As a bright star in the sky of human civilization, the existence of Isfahan can be traced back to the prehistoric periods. Ancient Isfahan was part of the Elamite Empire and it became one of the principal towns of the Median dynasty, when Iranian Medes settled there. Subsequently the province became part of the Achaemenid Empire and after the liberation of Iran from Macedonian occupation it became part of Parthian Empire. In the Sassanid era, Isfahan was a military centre with strong fortifications. In the reign of Malik Shah I of the Seljuk dynasty, Isfahan was selected as capital. After being raided and massacred by the Mongols in the 13th century, followed by Timur in 1387, this city, as the result of its suitable geographic situation, flourished again especially in Safavid dynasty. Even today, the city retains much of its past glory.
Once being one of the largest cities in the world, Isfahan experienced its golden age in the 16th century under Shah Abbas the Great (1587-1629), who made it the new capital of the Safavid dynasty. Isfahan is a dazzling gem because of its Islamic architecture with many beautiful boulevards, covered bridges, palaces, mosques and minarets. The Naghsh-i-Jahan Square is designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Other distinctive examples are mosques such as Imam Mosque, Jame Mosque and Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque, palaces like Chehel Sotoun, Hasht Behesht and Aliqapu, bridges such as Khaju Bridge and Si-o-se pol Bridge and many other brilliant instances of flourished architecture of Isfahan.
As a well-known center of art creation Isfahan has long been one of the famous places for production of the Persian Rug. Weaving in Isfahan blossomed in the Safavid era. But when the Afghans invaded Iran, ending the Safavid dynasty, the craft also became sluggish. After that, weaving was taken seriously only in 1920s, between two world wars. Isfahani artists commenced to weave Safavid designs and once again the city became one of the most important poles of the Iranian rug weaving industry.
Isfahani carpets today are among the most favourite ones in world markets, having many customers in western countries and usually have excellent quality. Khatam, the Persian version of marquetry, is another art work which includes art forms made by decorating the surface of wooden articles with delicate pieces of wood, bone and metal precisely-cut geometrical shapes. Other examples of art creations in Isfahan are splendid miniature paintings, fine silver filigrees and outstanding engravings on various metals.
As an ancient tree of life, a perfect mirror of sublime architecture and an ever-beating heart of art, Isfahan has always been a sparkling jewel of humankind achievements. It is a perfect example of the way Iranian nation has risen like a majestic proud phoenix from the ashes of ruinous wars and has continued to be the herald of the world inheritance of beauty, spirituality and creativity.