Episode 1: Isfahan, the Pattern of the World

Greeting and Salam Ostad music

Hello, you are listening to Padena. This episode; Esfahan, the pattern of the world.

Several times throughout history, Isfahan has been chosen as the capital, and it’s under the Safavid Dynasty that the city took the nickname of “Half of the world” for gathering so many arts and architectural splendours.

You listened to some lines upon Esfahan description, from TasteIran.net, an online tourism platform considering sustainable experiential travel to Iran, TasteIran sponsored this episode of Padena.

🎵 Salam Ostad by Hassan Kassaei

You listened to the Salam Ostad. Hassan Kassai, an Isfahani musician and master player of Persian classical music particularly the traditional reed flute of Iran, composed this track being inspired by the bazaar space and marketers’ greeting for him.  Next Christine, a solo Filipino woman based on Singapore reads a travelogue of her latest trip to Esfahan in November 2019” on the music of the traditional Iranian Tar instrument played by the Isfahani maestro, Shahnaz.

The Tar is a kind of lute, with six strings. Invented in the 18th century, it has become one of the most important musical instruments in Iran and the region. It is the favourite instrument to play solo traditional music or accompany songs.

🎵 Tar instrumental music by Shahnaz

Chris travelogue of Isfahan

When I first walked into Naqsh-e-Jahan Square, I was simply amazed by the vast expanse it occupie\d. Every side of the square had imposing buildings dating back to almost 400 years ago during the Safavid era. Each building had its purpose and story – from being places of worship or former royal residential quarters. Looking at the way they designed and constructed the structures – the attention to detail and the perfect combination of colours, it was mind-blowing for me and felt like a trip back in time. The Shah mosque was by far, my favourite. It had a uniquely designed entrance that allowed the magnificent interiors to slowly reveal itself as you made a 45degree turn from the main door. And the moment I was inside, I was completely humbled and awestruck by the mosque’s beauty. I’m not a religious person, but it felt so spiritually moving to be there, exactly what it felt like whenever I visited massive cathedrals and basilicas. Outside, all around the square were shops filled with intricate tiles, textiles, jewellery, cutlery, spices – basically it was a shopper’s paradise. As a solo traveller, shopping is not one of my prime motivations when I travel, but it was impossible not to violate that principle. I fell in love with everything in the bazaar, and I ended up buying beyond my budget and baggage allowance.

Another iconic part of Isfahan was the bridges along the Zayanderud River. I was fortunate that the river was flowing again when I visited because just a few years ago it had dried up. The bridges itself hosted a life of its own, people had picnics there, played music, or just sat down watching and listening to the rhythm of the river. There was a certain romantic calm that you felt just being there.

Looking back to when I was first planning my visit to Iran, primarily Isfahan wasn’t one of the top places I wanted to see because I had assumed it was one of the most touristy places in Iran. I included it in my itinerary because everyone I consulted insisted that it was a mistake not to visit. After exploring Isfahan, I now understand why I would have regretted skipping Iran’s cultural capital. Apart from the city’s vibrant history, I met so many wonderful people in Isfahan and to every traveller that visits Iran, I think this is what sets it apart from other countries. It’s impossible not to fall in love with a place if you fall in love with the people. And Iranians are one of the kindest and welcoming people that I’ve encountered, if not the most.

Naqsh-e Jahan Square’s beauty, Amin Karimi | Padena Podcast

🎵 Isfahan song by Babak Rajabi

You are listening to a song named after Isfahan, by Babak Rajabi, a creative pop singer and musician from Esfahan

Isfahan picture in lonely planet

lonely planet guidebook starts the chapter of Isfahan with this picture.

Esfahan is Iran’s top tourist destination for good reason. Its profusion of tree-lined boulevards, Persian gardens and important Islamic buildings gives it a visual appeal unmatched by any other Iranian city, and the many artisans working here underpin its reputation as a living museum of traditional culture.

