Isfahan, Iran, April 1998
Built by Shah Abbas I at the beginning of the 17th century and completed in 1638 after his death, the Imam Mosque is one of the great architectural works of the Muslim world. It stands among gorgeous neighbors Lotfollah Mosque and the Ali Qapu Palace on Imam Khomeini Square, one of the world’s largest public squares, where kings once watched polo matches. Famed for its beauty, the Imam Mosque embodies the special character of Persian-Islamic architecture. Its splendor lies partly in the masterful glazed tile work, the colors of which change subtly with the light. The mosque is part of a UNESCO World Heritage site. Over the past decade, Isfahan has been an ideological battleground between hard-liners and reformers. Once the capital of Persia, Isfahan sits close to the approximate geographic center of the country. The old Persian expression Isfahan nesf-e-jahan—"Isfahan is half the world"—is still used today to express the greatness of the city in its heyday.