Khomeini Square

Tomorrow is the last day of Ramadan, so it somehow seems fitting to spend today exploring Isfahan's Islamic cultural sites. Much of our journey today centered around Imam Khomeini Square, a park at the center of the city ringed by shops and connected to several historic mosques. At the center of the square is a fountain, and you can hire a horse-drawn carriage for a minimal fee to explore the area. It is a fairly big square, the second largest in the world after Tianamen. Built by Shah Abbas, the Safavid king who kicked out the Ottomans in the 16th century (and made Isfahan the capital), the square also contains his palace, which affords spectacular views of the area.

The three mosques we saw come from different eras, but each presents a remarkable feat of architecture and artwork. From the brick of the old 11th century Friday mosque to the mosaic and tile of the Sheikh Lotfallah and Imam mosques, they are simply exquisite buildings. Rather than try to describe them, I've put in extra pictures at the end to let them speak for themselves.

No doubt the name "Imam Khomeini" stirs feelings in Americans. Even so, it is in a place like Khomeini Square that you really get a feel for the famous hospitality of the Iranians. Everywhere we go, we are asked, "Where are you from?" When we reply "America," there is usually a response of surprise (not a lot of our fellow countryfolk venturing here these days), followed by a very warm greeting. We've had the conversation so often that we can predict where it will end; usually with a common agreement that "the problem is between governments, not people." While that may be oversimplified, it certainly seems to point to a hopeful possibility. If ordinary people can find common ground, surely leaders can find common cause in making the world a better place for those ordinary folk.