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  • In the early part of the 17th century, in the Safavid era, a great palace was built by Shah Abbas the Great of Persia on the west side of the quadrangle at the center of Esfahan in what is now Iran. Called "Ali Qapu", Turkish for Sublime Gate, it has a grand terrace which was built for royalty, noblemen and foreign diplomats to meet and oversee polo matches or other entertainment on the square below. Six floors high, each floor is accessible by a steep,narrow and physically challenging spiral staircase. The 6th floor is the famous music room with its deep cutout niches in varying shapes and sizes which is aesthetically beautiful as well as acoustically perfect to enhance the sound of the traditional Persian music which would have been played for the king and his court.

    In 1973 my husband and I visited Isfahan, strolled the massive Naghsh-i Jahan Square, one of the largest city squares in the world, shopped in the bazaar and visited the two exquisite mosques. We took the tour of Ali Qapu and our sturdy young legs had no trouble with the spiral staircase so we visited all the floors and stood on the terrace to survey the quadrangle and all of the beautiful ancient city of Esfahan with its lush greenery, covered bridges, stunning architecture and beautiful boulevards. We had our picture taken on the terrace. So achingly young we were! Almost 40 years later I look at this picture (see following page) and I can remember deeply feeling the history of that place, hundreds of years of monarchs and ladies in waiting and visiting dignitaries from foreign lands had walked that terrace, had surveyed the city and the surrounding countryside. I could feel why the people of Isfahan affectionately call their city "Nesfeh Jahan" (half the world).
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