🎵 Isfahan city melody

You are listening to the vibrant voice of the city from the coppersmiths’ bazaar and Naqsh-e Jahan square to the Khaju bridge that Elham took for us.  

Khaju bridge as pronounced “Pool-i Khajhu” by strong Isfahani accent, with paintings and tiles that decorated its double arcade was built by Shah Abbas II in about 1650, is as much a meeting place as a bearer of traffic, and at nighttime Esfahanis gather under the arches to sing: those ppl with the most convincing voices (or indeed songs) attract crowds.

Isfahan travelogue from Soultravel

In the following, Matin is going to read you the words of Ellie & Ravi, a British & Indian couple wrote about discovering Julfa, the Armenian Quarter of Isfahan in their weblog Soul Travel, and Next Bahar e Delneshin, the Iranian vernal song composed by Bijan Taraghi in Bayat- e Esfahan, one of the melodic pieces of Iranian traditional music sang in 1962 for the first time by  Gholām-Hossein Banān, the prominent Iranian singer.  

Wandering around the leafy and relaxed streets of Julfa feels like being in a different city. This area felt welcoming, youthful and is home to some hidden treasures of Isfahan history and culture.

Iran is proud to be one of the countries that provided refuge to Armenians during the Armenian Genocide in Turkey in the early twentieth century. As a result, the New Julfa area of Isfahan is home to the stunning Vank Cathedral, other churches and schools, and a population of over 10,000 Armenians.

The religious centre for Armenian / Christian Isfahan, the Vank Cathedral looks relatively simple and unassuming from the outside. That’s until you step through the door and gaze upwards at the intricate and brightly coloured painted frescoes – a treat for the eyes as much as the mosques are.

🎵 Bahar e delneshin

Olearius travelogue in the 17th century

Now listen to an excerpt from Adam Olearius travelogue. He was a German author and scholar took part in the diplomatic missions to Persia as secretary and counsellor in 1635 at the reign of the Safavids. Olearius introduced Germany and the rest of  Europe to Persian literature and culture.

The city has twelve gates, which nines are open above eighteen thousand houses, and about five hundred thousand inhabitants. The river Zayanda-rud which runs on the south and south-west side, on which side is the suburbs of Julfa.

Before it comes into the city it is divided into two branches, one of that falls in the park called Hazar jarib, where the king keeps all sorts of deer. From the other branch, there is drawn a current of water which passes by channels underground into the garden of Chahar Bagh. This river supplies the whole city with water, there being hardly a house into which it comes but not with pipes, as it is no great trouble to them to fill their cisterns of it, which they call houz and berkeh; however besides this convenience of the river they have wells that their water is as good as of the river. 

Allah werdi-khan sometime governor of Shiraz built at his own charge the fair stone bridge which is between the garden of Chahar Bagh and the city upon this river, which is as broad as the Thames is at London.

it was Shah Abbas by translating the seat of his empire from Qazvin to this city, brought it to the height it is now in, not only by adorning it with many fairs, both public and private structures but also by peopling it with a great number of families which he brought along with him out of several other provinces of the kingdom. But what contributes most to the greatness of this city is the metschids, or mosques, the market places, the bazaars, the public baths and the palaces of great lords; but especially the fair gardens, there are many houses have two or three gardens and hardly at least one.

The king’s palace is upon the Maydan and there lie before the gate several great pieces of canons of all sizes. The palace itself has no fortifications and is compassed only by a high wall. At the entrance of the King’s palace on the right side, there is another gate which gives a privilege to the whole place and makes the sanctuary we spoke of before, called by the Persians Ali Qapu, that is, God’s gate.

Ali Qapu palace, Elham Moeeni | Padena Podcast

🎵 Esfahani Ghazal music

You listened to the Esfahani ghazal poetry composed by Eskandar Abadi, and in the following, Amirhossein will read the quoted lines of Arthur Upham Pope from the past and future of Persian art.

