A lecture by Ilse Sturkenboom (LMU Munich) as part of the series “Basics of Islam: Cities” organized by the Münchner Mittelost-Mittelmeer-Mittelasien-Zentrum, 4MZ (Munich Middle East Central Asia Center).
The Iranian city of Isfahan is affectionately and poetically referred to as ‘half the world’ or a ‘likeness of the world’. Its radiant, beating heart is the Meidan Emam, the public square whose sheer size, luminosity and vibrancy capture the enthusiasm every bit as much as its combination of religious, economic and ceremonial functions. It is no coincidence that precisely this square is the only image to grace the poster advertising this lecture series! Sober inquiry into the reasons why the square looks as it does and what part it plays in Isfahan’s urban infrastructure quickly leads us to Shah Abbas the Great. Under his reign, extensive urban development measures were carried out in Isafahan toward the end of the 16th century, and the city became the capital of the Safavid kingdom. Attempts have been made to interpret the Meidan Emam and the city of Isfahan as reflections of Shah Abbas’ dream and ideals. Be that as it may, economic and social factors undoubtedly also played a role in shaping Isfahan’s cityscape in the 16th and 17th centuries. How Isfahan embodies this balancing act between Utopia and reality is the subject of this lecture.
For more information (in German) about this event, please visit the website of the Institute for Near and Middle Eastern Studies.