Esfahan – Iran’s ethnical diverse Mosaic City host of multiple world heritage sites

A mere hour’s flight south from Tehran, a visit to Esfahan could alone justify a trip to Iran.

It is hard to say whether the city’s immense charm lies in its aquamarine-tiled mosques and elegant gardens and palaces; in its location at the foot of the snow-capped Zagros mountains and along the curve of the Zayandeh river with its fairytale arched bridges; in its unique, majestic urban plaza and its evocative bazaar; or, year-round clear blue skies. Winters here are crisp and cool, summers sizzling, and spring balmy.

Undoubtedly the most elegant city in Iran, Esfahan was the Persian capital for a hundred-year period from 1588, when it flourished under the rule of the arts-loving despot Shah Abbas I. Traditionally a crossroads for international trade and diplomacy, the city has never ceased to wow visitors.

Isfahan Naghsh-e Jahan

Naqsh-e Jahan Square

However, Esfahan is more than a living, breathing work of art: it is an industrial supremo, a modern, cosmopolitan city, with a population of over 1.5 million. Ethnically diverse – the Christian and Jewish minority live alongside the Muslims in peace – the streets are alive with the irrepressible vitality of its youthful residents. Whether you strike up a conversation with a local, lose yourself in the winding alleys of the old quarter or relax in one of the city’s cosy teahouses, you too will fall under Esfahan’s spell. Esfahan Naghsh-e Jahan 2_HQ Esfahan Naghsh-e Jahan 3_HQ

What to do First stop has to be Naqsh-e Jahan Square, in the centre of town. Begun in 1602 and originally used as a polo ground, it’s one of the world’s largest – beating Russia’s Red Square – and is now a Unesco world heritage site.

The grassy fountain-filled courtyard is the perfect spot for people-watching, a picnic or simply soaking up the splendid monuments that surround it, such as the massive Imam Mosque complex. Adjacent to the Imam Mosque is the more intimate Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque – its intricately tiled dome never fails to mesmerise visitors.

https://i0.wp.com/persepolis.free.fr/iran/history/images/aliqapu.jpg

Ali Qapu Palace

Opposite it, is the Ali Qapu Palace, one time roost of the Safavid rulers, and at the far end is the entrance to the Grand Bazaar. It, like the covered arcade that runs around the square, is your best bet for booty: miniature paintings, decorative tiles, enamel vases and plates, jewellery, carpets, clothes and accessories – from colourful scarves, to fake designer handbags, rupushes, a type of long coat, and hijabs – as well as nuts and sweets. The city is famous for gaz, a type of nougat.

Chehel Sotoon

Chehel Sotun

Drag yourself away, if you can for another opportunity to savour high Persian culture in the form of Chehel Sotun Palace, with its mirror work, pillared hall and landscaped gardens, now filled with gaggles of friendly students. Conveniently, it’s also in the vicinity of the Museum of Contemporary Art, which exhibits works by both local and international artists.

Vank Cathedral

Don’t forget to check out Jolfa, the Armenian quarter, south of the Zayandeh River. It’s dotted with churches, including Vank Cathedral which is famous for its striking religious tableaux. Whatever you do, be sure to take a sunset stroll along the banks of the river to the striking Khaju bridge, a discreet haunt for courting couples.

khawju bridge isfahan1

Khaju bridge

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About famous Armenian churches in Iran and Armenian Iranians in general

One of the finest examples of Iranian architecture in the neighborhood is an Armenian chapel, Surp Khatch.

Surp Khatch Chapel - Tehran Iran

Surp Khatch Chapel holds a peculiar significance within Armenian-Iranian life. There are dozens of Armenian churches within Iran, mostly in Tehran and the western provinces. Vank in New Julfa deserves special recognition, of course, for its role as the heart of the Isfahani community, brought to Persia by Shah Abbas I in the 17th century.

Vank Cathedral - New Julfa, Isfahan

The Prelacy – the bureaucratic head of the Armenian Church in Iran – makes its home in Saint Sarkis, a church that dates back to 1970.

Saint Sarkis Apostolic Church - Tehran, Iran

Armenian-Iranian architecture, particularly Surp Khatch, fits comfortably within the Iranian modernist idiom. The situation of Armenians (and other Christians) in Iran is of course far more normal than prevailing Western discourse may have an outside observer understand. Armenians have different treatment from most Iranians, with special privileges to consume pork, alcohol, and having Sundays off that Muslims do not enjoy. But they are still effusively Iranian. Surp Khatch, for example, was built in part to memorialize the thousands of Armenian service members killed in the Iran-Iraq War. When Teymourian (popular Armenian Iranian football star) crosses himself before a match, his countrymen cheer this act as the mark of a pious Iranian.