Arthur Pope and the Persian Arts

Pope was an American expert and ardent advocate of Persian art. He made his first trip to Iran in the spring of 1925 and rested along with his wife forever on the bank of the Zayandeh River in Esfahan near Khaju Bridge in 1961.

“For more than 2000 years the whole civilised world, ancient and modern, has paid tribute to the Persian genius for beauty. This art of Persia has been the country’s greatest asset, it has not only brought wealth and prestige to the nation, but it has in all ages and places made friends for the country, and there is no civilized country in the world today, which has collections of Persian art that shown to all who can see the Persia is worthy of admiration and affection.”

Tales of Majid, the spirit of Isfahan

Listen to the description upon the Shah Mosque from TasteIran’s story Mohsen reads with an original Isfahani accent on the background of the nostalgic TV series “Ghesse haye Majid” composed by Naser Cheshm Azar, directed by Kiumars Pourahmad during the 1990s. The series, which was one of the most-watched mini-series in Iran after the Islamic Revolution has a listenable story behind it.

The series was made base on the book with the same name The Tales of Majid, by Iranian author Houshang Moradi Kermani, in 1985. Houshang Moradi says when he wrote the book, there was no publisher accepted to publish the book for nine months. Before it became a book, Tales of Majid was a radio program script became a regular radio show., it wasn’t supposed to be a series, but it ended up to 130 episodes.

“The Tales of Majid”, tells the story of a teenage orphan boy, Majid, who lives with his grandmother, Bibi in the city of Kerman detailing a series of events faced by Majid. Though in the mini-series the Majid’s stories take place in the city of Isfahan.

Now all the episodes of the series are accessible through online video channels, and the good news is that Caroline Croskery, the American east scholar in UCLA University is translated the book and Candle & Fog has released the TV series adaptation of ‘Tales of Majid’ with English subtitle. It also aims to put a pack containing both the series and the book on Amazon website.

The mystery of Shah Mosque’s architecture

When Shah Abbas I of Safavid moved his empire from Qazvin to Isfahan in 1598, he desired to have a royal mosque completed during his reign and lifetime. The construction began in 1611, and the final works on the mosque were made in late 1629, a few months after the king’s death.

Shah Mosque portal, Amin Karimi | Padena Podcast

Shah Abbas did not know how his favourite mosque will be the point of admiration, and perhaps he never had thought of the mosque being registered, along with the Naqsh-e Jahan Square as UNESCO World Heritage Site 400 years later.

But the essential mystery of the Shah Mosque is not only the seven-coloured tile mosaics and its unblemished unity of the overall design but the mosque’s south dome. It is a renaissance in Persian dome building affiliated with acoustic properties. You just need to stand right under the central point of the dome to convey your voice to the whole main sanctuary.

In the time when there was no amplifier or speaker, the genius architects used smooth tiles and calculated the angles to feature the reflection under the dome’s central point to enable the cleric to speak with a low voice and still be heard clearly by everyone inside the building.

In the following, Maedeh will sing under the Shah Mosque’s dome:

🎵 Maedeh’s singing under the dome of shah mosque

🎵 Be Esfahan ro

You are listening to “be Esfahan ro”, meaning “Go to Esfahan”, a masterpiece of Iranian traditional music in Esfahan sing which is composed by Jalal Al-Din Taj Esfahani and musicianship of Jalil Shahnaz and Hassan Kasaee, and goodbye.

The story of Padena’s name

Padena is the southernmost region in Isfahan province, extended at the foot of Mount Dena. Dena is the name for a subrange within the Zagros Mountains of Iran.

Mount Dena is a mythmaker. It has more than 40 peaks higher than 4,000 metres. On 18 February 2018, Iran Aseman Airlines crashed into Mount Dena; This episode dedicates to the passengers of this flight, especially to Hadi Fahimi, Iran’s nature supreme advocate who had dreamed of everlasting life in the mountains.

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