Esfahan 23rd July Day 13: This morning we headed for Naqsh-e Jahan Square early to beat the crowds. We have been incredibly lucky with the weather. Last week it was 45C day after day, a normal summer in this area. This is actually low season because it is usually too hot. We however have mild weather. A pleasant morning and about 32 to 33C in the day with occasional cloud cover to keep off the heat.This amazing square in Esfahan, Naqsh-e Jahan, at 512m by 163m, and World Heritage listed,is the second biggest square in the world. Only Tiananmen Square in China is bigger.The square has changed little since it was built in the 1600s. At each end you can still see the goal posts that were used for polo games here. It has fountains, lawn and gardens in the centre and at each of it’s sides, it has the 4 main elements of Iranian architecture. A mosque, a madraseh, a palace and a bazaar.

The shops surround a couple of the sides. Full of merchants selling all sorts of local specialities such as miniature art, enamelled copper, and carpets.

Walking around we met a couple of Queenslanders doing an adventure trip almost the same as ours but in the opposite direction.
They were a mine of information as they started in Vladivostok and then travelled through Mongolia and the Stans along the same routes we intend to take. We learnt about food, fuel, road conditions and safety elements. They have been loving their trip, and have felt safe all along the way. Good news all around!

We have to say to all travellers thinking of coming to Iran. The people are amazingly welcome, curious, and friendly. We feel totally safe. There is no hassle when shopping. They are unspoilt by rampant tourism.
We were guided by Arman around the Masjed-e Shah mosque. The richness of this mosque’s blue tiled mosaic designs is stunning. It is perfectly proportioned, reflecting a Safavid-era style of architecture that impresses visually. It has amazing sound amplifying properties, where one caller, guiding the faithful in the stages of prayer, could have his voice carry throughout the whole area of the mosque including the enormous central courtyard, which today was unfortunately filled with scaffolding with shade cloth to protect the people at prayer during the sun’s heat in the middle of the day at the important Friday prayer that is to take place tomorrow.The high portals and even higher central dome, create an overwhelming feeling of this being a special place. The lower part of the walls are all marble, and above, all the way to the roof, are incredible colourful mosaics. It took over 100 years to build this mosque, starting in 1611.

We next went to the Miniature art workshop of Mr Mostafah Fatowat. We do not mean that the art is small, but the name reflects its detail and intricacy. The art is painted on camel bone panels. They once used ivory, but it is obviously no longer available. The painting is done with natural colours, lapis lazuli, pomegranate, ground walnut powder, saffron etc. It is painted in indicate detail. They do work down to the finest detail, using a single cat hair for some of the fine detailing. The whole frame around these artworks is inlaid. Everything is exquisite and of phenomenal detail. We inspected the fine detail under magnifying glass. On some portraits you could see skin pores and moisture in the corners of the eyes as well as each individual hair in a beard. We all bought a piece of art.

Another Mosque and Madraseh in the square is the Sheik Lotfollah mosque, smaller than the first grand one, and built in only 18 years in the early 1600s, it is less bold than the other mosque but nevertheless intricate. Inside the central dome is a stalactite ceiling that when light shines through a portal, it projects a peacock tail on the ceiling when you stand in certain places inside. Mind-blowing!

We the went off to a money exchange and we became millionaires! 32,000 Real to the dollar!

After wandering through the bazaar we headed to the Chenel Sotun Palace. The Persian gardens in this palace precinct were outstanding and the highlight of this complex is a pleasure pavilion and reception hall for the Royals. There is an elegant raised terrace with 20 ribbed cedar pillars on the portico. Inside is a rich array of colourful frescoes portraying court life and famous battles.

After lunch we split up to either wander the corridors of the bazaar or head off to the carpet warehouse to check out the magnificent Esfahan carpets. The use of natural colours, tribal or city designs, use of lambs wool, cotton or silk, creates the most amazing quality carpets.

We are back at the hotel now, about to head off for an amazing dinner. More to come!

C-YA Andrew and Jeff

Andrew Bochenek
Mongolia Charity Rally 2015

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