Welcome to the hidden world of Iran. Travel through this fascinating country to discover refined Islamic cities, colourful bazaars, ancient Persian ruins, fascinating nomads and shimmering deserts.
Naqsh-e Jahan means ‘pattern of the world’, and it’s a world that owes much to the vision of Shah Abbas the Great. Begun in 1602 as the centrepiece of Abbas’ new capital, the square was designed as home to the finest jewels of the Safavid empire – the incomparable Masjed-e Shah, the supremely elegant Masjed-e Sheikh Lotfollah and the indulgent and lavishly decorated Kakh-e Ali Qapu and Qeysarieh Portal. At 512m long and 163m wide, this immense space is the second-largest square on earth – only Mao Zedong’s severe Tiananmen Sq in Beijing is bigger. It is a Unesco World Heritage Site.
The square has changed little since it was built, and at each end you can still see the goal posts used in regular polo games 400 years ago (you’ll see these polo matches depicted on miniatures for sale around the square). The only modern additions are the fountains, which were added by the Pahlavis, and the souvenir shops, which occupy the spaces on either side of the arched arcades but are relatively innocuous.
The square is best visited in the late afternoon and early evening, when local families flock in to promenade around the perimeter. This is also when the fountains are turned on, the light softens and the truly splendid architecture is illuminated.