the Middle East. Although the present structure dates back to the Safavid era, parts of it are more than a thousand years old, dating back to the Seljuq dynasty. It is a vaulted, two km street linking the old city with the new.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site
The historical monuments at Maidan imam, Isfahān, are authentic in terms of their forms and design, materials and substance, locations and setting, and spirit. The surface of the public urban square, once covered with sand, is now paved with stone. A pond was placed at the center of the square, lawns were installed in the 1990s, and two entrances were added to the northeastern and western ranges of the square. These and future renovations, undertaken by Cultural Heritage experts, nonetheless employ domestic knowledge and technology in the direction of maintaining the authenticity of the property.