Translated by Captain Ahab
Written by Dr. Mostafa Al-Labbad
The flight from Tehran to Isfahan’s international airport located in the North-East of the city, the same airport that connects the city to the rest of the country. One of Isfahan’s greatest amenities is it’s weather thanks to the Zagros mountains, located to the East of the city lyes the river Zayanderud River (River of Eternity). The city’s weather is cool and it rarely ever rains. Besides Isfahan’s green farms, it is home to Petro-Chemical factories and textile mills, the city is also famous for its carpet industry, one of the most luxurious and expensive carpets in the world. The city is home to 2 million, Isfahan stretches out over an area of 100,000 square meter. Following Tehran and Mashhad, Isfahan has the third highest population count it is also important from an economic and political perspective, its residents are well-known for their money-saving attitudes.
In Isfahan, which has been called Nisf Jihan (Half the world), the three monotheistic religions live side by side (Islam, Christianity, and Judaism) as well as Zoroastrianism, the latter is Iran’s Pre-Islamic religion. Since the Arabs defeated Yazdegerd the third, the last of the Sassanid kings in the year 20 according to Hijri calendar, 3 years after the conquest of Jerusalem, Isfahan came into prominence, where the local population took pride in that Salman Al-Farsi, one of the greatest companions of Prophet Mohammad was from their city.
Isfahan is that great center of civilization located in the center of Iran’s geography, between Tehran and Shiraz, the city’s importance is due to it being pregnant with Persia’s essence (Being). To this day many Safavid remnants are preserved, the Safavids ruled Iran from the dawn of the 16th century to it’s downfall in 1736. Isfahan was the capital for the Safavids. Even though it was built in 500 B.C, its ever-renewing historical meaning to the Persians, and it’s political significance in being the capital of the Safavids, makes certain that it is ever-present in Iranian national memory.
Perhaps no other dynasty in Iran’s long history has ever left a legacy as that of the Safavids. Since the Islamic conquest and up until the Safavids, Iran never played a role as a geographical unity as that under the Safavids rule. Since the downfall of the Safavid empire, the city lost some of its previous mythical and Meta-historical importance; it lost its status as the political capital to Nishapur and then to Tehran.
The reason why the Safavids chose Isfahan as their capital instead of Qazvin, from whence they came, is that it is further away from the border with the Ottomans as compared to Qazvin. This was a strategic decision of the utmost importance, because it would make the Safavids capital far enough from any Ottoman invasion. Another key advantage, was the city’s geographical position – it is located at the foothills of the Zagros range which made it more difficult to conquer compared to Qazvin, in addition passing through the city were the Indian trade lines.
One story goes that soothsayers at the time had a vision that a major cataclysm was upon the city of Qazvin; and so they told Shah Abbas, who then decided to move the capital to Isfahan, but looking at it again one would think that the strategic and economic factors were the cause of the shift. The Safavids were not satisfied with just changing the capital, they went a step further, they restored the ancient Iranian flag, the one used by the ancient Persian kings and can be seen in the great epic poems of Al-Ferdowsi namely Shahnameh. The flag had a lion and the sun, these two symbols are associated with the city to this day, and could even be seen in the beautifully hand-made artifacts sold in the city’s local markets. Changing the religious school of Iran from Sunnism to Shi’ism was a decision made by Shah Abbas in order to further articulate Iran’s uniqueness from the Ottomans, something that also led him in his peculiar choice of the flag, he chose the sun in order to further the ideological divide between both countries since the Ottomans used the moon in their flags. History is still alive in Isfahan, and the Iranian/Turkish struggle is ongoing to this day as much as it was in the past.
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