After a very nice buffet breakfast with copious amounts of coffee at the Abbasi, Hossein takes us to the Shaking Minarets (Monar Jonban). When a man climbs one of the twin minarets and pushes against the wall, a strange resonant frequency causes the other minaret to shake; both look quite liquid and make a clanging sound from bells hanging in them.
Next is the Jameh Mosque. It is the oldest mosque in Isfahan and one of the oldest mosques still standing in Iran.
It is fascinating because different parts were constructed over 8 centuries. The oldest area is quite simple. Gothic/Romanesque arches separate the rooms into serene chambers. There are additions from the Mongols, Muzzafarids, Timurids and Safavids. The most striking is the elaborately carved stucco Mongol mihrab commissioned in 1310. It is very intricate and lovely, lacework in stone. Sadly, one of the oldest parts of the mosque had been damaged by Iraq bombs in the Iran-Iraq war.
Hossein and the driver take us to see several of Isfahan’s famous bridges. We listen, fascinated, to singers taking advantage of the acoustics under the bridge. Along the river, musicians perform for a crowd, while young boys practice soccer in the dry river bed upstream.
We see several Armenians proudly wearing large crosses around their necks. Isfahan has a large Armenian Christian population and interesting cathedrals in the ‘Vank’ quarter, but unfortunately we don’t have time to visit it.
After a break at the hotel, we walk past the Chaha-r Ba-gh school (madrassa) with a handsome dome and minaret with lovely scrolled azure and yellow painting; unfortunately it is under renovation. We pass whimsical bird topiaries in a landscaped traffic island, and explore the many shops around Imam Square. Wares range from tourist kitsch to very lovely enamel-painted copperware, khatam (khatam is a Persian version of marquetry, and is the art of decorating the surface of wooden articles with delicate pieces of wood, bone and metal in precisely cut geometrical shapes), ceramics, miniatures, and carved tin-over-copper plates.
A placid horse pulls our carriage driven by a young boy (with his father beside him) on a brief turn around the fountains and mosques of Imam square. A nice way to experience time travel!
As the evening progresses, more and more families appear with picnics and tea to enjoy in the Square. It is very lively; children turn cartwheels on the grass; couples walk hand-in-hand, and everyone enjoys their picnic snacks.
Our way back to the hotel passes the Hasht Behest (Eight Paradises) Palace. Located in the center of the Garden of Nightingales (the Bagh-e Bulbul), the Hasht Behesht is one of Isfahan's two surviving Safavid pavilions. A very lively park, people picnic and children play on the rides and Ferris wheels at 10:30 at night.
The Abbasi coffee shops serve what is supposed to be excellent Iranian pizza. Sadly, it looks and tastes like squashy white bread with cheese and canned mushrooms. The omelette is of similar quality--we resolve to stick to the ice cream from now on!