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Isfahan (city)

Isfahan or Esfahan (population in 2000: 1.65 million), located about 340 km south of Teheran is the capital of Isfahan Province[?] and Iran's second largest city. It was once one of the largest cities in the world. It flourished from 1050 to 1722, particularly in the 16th century under the Safavid dynasty, when it was the capital of Persia. Even today, the city retains much of its past glory. It is famous for its Islamic architecture, with many beautiful boulevards, covered bridges, palaces, mosques, and minarets.

Isfahan is located along the Zayandeh River[?] and on the main north-south and east-west routes crossing Iran. It is situated at 1,590 meters above sea level. It receives an average of 355 mm of rain per year, making it similar to Denver, Colorado in terms of altitude and precipitation. The temperature ranges between 2-28 Celsius.

The Arabs conquered Isfahan in 642 and introduced Islam. Under their rule, the city was promoted to provincial capital. The Islamic philosopher Avicenna lived and taught there in the 11th century. In 1051, Isfahan was conquered by the Seljuk Turks[?] under Toghril Beg[?], who kept it as his capital. The city flourished under Seljuk rule, up until about 1200. In 1387, the city was conquered again, this time in a bloody war with Tamerlane. The Golden Age of Isfahan came in the 17th century under Shah Abbas I, who made it the capital of the Safavid dynasty. Many of the magnificent buildings in the city date to this time. One century later, in 1722, it was conquered by the Afghans in 1722 after a long siege, which left much of the city in ruin. Although the Afghans were a primary cause of Isfahan's decline, this can also be attributed to the development of maritime commerce by the Netherlands. Isfahan's wealth originated in its role as a chief waystation along the trans-Asia trade route, but trade dwindled as the Netherlands found cheaper sea routes to transport commodities between Asia and Europe. It was only in the 20th century under Shah Reza Pahlavi that the city was finally revived.

Today, Isfahan is the second largest city in Iran, after Teheran. It produces fine carpets, textiles, steel, and it is home to two universities: The University of Isfahan[?] and Isfahan University of Technology[?].

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