Ali Qapu (pronounced, ah-lee gah-pooh) is in effect but a pavilion that marks the entrance to the vast royal residential quarter of the Safavid Isfahan which stretched from the Maidan Naqsh-e Jahan to the Chahar Bagh Boulevard. The name is made of two elements: "Ali", Arabic for exalted, and "Qapu" Turkic for portal or royal threshold or the magnificent door. The compound stands for "Exalted Porte". It was here that the great monarch used to entertain noble visitors, and foreign ambassadors. Shah Abbas, here for the first time celebrated the Nowruz (New Year's Day) of 1006 AH / 1597 A.D. A large and massive rectangular structure, the Ali Qapu is 48 m high and has six floors, fronted with a wide terrace whose ceiling is inlaid and supported by wooden columns. This magnificent palace has 52 rooms, but because a long restoration most of rooms are closed to visitors. French traveler Sir John Chardin described it as "largest palace ever built in any capital"
On the sixth floor, the royal reception and banquets were held. The largest rooms are found on this floor. The stucco decoration of the banquet hall abounds in motif of various vessels and cups. The sixth floor was popularly called (the music room) as it was here that various ensembles performed music and sang songs. From the upper galleries, the Safavid ruler watched polo games, maneuvers and horse-racing below in the Naqsh-e Jahan square. The first part of palace was built in 1597. It was used as a residential palace. Shah Abbas the great, ordered to construct the palace on the site of palace and garden from the Timurid time. Shah Abbas’s palace was a four floors with a veranda. Shah Abbas the second, expanded the palace and a music hall (room) was constructed on the top of palace.
Shah Abbas considered himself as a real follower of Imam Ali. A beautiful door ornamented with gold, silver and other fine arts was made in Isfahan and dedicated to the holy shrine of Imam Ali which is located in Najaf Iraq.
Ali Reza Abbasi the prominent artist has worked on glorious miniature paintings. The main reception hall and all other rooms were decorated with fabulous plaster work, plaster carving and miniature paintings.
The Imperial Bazaar
The Bazaar of Isfahan is a historical market and one of the oldest and largest bazaars of the Middle East. Although the present structure dates back to the Safavid era, parts of it are more than a thousand years old, dating back to the Seljuq dynasty. It is a vaulted, two kilometer street linking the old city with the new.
The square is best visited in the later afternoon and early evening when local families flood in to outnumber the Iranian and foreign tourists. This is also when the fountains are turned on, the light softens and the splendid architecture is illuminated; you can’t beat the view from the Qeysarieh Tea Shop.