Isfahan (Persian: اصفهان‎) historically also rendered in English as Ispahan, Sepahan, Esfahan or Hispahan, is the capital of Isfahan Province in Iran, located about 340 kilometres (211 miles) south of Tehran. At the 2011 census, it had a population of 1,756,126 and its built-up (or metro) area was home to 2,391,738 inhabitants including Khomeynishahr, Shahinshahr, Khvorasgan, Dorcheh Piaz, Falavarjan, Kelishad Va Sudarjan, Abrisham, Kushk and Kharizsang cities. The Greater Isfahan Region had a population of 3,793,104 in the 2011 Census, the second most populous metropolitan area in Iran after Tehran. The counties of Isfahan, Borkhar, Najafabad, Khomeynishahr, Shahinshahr, Mobarakeh, Falavarjan, Tiran o Karvan, Lenjan and Jay all constitute the metropolitan city of Isfahan.

Isfahan is located on the main north–south and east–west routes crossing Iran, and was once one of the largest cities in the world. It 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. Even today, the city retains much of its past glory. It is famous for its Persian–Islamic architecture, with many beautiful boulevards, covered bridges, palaces, mosques, and minarets. This led to the Persian 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 and an outstanding example of Iranian and Islamic architecture. It has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The city also has a wide variety of historic monuments and is known for the paintings, history and architecture.

Isfahan City Center is also the 5th largest shopping mall in the world, which is located in this city, mixing the traditional Isfahan architecture with the modern one.

re-Islamic era

 Isfahan at the end of 6th century (top), consisting of two separate areas of Sassanid Jay and Jewish Yahudia. At 11th century (bottom), these two areas are completely merged.

It is noteworthy to say that 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 civilization (2700–1600 BCE).

During the Median dynasty, 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.

Once Cyrus the Great (reg. 559–529 BCE) unified Persian and Median lands into the Achaemenid Empire (648–330 BCE), the religiously and ethnically diverse city of Isfahan became an early example of the king’s fabled religious tolerance. It is said that after Cyrus the Great freed the Jews from Babylon some Jews returned to Jerusalem whereas some others decided to live in Persia and settle in what is now known as Isfahan. But, actually this happened later in the Sasanid period when a Jewish colony was made in the vicinity of the Sasanid.

:The tenth century Persian historian  al-Hamedani wrote

“When the Jews emigrated from Jerusalem, fleeing from Nebuchadnezzar, they carried with them a sample of the water and soil of Jerusalem. They did not settle down anywhere or in any city without examining the water and the soil of each place. They did all along until they reached the city of Isfahan. There they rested, examined the water and soil and found that both resembled Jerusalem. Upon they settled there, cultivated the soil, raised children and grandchildren, and today the name of this settlement is Yahudia.”

The Parthians (250 BCE – 226 CE) continued the tradition of tolerance after the fall of the Achaemenids, fostering the Hellenistic dimension within Iranian culture and political organization introduced by Alexander the Great‘s invading armies. Under the Parthians, Arsacid governors administered a large province from Isfahan, and the city’s urban development accelerated to accommodate the needs of a capital city.

An ancient item from Isfahan City Center museum

The next empire to rule Persia, the Sassanids (226 – 652 CE), presided over massive changes in their realm, instituting sweeping agricultural reform and reviving Iranian culture and the Zoroastrian religion. The city was then called by the name and the region by the name Aspahan or Spahan. The city was governed by “Espoohrans” or the members of seven noble Iranian families who had important royal positions, and served as the residence of these noble families as well. Extant foundations of some Sassanid-era bridges in Isfahan suggest that the kings were also fond of ambitious urban planning projects. While Isfahan’s political importance declined during the period, many Sasanian princes would study statecraft in the city, and its military role developed rapidly. Its strategic location at the intersection of the ancient roads to Susa and Persepolis made it an ideal candidate to house a standing army, ready to march against Constantinople at any moment. The words ‘Aspahan’ and ‘Spahan’ are derived from the Pahlavi or Middle Persian meaning ‘the place of the army’.Although many theories have been mentioned about the origin of Isfahan, in fact little is known of Isfahan before the rule of the Sasanian dynasty (c. 224–c. 651 CE). The historical facts suggest that in the late 4th and early 5th centuries Queen Shushandukht, the Jewish consort of Yazdegerd I (reigned 399–420) settled a colony of Jews in Yahudiyyeh (also spelled Yahudiya), a settlement 3 kilometres (1.9 miles) northwest of the Zoroastrian city of (the Achaemid and Parthian ‘Gabae’ or ‘Gabai’, the Sasanid ‘Gay’ and the Arabicized form ‘Jay’) that was located just on the northern bank of the Zayanderud River. The gradual population decrease of Gay or Jay and the simultaneous population increase of Yahudiyyeh and its suburbs after the Islamic conquest of Iran resulted in the formation of the nucleus of what was to become the city of Isfahan. It should be noted that the words Aspadana, Ispadana, Spahan and Sepahan from which the word Isfahan is derived all referred to the region in which the city was located

Isfahan city core

History of Isfahan city core consisted of two parts, the old section, which started from the old square, close to the Friday mosque, and the new section, which started from Naghsh-e-Jahan square (World View Square) today called as the Meydane Emam, with its measurements of 1680×523 ft and connected to the old section.

By the 11th century, after selecting Isfahan as the capital of Saljuqi period, the old square had become the center of the city and old square become such an important urban space, that is a big difference in that particular era. It had a castle, bazaar, and mosque and residential. There were some peripheral markets along the main

Modern age

Today Isfahan, the third largest city in Iran, produces fine carpets, textiles, steel, handicrafts, specific sweet and traditional delicious foods. Isfahan also has nuclear experimental reactors as well as facilities for producing nuclear fuel (UCF). Isfahan has one of the largest steel-producing facilities in the entire region, as well as facilities for producing special alloys.

The city has an  international airport and is in the final stages of constructing its first Metro line

Over 2000 companies work in the area using Isfahan’s economic, cultural, and social potentials. Isfahan contains a major oil refinery and a large airforce base. HESA, Iran’s most advanced aircraft manufacturing plant (where the IrAn-140 Ukrainian-Iranian aircraft is made), is located nearby. Isfahan is also becoming an attraction for international investments, like investments in Isfahan City Center,which is the largest shopping mall in Iran and the largest shopping mall with a museum in the world and has the largest indoor amusement park in the middle-east

Isfahan hosted the International Physics Olympiad in 2007.

Geography and climate

The city is located in the lush plain of the Zayanderud River, at the foothills of the Zagros mountain range. The nearest mountain is Mount Soffeh (Kuh-e Soffeh) which is situated just south of Isfahan. No geological obstacles exist within 90 kilometres (56 miles) north of Isfahan, allowing cool northern winds to blow from this direction. Situated at 1,590 metres (5,217 ft) above sea level on the eastern side of the Zagros Mountains, Isfahan has an arid climate (Köppen BSk). Despite its altitude, Isfahan remains hot during the summer with maxima typically around 35 °C (95 °F). However, with low humidity and moderate temperatures at night, the climate can be very pleasant. During the winter, days are mild while nights can be very cold. Snow has occurred at least once every winter except 1986/1987 and 1989/1990

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