One of the Largest Squares in the World

Naghsh-e Jahan Square, also known as Meidān-e Emām (Imam Square), in the historical center of the city of Isfahan in Iran is one of the largest squares in the world. It is a testimony to the social and cultural life of Persia during the Safavid dynasty and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979 as an important historical site. It was built by Shah Abbas I at the beginning of the 17th century under the name Naghsh-e Jahan ("Portrait of the World"). It was later called Meidān-e Shāh, then renamed Meidān-e Emām after the Islamic Revolution in honor of Ayatollah Khomeini. The square forms an oblong rectangle 560 meters long and 160 meters wide, which is about 9 hectares. Aligned on the North-South direction, it is surrounded by important historical monuments of the Safavid era: the Shah Mosque in the South, the Ali Qapu Palace in the West, the Sheikh Lotfallah Mosque in the East and one of the doors of the Grand Bazaar of Isfahan on the North side.

In 1598, Shah Abbas I moved his capital of Qazvin to Isfahan, an oasis destined to become his place of residence and an important center of commerce, culture and religion. Fertilized by the Zayandeh rud river, in the middle of a vast arid landscape, the city is ideal to distance itself from future assaults by the Ottomans, sworn enemies of the Safavids, and Uzbeks, and at the same time to gain more control over the Persian Gulf, which has recently become an important trading route for the Dutch and the British East India Company. This considerable urban planning project is attributed to Sheikh Bahai, who focuses on two key features of the Shah's general plan: the Chahar Bagh leafy Boulevard (four gardens), a historic Isfahan avenue flanked on both sides by cultural institutions. such as the residences of foreign dignitaries, and Naghsh-e Jahan Square.

Before the rise to power of the Shah, Persia had a decentralized power structure, in which different institutions fought for power, including the military tribes (Qizilbash) and the governors of the provinces constituting the Empire. Shah Abbas wanted to weaken this political structure, and the development of Isfahan to make it the new capital of Persia was an important step for the centralization of power. The ingenuity of Naghsh-e Jahan Square was for the Shah to unite the three main components of power in his court: the clergy, represented by the Shah Mosque, the power of the traders through the Imperial Bazaar, and the power of the Shah himself, since his palace Ali Qapu

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