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.
Babaie, Sussan. Isfahan and its Palaces: Statecraft and Shi’ism and the Architecture of Conviviality in Early Modern Iran. Edinburgh Studies in Islamic Art, edited by Robert Hillenbrand. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2008.
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.
Necipoglu, Gulru and David Roxburgh. “International Trade and the King’s Silk Monopoly Part Two.” Lesson 20B/22 presentation developed for the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Education Programme, 2019.
The twentieth lesson (part 2 of 2) in a 22 lesson course on Monuments of Islamic Architecture developed by Professors Gulru Necipoglu and David Roxburgh at the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard University. This lesson explores the architectural and social formation of Safavid Isfahan that was shaped by the political and economic aims of Shah ʿAbbas and his successors and the sociopolitical reorganization shared in the alliances and competitions among vested groups. This included a royal monopoly in the silk trade, and their Armenian and European facilitators, as well as the “capitalist” ventures of the new mercantile communities that engaged in long‐distance trade.