The negotiating of political space for religious minorities in an explicitly Islamic Republic is an ongoing political issue that is going strong on its fourth decade. But political concerns hardly frame daily life; Armenians and other religious minorities in Iran generally name their primary concerns as drug use and a rapidly deteriorating economy. The communities’ problems aren’t necessarily their status as minorities, but the general problems that stem from being Iranian. Indeed, minorities in Iran are well-integrated not only socially and culturally but politically as well. There are five Armenians in Parliament (compared to four Assyrian and Chaldean Christians, three Jews, and two Zoroastrians in the 290-seat Majlis). There are also Armenian observers to the Expediency Council and the Guardian Council.

http://ajammc.com/2012/12/01/towards-an-armenian-iranian-modern-tehran-church-architecture-post-revolutionary-soccer-culture/

Blog recommendation: American woman backpacking in Iran

Read the blog and enjoy Silvia’s descriptions and pictures. Here are the links to the posts on Iran:

http://www.heartmybackpack.com/blog/backpacking-solo-through-iran/

http://www.heartmybackpack.com/blog/kafka-cigarettes-tehran/

http://www.heartmybackpack.com/blog/isfahan-iran/

If you are lazy just read some quotes here and go to the links to enjoy the pictures:

“I mean, Iran is home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations, hosts thirteen UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and boasts beautiful landscapes stretching from dense rain forests to snowcapped mountains to desert basins. Plus, so many travelers whom I met in Central Asia absolutely raved about Iran. The hospitable people, delicious food and historic sites – how could I not add Iran to my travel itinerary?”

“My first Couchsurfing hosts in Tehran, a young Ph.D. student and her roommate, said they were so excited to be hosting an American girl, and that they hope more tourists will start to come to Iran. They were incredibly warm and welcoming hosts, cooking delicious Persian food and asking me countless questions about Norway and the U.S. and foreigners’ impressions of Iran.”

“The thing is, I haven’t felt alone once since I landed in Iran. The receptionist at my first hotel took me in as her daughter, accompanying me to breakfast and lunch and suggesting sites for me to visit, my Couchsurfing hosts were like cool older sisters, chatting with me about religion and politics as well as the plot twists of Lost and J-Lo’s divorce (I’m so out of touch), and Rana truly has adopted me as her sister, with an invitation to lunch turning into a trip to visit Esfahan and then several days with her family in Tehran.”

“So far my experience in Iran has only been one of warmth and hospitality, and really, really amazing food! Though, in a few hours Rana and I are heading to Marivan, a small Kurdish city on the border to Iraq. So you know, maybe I’ll have some more eventful things to share from there! (Kidding, family, Kurdistan is of course totally safe.)”

“My stay in Tehran was far too short and left much of the city unexplored, but I did leave with an overwhelming crush on a city so full of life and passion. Shopkeepers greeted me with warmth (if also a degree of surprise), and the discussions I had with people there were always filled with genuine interest and reflection. ”

“While now a bustling modern city, Isfahan was once one of the largest cities in the world as it sat on a major intersection of the main north-south and east-west  routes crossing Iran. We seemed to stumble on reminders of Isfahan’s past glory around every corner, from impressive squares and tree-lined boulevards to covered bridges, palaces and mosques.”

“Moreover, while Isfahan might be dominated by Islamic architecture, the city is also home to important Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian sites. Rana and I visited the Church of Saint Joseph of Arimathea, built by an Armenian community that settled in Isfahan in the early 1600s.”

Ok if you read so far, just make sure to visit the links above

Mehdi Fakhimi: Awarded Iranian architect

Iranian architect Mahdi FakhimiBorn on September 13, 1980, in Iran, Mohammad Mahdi Fakhimi got a Master’s degree in Architectural Engineering from Azad University in 2006.

He founded his first company named “Ideh-Pardazan Akad Group” in 2008 and continued his professional activity in three focused on three domains of architecture: urban planning, graphic interior design.

At that time his first book “Interior Design─From Architecture to Interior Decoration” was published.

He started teaching at Tehran Soore University as well as at Kish International Campus; the international branch of Tehran University located in Kish Island. His second book “Architecture & Urban Tele-democratic”, derived from his master thesis, was published in 2011.

Fakhimi resigned from teaching in 2013, working only as a supervisor and adviser for students who were looking forward to benefit from his knowledge for their theses.

