Ālī Qāpū Place Isfahan
– Location: Esfahan, Iran
– Age: Safavid Era
– Years of Construction: 1597 – unknown (early 17th century)
– Builder: Was built under the order of the Safavid Shah Abbas I.
– Visiting hours: 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM, 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM
– Best time of visit: May and June
– Address: Across Sheikh Lotfollah mosque, Naqsh-e Jahan square, Isfahan, Iran
Ali Qapu Palace stands in the western part of Naqsh-e Jahan Square, which is located in the very center of Isfahan, surrounded by many other attractions. The name of this Safavid palace means “imperial gate”, translated from Turkish language. Some interpret it as ‘Gate of Ali’, believed to be named after Shah Abbas I’s hero, Imam Ali. Shah Abbas, for the first time celebrated Nowruz (New Year’s Day) of 1006 AH / 1597 C.E in Ali Qapu. This palace is now declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The palace is about 38 meters high, the tallest building in the 17th century. Ali Qapu palace was meant to be a residence of the Shah and symbolize his power. It was also used for official ceremonial purposes.
It was built in several stages, and the initial structure was only two floors high. Now the building has six floors, including: Entrance, Water System Floor, columned porch, Nesting Rooms, Shah (king) bedroom and Music Hall, a huge balcony. There are 52 rooms, but most of them are closed to visitors because of the ongoing restoration.
First Stage: The early building, acting as entrance to the complex, was in the rectangular cube shape and two stories, with dimensions of 20 x 19 meters and 13 meters height.
Second Stage: Built on the entrance, was also cubical and in two stories. It became a ceremonial building with Naqsh-e Jahan square perspective.
Third Stage: It was the music hall, whose decorations are one of the most outstanding of Iranian architecture. Music hall’s ornamentation is a new decorative invention of Safavid era. This was the place for singers and orchestras to sing and play.
Fourth Stage: It was the porch where the king and his entourage watched the parade of soldiers, Chogan and other ceremonies that were held in Naqsh-e Jahan square.
Fifth Stage: It was the wooden roof that supports the 18 pillars which are in three rows.
Sixth Stage: In this stage, the water supply system and other facilities was provided to meet the needs.
What has made Ali Qapu Palace among the most magnificent and exquisite works of the Safavid era are the miniatures by Safavid artist Reza Abbasi, one of the greatest artists of Iran’s history, as well as the last floor Ali Qapu, also called the “Music Room” or “Sound Room”.
One of the most wonderful things about this palace is its remarkable paintings on the walls. These paintings are the artistic work of Reza Abbasi,. People, animals and birds were the subjects of these paintings. The sixth floor has a large hallway, which is completely plastered, representing pots and vessels. Through this plasters work different imaginary shapes, such as flower vases, dishes, plates and bottle can be seen.
In 19th century magnificent original paintings and great decorations were destroyed and a new layer of plaster work covered original works. In the last forty years, due to the destructive danger that threatened Ali Qapu Palace, different walls and pillars of palace have been strengthened by iron beams.
The building of Ali Qapu is a beautifully constructed ceremonial building and is another achievement of the Safavid era architecture. One of the most fascinating parts of traveling to Isfahan is definitely visiting this magnificent palace. Ali Qapu may be the largest palace that may exist in a capital city. So it can be said that it was considered one of the best palaces in the world in the Safavid era, and is totally fit as a royal palace.