Esfahan is the third largest city and the capital of the central province of the same name. An industrial centre, particularly for textiles, it also has some of the leading tourist attractions in Iran and is renowned for its architecture.
Having been invaded successively from the mid-seventh century by Arabs, Seljuk Turks (who made it the capital of their empire in the eleventh century) and Mongols (in the fourteenth century), Esfahan enjoyed a renaissance under the Safavid dynasty from the late 1500s. Abbas I made Esfahan the Persian capital, and under his patronage the city reached the peak of its commercial prosperity and architectural prominence in the early seventeenth century. It was badly damaged by Afghan invaders in the 1720s, and its population declined dramatically before recovering during the reign of Reza Khan (father of the last Shah of Iran) from 1925–41.
Esfahan’s agricultural hinterland produces cotton, grain and tobacco. The city’s industries include traditional manufactures such as rugs, tiles and cotton fabrics, as well as steel making and oil refining. The university was established 1946.
Places of Interest
In the centre of the city lies a square, the Meidan Imam (a World Heritage Site), built in the early seventeenth century and one of the largest in the world. Other architectural attractions dating from the Safavid period include the Imam Mosque, Lotfallah Mosque, Ali Qapoo Palace, Chehel Sotoon Palace and Si-o-Se Pol Bridge (one of several old bridges that cross the Zayandeh River). The Vank Cathedral is the focal point of the Armenian Church in Iran. The Chahar Bagh Madrassa, a theological college, was built in the early eighteenth century. Esfahan has a Natural History Museum and Decorative Arts Museum.