Destinations Magazine

The Imam Square in Esfahan

By Ninstravelog @ninstravelog

Walking about in a souk or bazaar or traditional market can be enjoyable as well as frustrating. It’s enjoyable because you will see so many other things that you won’t see in high street shops, from the variety of the items they sell, the activities as well as the colour, the smell and the vibrance of the souk.  In Iran, they call it bazaar instead of souk, but the activities are just the same; they are selling many local art and handicraft stuff. Out of so many bazaars in Iran’s different cities, Bazaar-e Bozorg maybe bigger and busiest in Esfahan, but I liked the Grand Bazaar of the Nasqh-e Jahan Imam Square best, its also in Esfahan.

Nasqh-e Jahan Imam Square is a square that is surrounded by many shops, it was built in 1602 as the expression of Shah Abbas the Great vision as the centrepiece of Abbas’ new capital. It means ‘pattern of the world’ hence reflects what the shops sell, the finest jewels of the Safavid Empire. Also in the same square, was the very beautiful Masjed-e Shah and the very elegant Masjed-e Sheikh Lotfollah, lavishly decorated Ali Qapu Palace and Qeysharieh Portal (I missed the later one as this was under renovation). In the middle of the square it use to hold a regular polo games, but modern influence changed it to fountain.


Business as usual for the shops but empty corridors….

Because tourism in Iran has not yet picked up when I visited the place, there were not many people walking around, I did not get the real souk, or normal lively bazaar atmosphere, but don’t get me wrong, in return we got a more intimate interaction with the shop owner or talked to the artists as well as drinking tea with them, and the best bit was there’s no pressure to buy

As we talk, the artist carries on working
Exhibiting his work on camel bone – they call the work as miniature

Normally their work are called miniatures, above shows he was drawing the famous Iranian Poet, Omar Khayam, on camel bone:

One of the classic scene to be paint is polo game that used to be held inside the square
a comparison of the size of the miniature I bought: pencil case made from camel bone.

At 512m long and 163m wide, this square is the second largest square in the world, I guess it explains why I never managed to walk around the corridors.    However, if you have the energy to meander all the way through this souk which links to the other souk, Bazar-e Bozorg, the older and bigger souk that was built more than 1000 years ago.

No game of polo anymore, but you can still ride your horse on a carriage, which are a popular entertainment among the local.

No game of polo anymore, but you can still ride your horse on a carriage, which are a popular entertainment among the local.

Behind the facades there are many niches with more shops, where you can enjoy your tea or coffee or just talk to the locals.

Tea was serve while we watched the artist working.
Somebody offer us water melon in one of the corner of the Imam Square

Iranian are diligent people, even though there is no business, they just get on with it and carry on working:

Getting ready for the tourists
Waiting for the punters
Keep on working
Copper work as the landmark in the square
The handicrafts on display

Oh I forgot to add here that they all speak good English.

Night few of Naqsh-e Jahan Square in Esfahan

Night view of Naqsh-e Jahan Square in Esfahan


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