17 January 2017

Impressions and Images of Iran: Masjid-e Shah (Masjid-e Imam) in Isfahan

Isfahan (and central Iran in general) is where the phrase "history resonates" applies perfectly. There are plenty of architectural wonders here, as well as World Heritage Sites, due to the fact that this city used to be a capital of the Persian empire. Isfahan was the third and final capital of the Safavid dynasty, and there are plenty of buildings that were constructed during this time. One prime example is the Shah Mosque (also known as the Imam Mosque, after the 1979 Revolution).

This mosque was built back in 1611, when Shah Abbas ordered it to be built. It is a very splendid mosque, and the polychrome tiles and the majestic calligraphy gives the visitor quite a transcendental experience.

Visitors enter through this grand entrance portal. Notice the intricate muqarnas that look like honeycombs at the top of the vault. This entrance portal leads to the inner courtyard, through an angled corridor. The entrance portal faces Isfahan's large square, the Naqsh-e Jahan Square, but the mosque must face Mecca, hence there's a small angled corridor that is meant to correct for this.

Unfortunately, I don't have photos of the courtyard. This is because when I visited, there was a huge tent being set up, and later on I learned that the purpose of this tent was to serve as a cover for the worshippers who would visit the mosque because of the upcoming Ashura celebrations. I would write more about Ashura later on, in a separate post. Anyway, I was a little frustrated because of the tent which was a huge eye-sore, hence all I have here are photos of the corridors, which are nevertheless very visually appealing.

The pictures you see here are taken from the sanctuaries; these are the worshipping spaces that are found within the iwans. There are four iwans, as is typical in Persian architecture, and behind these are these spacious and majestic rooms, which are full of polychromatic tiles, giving the spectator a feeling of heavenly transcendence. As much as I am not a religious person at all, I found myself many times simply sitting down on the floor, taking a few minutes to admire the scenery. At times it felt like it was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.

The final two photos I have are of the main dome, which is bright turquoise, and can be observed from the courtyards of the attached madrasah. Unfortunately, there was some construction work going on hence there were scaffolding that was attached when I visited.

Needless to say, this place is a must-see, so if you are in Isfahan, make it a point to visit this place.

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