The maydan, or public plaza, is an eight hectare space constructed under Shah Abbas I between 1590 and 1595 for state ceremonies and sport. A two storied, arcaded perimeter of stores was added by 1602 in an effort to introduce commerce to the area, luring merchants from the old city to the north.
Festivals and parades continued in this multifunctional space, alternating use of the large central area with commercial stalls. The arcaded facades were originally decorated with polychrome glazed tiles, the rhythm of the arcades broken once on each façade by the entrance to a building. On the south, the Shah Mosque; east, the Mosque of Shaykh Lutfallah; the Ali Qapu on the west façade; on the north the monumental entrance portal to a two kilometer bazaar which links the maydan to the old city.
The iwan of this grand portal, known as the Naqqara-khana, crowned with the representation of Sagittarius in mosaic tile, leads to the royal bazaar, the royal mint and the royal caravanserai. This was the strong room for the most valuable trade in the city.
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Bakhtiar, Ali. “The Royal Bazaar of Isfahan” Iranian Studies 7, no. 1/2, Studies on Isfahan: Proceedings of the Isfahan Colloquium, Part I (Winter - Spring, 1974): 320-347.
Blair, Sheila S. and Jonathan M. Bloom. The Art and Architecture of Islam. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994. 185.
Blake, Stephen. Half the World: The Social Architecture of Safavid Isfahan, 1590-1722. Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, 1999. 22-3, 26-7, 105-07.
Michell, George. Architecture of the Islamic World. London: Thames and Hudson, 1978. 73.
August 8, 2018 (AKDC Staff): edited alternate names.
Emami, Farshid. "Coffeehouses, Urban Spaces, and the Formation of a Public Sphere in Safavid Isfahan." Muqarnas: An Annual On The Visual Cultures Of The Islamic World, Vol 33 (2016): 177-220.
This essay examines the urban topography, physical structure, and social context of coffeehouses in Safavid Iran (1501–1722), particularly in the capital city of Isfahan. Through a reconstruction of the architecture and urban configuration of coffeehouses, the essay shows how, as an utterly novel institution, the coffeehouse opened up a new sphere of public life, engendered new conceptions of urbanity, and altered the social meaning of urban spaces. The essay will specifically focus on the drinking houses that existed in the Maydan-i Naqsh-i Jahan and Khiyaban-i Chaharbagh, the grand urban spaces of seventeenth-century Isfahan. The remaining physical traces, together with textual and visual evidence, permit us to reconstruct Isfahan’s major coffeehouses. This analysis not only reveals a less-appreciated aspect of urbanity in the age of Shah ʿAbbas (r. 1587–1629) but also elucidates the ways in which the public spaces of Safavid Isfahan contained and shaped novel social practices particular to the early modern age.