Such is Esfahan’s grandeur that it is easy to agree with the famous 16th-century half-rhyme ‘Esfahan nesf-e jahan’ (Esfahan is half the world). Robert Byron was slightly more geographically specific when he ranked ‘Isfahan among those rarer places, like Athens or Rome, which are the common refreshment of humanity’. Today it is a Unesco World Heritage site.
There are, however, some less- than- refreshing elements to the city of Esfahan. This is the country’s third-largest city and capital of Esfahan province, and the outskirts are home to plenty of heavy industry, including a much-discussed nuclear facility. So Esfahan has traffic jams and air pollution; the long-awaited underground railway should help – if indeed it is ever finished.