‛Ali Qapu (MEGT)
Isfahan, Iran
‘Ali Qapu is today a five-story entry palace facing the Maydan-i Shah. It stands on the eastern flank of the Timurid garden known from at least the fifteenth century as Bagh-i Naqsh-i Jahan. The date of its creation is vague and was definitely in two phases, as proved during the restoration works carried out by the Italian IsMEO team. Natanzi dates the leveling of the maydān for polo and horse racing to 998 AH/1590, which would coincide with the first phase of its creation. The earliest references to a dawlatkhānah on these grounds are in the descriptions of the visits in 1505 by Shah Ismail I and in 1576 by Ismail II. Writing of the events of the year 996 AH/1587, the chronicler Natanzi relates that when Shah ‘Abbas I visited Isfahan, he stayed at the houses of the Husayniyya, explaining that the Bagh-i Naqsh-i Jahan, “where nothing like its garden and building exists in Isfahan,” was damaged by Farhad Beg the governor of Isfahan, who had the trees in the royal garden felled in order to build his mansion. The sources do not indicate when the restoration of the gardens occurred, but in 1590, Natanzi relates that Shah ‘Abbas visited Isfahan and stayed at the dawlatkhānah of Bagh-i Naqsh-i Jahan, implying that the rehabilitation of the royal gardens took place during the intervening three years. The first description of a new building in the palace precincts is related by Natanzi in 1002/1593, when Alpan Beg was dispatched to Isfahan to build a suitable residence beside the Naqsh-i Jahan dawlatakhānah for the stay of Hajim Khan. Alpan Beg designed a lofty structure to the east of the dawlatkhanah, on the roof of which Shah ‘Abbas likely held a gathering in 1593. However the only clear mention of "a five story entry/palace (dargāh-i panj tabaqa) is by the chronicler Iskandar Munshi, who mentions it among the works carried out by Shah ‘Abbas. In 1617, Pietro della Valle was the first traveler to draw a plan of the maydān vestibule of the dawlatkhānah showing the ‘Ali Qapu structure. The columned porch (tālār) that stands on its terrace looking over the maydān was built in 1643, during the reign of Shah ‘Abbas II and under the supervision of his vizier, Saru Taqi. A royal reception was held in the tālār in 1645.
Sources: Travel Account, 1617 | Court Chronicle, 1684

-Mahvash Alemi


Four Sources on Shah ‘Abbas’s Buildings of Isfahan (Open in Zotero)

Safavid Palaces at Isfahan: Continuity and Change (1590–1666) (Open in Zotero)

MS Add. 7656 (Open in Zotero)

Il giardino persiano: tipi e modelli (Open in Zotero)

Two Building Phases of the Time of Shah ‘Abbas in the Maydan-i Shah of Isfahan: Preliminary Notes (Open in Zotero)

Jughrafiya-yi Isfahan [Geography of Isfahan] (Open in Zotero)

Originally published at:

Alemi, Mahvash. “‛Ali Qapu.” Middle East Garden Traditions. Dumbarton Oaks, November 18, 2014. https://www.doaks.org/resources/middle-east-garden-traditions/catalogue#b_start=0&c6=Safavid+Gardens. Archived at:https://perma.cc/H4VG-8VF7

Isfahan, Iran
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Dates of attested life: 16th century- present
Date of entry of information: September 2007
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‛Ali Qapu
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