We had arrived at our hotel late at night. I did not see the hotel’s compound until morning so I was amazed to see the immense building complex and the beautiful garden that the building surrounded. About 300 years ago the Sultan Husayn built the caravanserai that has been beautifully transformed into this hotel. The whole complex is well maintained and the classical garden is magnificent. I felt as though I had wandered into a world of Persian stories and miniature paintings.
After a sumptuous breakfast we visited the Jameh Mosque located in the old Jewish Quarter which now has a mixed population. The mosque was started in the 12th century during the Seljuk Period and a lot has been added since. The blue-tiled exterior is beautiful and the architecture of the pillars and arches that support the Seljuk domes is magnificent.
One of Isfahan’s most famous monuments is the Bridge of Thirty Three Arches. It was built during the reign of Shah Abass I at a time when the Persian Empire was one of the great powers of the world. When we were there the flow of the Zayanden River was being interrupted by an upstream dam. We were told that by late Spring the river would be flowing again. The arches supporting the bridge are a favorite locale for young people to meet. The existence of such places is frowned upon by the religious authorities.
Shah Abass I relocated many Christian Armenians to Isfahan in the early 17th Century. There are still some 15,000 Armenians and 13 Armenian churches in Isfahan. The Vank Cathedral is the center of this community. Each year on the 24th of April a memorial service is held in the Cathedral for the Armenians massacred by Turks in 1916-17. Amir told us that sports may be gradually beginning to thaw the difficult relationship between modern Turkey and the Republic of Armenia. He called it “soccer diplomacy”.