Awards
Silver A Design Award in A’Design Award & Competition 2014-2015
Honorable Mention in 8th annual International Design Awards (IDA)
Jury Award of the Architecture and Urban Design Contest /2007
Winner of the 5th overall Architectural Photography Contest /2007

Sources: www.mahdifakhimi.com, A’ Design Award & Competition | Face Top Clinic

Iran’s East Azerbaijan Province: Saint Stepanos Monastery near Jolfa

The St. Stepanos Monastery (Armenian: Maghardavank) is an Armenian monastery about 15 km northwest of Jolfa, East Azarbaijan Province, northwestern Iran. It is situated in a deep canyon along the Arax river on the Iranian side of the border between Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic and Iran. Since 2008 it is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List together with the St. Thaddeus Monastery and the Chapel of Dzordzor.

The general structure mostly resembles Armenian and Georgian architecture and the inside of the building is adorned with beautiful paintings by Honatanian, a renowned Armenian artist. Hayk Ajimian, an Armenian scholar and historian, recorded that the church was originally built in the ninth century AD, but repeated earthquakes in Azarbaijan completely eroded the previous structure. The church was rebuilt during the rule of Shah Abbas the Second.

History
The first monastery was built in the seventh century (AD 649) and completed in the tenth century. However, St Bartholomew first founded a church on the site around AD 62 but it was partly destroyed during the wars between the Seljuks and the Byzantine Empire in the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

Following the conquest of the region by the Mongols of Hulagu, grandson of Genghis Khan, in the middle of the thirteenth century, Christians benefited from the favorable Ilkhanid dynasty, and a peace agreement is signed between the Armenian Church and the Ilkhans. The monastery was restored in the second half of the thirteenth century.

The monastery was completely rebuilt in 1330 under the leadership of Zachariah. St. Stepanos Monastery found the height of its cultural and intellectual influence in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The monastery produced paintings and illuminated manuscripts, in areas as diverse as religion, history and philosophy.

In the early fifteenth century, the new Safavid dynasty protected the Armenians but the region is at the center of the rivalry between the Safavids and the Ottomans, who invaded Western Armenia in 1513. St. Stepanos in the sixteenth century observed a gradual decline until Shah Abbas I decided to evacuate the region from its inhabitants in 1604. The monastery then was abandoned. From 1650, the Safavids, however, decided to occupy the region again, and the damaged and abandoned St. Stepanos monastery was restored in the middle of the century.

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the area became a challenge for the conquest of the Russian Empire. Yerevan was conquered by the Russians in 1827. The border between Persia and Russia was established on the Araxes by the Treaty of Turkmenchay. Consequently part of the population was displaced by force to Russian Armenia. The Qajar rulers continued to protect the Armenians. They encouraged the rebuilding of St. Stepanos Monastery between 1819 and 1825.

The monastery has undergone several restorations recently twentieth and twenty-first centuries, especially since 1974.

On UNESCO World Heritage List
The Armenian monasteries in Northwestern Iran have borne continuous testimony, since the origins of Christianity and certainly since the 7th century, to Armenian culture in its relations and contact with the Persian and later the Iranian civilizations. They bear testimony to a very large and refined panorama of architectural and decorative content associated with Armenian culture, in interaction with other regional cultures: Byzantine, Orthodox, Assyrian, Persian and Muslim. The monasteries have survived some 2,000 years of destruction, both of human origin and as a result of natural disasters. They have been rebuilt several times in a spirit in keeping with Armenian cultural traditions.

Further information: Iran Chamber Society | Church of Saint Stephanos

Sources: Wikipedia | Saint Stepanos MonasteryIran Chamber Society | Historical Churches in Iran, Tishineh | St. Stepanos Monastery, Wikimedia Commons | Saint Stepanos Monastery, UNESCO World Heritage List | Armenian Monastic Ensembles of Iran, IRNA | Photos 1, IRNA | Photos 2

Iranian architect Mahdi Fakhimi from AKAD Design winner of a Silver A’ Design Award in Italy

The design of Face Top by Mahdi Fakhimi from AKAD Design won the notable Silver A’ Design Award at Interior Space and Exhibition Design Competition in 2014-2015

The design, construction and execution contract of this project entitled Face Top Clinic, was concluded in summer 2011 for a cosmetic surgery consultation clinic in Tehran, Iran. Farzaneh Moghadasi, Sara Savar, Masoumeh Chakeri, Elham Sabetghadam, Mohammad Razaghdoust and Tahmineh Vesal are, alongside Mahdi Fakhimi, the team that was involved in this project.

