A handmade Isfahan in a tasteful bathroom.

In the middle of Iran with the Zagros mountains to the left and the desert to the right, lies the city of Isfahan; Today, it is an important industrial city with a population of 1.2 million inhabitants. For many people Isfahan probably is the main attraction in Iran. Architecturally, the city is a masterwork and one of the finest in the islamic world. The great Imam square with two mosques together with the palaces, the parks and the old bridges creates a mood that lets the visitor feel that this really is the Orient.

Isfahan was the capital of the country during the Safavids dynasty (1502-1736). The powerful Shah Abbas (1587-1629) was a great believer of architecture, art and handicrafts. During his time the Emam square were built, looking like a large caravan. In its southern end rises the enormous Emam mosque. It is thought by lots of people to be the finest mosque in the country. On one of the long sides lies the Lotfollah mosque and opposite the Ali Qapo palace. The whole square is surrounded by shops for miniatures, gold, sweets and textiles together with a lot of tea houses. The great bazaar stretches from the northern part of the square a total of 5 kilometres, towards the older parts of the city and the Jame mosque from the 11th century. It is easy for a visitor to realize the meaning in a Persian saying from the 16th century: "Isfahan nesf-e jahan - Isfahan is half the world."

In the city and in its surroundings a large number of workshops can be found. Many of them have a world reputation such as Seirafian, Davari, Enteshar and Haghighi. The patterns are often inspired by the mosques tile works, or the gardens of the cities and palaces. Carpets from Isfahan have high class when it comes to the composition of the patterns, materials and designs. They are characterized by thin, often carpets with extremly high knot density ((Shah Abbas pattern), but figural motifs also occur.

Along the large shopping streets the carpet stores are very close together, and in the hotels exhibitions are put up to attract buyers. There are also larger carpet bazaar in the surrounding countryside, selling the Yalameh and Bakhtiar carpets for example. These carpets are also sold under the name Esfahan.

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Some examples of Isfahan carpets:

The two coloured threads in the warp, in the white area, marks the quality on a Isfahan carpet.

To check the quality of an Isfahan carpet one can take a look on the backside of the carpet on the fringes. The number of differently coloured threads of warp can be seen in even intervals (see the picture). These are called "kheft" and are a quality mark in the handmade Isfahan carpet.

If you count the threads on 1 metre in the carpet, they vary between the number of 7 to 16 and the higher number of threads, the finer and higher knot density it has.

Technical specifications:
Pile: wool of good quality, often cork wool or silk
Weft: cotton yarn or silk
Warp: cotton yarn or silk
Knot: asymmetrical
Knot density: 650 000 - 850 000 knots per square metre

The bridge of 33 arches, Si-o-Se Pol in Isfahan.
The entrance to the Emam mosque.
The Emam mosque seen from the Naqsh-e Jahan square.

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