Isfahan has all that

In the late sixteenth century the Iranian capital of Qazvin was under threat from invaders. So Shah Abbas was like, “Right we need to move our capital to somewhere in the middle of Iran”. He chose Isfahan and made it awesome.

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Today, Isfahan holds many of the very best things Iran has to offer tourists: a splendorous central square, an excellent carpet producing tradition, enchantingly ordered Persian gardens, breathtaking Mosques and a place that will fix you ten tender lamb chops for cheap. It also has a sweet nuclear reactor, but that’s not so much for visiting. It’s as liberal as Tehran (hence the return of angry birds sculpted eyebrows) but it’s got less pollution, calmer traffic, and an appreciable centre in Imam square.

It’s hip to be in the square

Imam square is a massive central plaza, lined with arched arcades housing carpet and handicraft stores interrupted only by palaces and Mosques. In the evenings horse-drawn carriages clack around the periphery and fountains chirp in the centre. It really is a magic place, and it is massive. Imam square is second only to the square of vanishing protestors Tiananmen Square for size in the world. But where Tiananmen is flanked by austere communist architecture and you have to pass through a metal detector to get in, Imam square is alive with people relaxing. Persian carpets are unfurled as picnic blankets and girls just old enough to wear hejab practice volleyball in between.

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