The Great Shah Abbas Essay

The Great Shah Abbas Essay

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The Great Shah Abbas

The Great Shah Abbas I reigned from 1588-1629. He was a ruler who relocated the capital from Saljuq to Isfahan, in the center of the country. This was his attempt to centralize political and religious authority, develop capital, and institute Safavid Iran as a world power, both economically and politically.

Shah Abbas began his renovations with the transformation of the little Timurid palace into the Ali Qapu, or ‘sublime port’ an entrance to the royal gardens. Abbas made it his headquarters while his architects began the creation, under his direction and often under his personal supervision, of his new capital. Abbas built the Ali Qapu with a balcony from which he was able to observe the activities in the court below him. The columned porch provided an elevated reviewing stand for royalty and guests. The interior is decorated with hanging plaster vaults that are decorated like Chinese porcelains, similar to Persian lusterware. The rooms are decorated in red, white, blue and gold, the walls painted with landscapes and Hunting scenes, the floors covered with carpets of silk and gold. There are figure paintings on the walls of the upper rooms that are blandly erotic. In front of the Ali Qapu there is a rectangular shaped pool filled with water. The water was transported to the pool by means of hydraulic machines worked by oxen. The upper level contained a music room at the very top of the building. The Music room was intricately decorated with small niches that were filled with glass, pottery, enameled metal and semi-precious stones, this may have been an attempt to improve the acoustics of the room. The threshold of the main gateway was regarded with high respect during Safavid times...

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...utifully decorated with a wide range of colors. The entrance portal is covered with a mosaic of many colored pieces cut from larger pieces and fitted together to form complex patterns. It has been estimated that 18 million bricks and half a million tiles were used in the building of the Shah Mosque.

These were the principal buildings of Shah Abbas’s reign. In the short span of his reign, Isfahan had been transformed into a great metropolis of its time. Abbas was successful in his attempt to create a city that could compare to the great cities of Christendom, and the beauty of Isfahan and the buildings he constructed will be studied and admired forever.


Blunt, Wilfrid. Isfahan, Pearl of Persia. (New York: Stein and Day Publishers, 1966.) 208 pgs.

Bloom, Jonathan and Sheila Blair. Islamic Arts. (London: Phaidon Press, 1997.) 446 Pgs.

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