Fakhimi, Mahdi - AKAD Design Group 1

The team from AKAD Design (Mahdi Fakhimi, 4th from right)

“The key point in the design of this project was the utilization of continuous surface style which is different from most of the works which have been done up to now, the continuous surface style requires soft surfaces and avoidance of sharp and angular lines, to create a flow” said Mahdi Fakhimi about the design.

It is not the first time that this team receives a design award for Face Top. It had already won bronze at the 7th Annual International Design Awards in 2014 in the category “Interior Design – Renovation”.

Hormoz Luxury Restaurant in Tehran, a runner-up in the Luxury Design Category in the same competition, is also a project by Mahdi Fakhimi along with Farzaneh Moghadasi, Sara Savar, Masoumeh Chakeri, Elham Sabetghadam and Hamid Ghorbani. It started in spring 2013 and finished by end of 2013.

About A’ Design Award and Competitions
The designs are judged by a panel of three different jury which is composed of Academic, Professional and Focus Group Members. A’ Design Award & Competitions, aims to highlight the excellent qualifications of best designs, design concepts and design oriented products. A’ Design Award & Competitions are organized and awarded annually and internationally in multiple categories to reach a wide, design-oriented audience. The Platinum A’ Design Award is given to the top 1% runner-up candidates (N° 1: 1st place, N° 2: 2nd and N° 3: 3rd place), the Golden A’ Design Award is given to top 3% candidates, the Silver A’ Design Award to top 5%, the Bronze A’ Design Award to top 10% and the A’ Design Award to top 20% runner-up candidates.

About AKAD Design Group
In 2002 a group of students beginning their careers started to work in teams using their knowledge from different fields. By 2008 AKAD Design Group was founded focusing on architecture, interior and graphic design.

Sources: A’ Design Award & Competition | Press release 36434, A’ Design Award & Competition | Mohammad Mahdi Fakhimi, AKAD Design | About, Mahdi Fakhimi | Projects, International Design Awards (iDA) 2014 | Renovation

Tabiat (Nature) pedestrian bridge in Tehran, Iran by Leila Araghian from Diba Tensile Architecture

Tabiat Pedestrian Bridge is located in the northern part of Tehran in a zone called Abbas Abad Lands; this is a 559Ha area which is mainly dedicated to cultural spaces such as libraries and museums, as well as public parks. ‘Tabiat’ means ‘Nature’ in Persian language.

The bridge crosses Modarres Highway and connects Abo Atash Park on the west to Taleghani Park on the east. The intention was to design a pedestrian route that was completely separate from the highway. The 270 meters long bridge is the largest pedestrian bridge built so far in Iran.Design of this bridge was the result of a two-phase competition which started in May 2008. The winning design was selected in August of the following year. It was inaugurated in October 2014.

The architect’s idea was to create multiple paths on each park that would lead people on to the bridge. On the east side there are multiple paths branching from both levels of the bridge and connecting to other paths within Taleghani Park. On the west where it connects to Abo Atash Park, the bridge becomes 55 meters wide forming a plaza; here it is not clear and not easy to recognize where the park ends and where the bridge starts.

This bridge is a space intended to be a place to linger rather than just one to pass through, and to act as an extension of the parks, so seating areas and green spaces are on all parts of the bridge. There are a coffee shop and a restaurant on both sides of the lower level. The second level is mainly designed for those who are crossing from a park to the other and the third level areas act as viewing platforms, providing a wide open space which can also be used for public performances.

All the levels are connected to each other by stairs and ramps, providing multiple paths throughout the bridge to get from each level to another.

Leila Araghian - Architect - Diba Tensile Architecture, Iran

Leila Araghian – Architect and Design Manager from Diba Tensile Architecture

Architects: Leila Araghian from Diba Tensile Architecture
Project: Tabiat Pedestrian Bridge
Location: Tehran, Iran
Architectural Team: Alireza Behzadi, Sahar Yasaei
Collaborators: Homa Soleimani, Mina Nikoukalam, Masoud Momeni, Adel Mohammadi, Nader Naghipour, Payam Golfeshan, Farhad Elahi
Structural Engineer: Maffeis Engineering spa
Design: September 2009-December 2010
Construction: September 2010-October 2014
Length: 270 meters
Area: 7680 m2
Weight: 2000 tons

Sources: DIBA | Projects | Tabiat Pedestrian Bridge, Mehr News Agency | Photos, www.archdaily.com, www10.aeccafe.com