Ispahan, Sepahan, Esfahan or Hispahan, is a city in Iran. It is located 406 kilometres (252 miles) south of Tehran, and is the capital of Isfahan Province.
Isfahan has a population of approximately 1.6 million, making it the third largest city in Iran after Tehran and Mashhad, but was once one of the largest cities in the world.
Isfahan is an important city as it is located at the intersection of the two principal north–south and east–west routes that traverse Iran. Isfahan flourished from 1050 to 1722, particularly in the 16th and 17th centuries under the Safavid dynasty when it became the capital of Persia for the second time in its history under Shah Abbas the Great. Even today the city retains much of its past glory.
It is famous for its Perso–Islamic architecture, grand boulevards, covered bridges, palaces, tiled mosques, and minarets. Isfahan also has many historical buildings, monuments, paintings and artefacts. The fame of Isfahan led to the Persian pun and proverb "Esfahān nesf-e- jahān ast": Isfahan is half (of) the world.
The Naghsh-e Jahan Square in Isfahan is one of the largest city squares in the world. UNESCO has designated it a World Heritage Site.
"Isfahan" is derived from Middle Persian Spahān. Spahān is attested in various Middle Persian seals and inscriptions, including that of Zoroastrian Magi Kartir, and is also the Armenian name of the city (Սպահան). The present-day name is the Arabicized form of Ispahan (unlike Middle Persian, and similar to Spanish, New Persian does not allow initial consonant clusters such as sp). The region appears with the abbreviation GD (Southern Media) on Sasanian numismatics. In Ptolemy's Geographia it appears as Aspadana, translating to "place of gathering for the army". It is believed that Spahān derives from spādānām "the armies", Old Persian plural of spāda (from which derives spāh 'army' and spahi (soldier – lit. of the army) in Middle Persian)
What was to become the city of Isfahan in later historical periods probably emerged as a locality and settlement that gradually developed over the course of the Elamite civilisation (2700–1600 BCE).
Under Median rule, this commercial entrepôt began to show signs of a more sedentary urbanism, steadily growing into a noteworthy regional centre that benefited from the exceptionally fertile soil on the banks of the Zayandehrud River in a region called Aspandana or Ispandana.
In the 20th century, Isfahan was resettled by a very large number of people from southern Iran, firstly during the population migrations at the start of the century, and again in the 1980s following the Iran–Iraq War.
Today, Isfahan produces fine carpets, textiles, steel, handicrafts, and traditional foods including sweets. There are nuclear experimental reactors as well as facilities for producing nuclear fuel (UCF) within the environs of the city. Isfahan has one of the largest steel-producing facilities in the region, as well as facilities for producing special alloys. Mobarakeh Steel Company is the biggest steel producer in the whole of the Middle East and Northern Africa, and it is the biggest DRI producer in the world. The Isfahan Steel Company was the first manufacturer of constructional steel products in Iran, and it remains the largest such company today.
The city has an international airport and a metro line.
There are a major oil refinery and a large airforce base outside the city. HESA, Iran's most advanced aircraft manufacturing plant, is located just outside the city. Isfahan is also attracting international investment, especially in the Isfahan City Center which is the largest shopping mall in Iran and the fifth largest in the world.
Isfahan hosted the International Physics Olympiad in 2007
The bridges on the Zayanderud river comprise some of the finest architecture in Isfahan. The oldest bridge is the Shahrestan bridge, whose foundations were built by the Sasanian Empire (3rd–7th century Sassanid era); it was repaired during the Seljuk period. Further upstream is the Khaju bridge, which was built by Shah Abbas II in 1650. It is 123 metres (404 feet) long with 24 arches, and also serves as a sluice gate.
Another bridge is the Choobi (Joui) bridge, which was originally an aqueduct to supply the palace gardens on the north bank of the river. Further upstream again is the Si-o-Seh Pol or bridge of 33 arches. Built during the reign of Shah Abbas the Great, it linked Isfahan with the Armenian suburb of New Julfa. It is by far the longest bridge in Isfahan at 295 m (967.85 ft).
Another notable bridge is the Marnan Bridge.
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