One of the most remarkable Islamic cities is Isfahan (also called Esfahan or Hispahan), today the third largest city in Iran. Set against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains, the city is populated by both Islamic and pre-Islamic buildings. Although it has existed in some form since pre-historic times, it was not until the era of Shah Abbas I, in the late sixteenth century that much of what still stands in the city was built. It was Shah Abbas who decided to make Isfahan the capital of his Safavid dynasty and to build a breath-taking city of parks, libraries and mosques remarkable in their scale and the beauty of their decoration. At this time Isfahan had a population of around 600,000 people with an astonishing number of buildings: 160 mosques, 48 religious schools, 1,800 shops and over 270 public baths. It had become such a melting pot of travellers and cultures that it was also referred to as 'Nesf-e-Jahan' meaning 'half the world' in Persian.
© Ramdas Iyer Photography