: travel

Travelling a total distance of 1300 km from one ancient Persian capital to another, Xerxes Cook visits Esfahan in Central Iran. Once one of the largest cities in the world, Esfahan is known as "nesf-e janah ast" (half of the world) for its positioning at the crossroads of the Silk Road and its plethora of architectural marvels set around the Naghsh-e Jahan, the second largest public square in the world - and the birthplace of modern polo - around which summer pavilions set in rose petalled gardens and some of the world's most architecturally daring mosques lie. Esfahan's construction was masterminded by the Safavid Shah Abbas, who in the 16th Century fostered a number of art schools and institutions which gave birth to a large swath of what is now labelled 'Islamic Art'. From sacred geometrical patterns, Muslim mandalas, incredibly detailed tile work designed so as to dazzle the viewer with the infinite wonder of creation, calligraphy, camel bone carpentry - even the Paisley print - the city is an outdoor museum showcasing designs inspired by the sublime. Photo & text Xerxes Cook