This well-known saying was originally coined to describe Isfahan in Safavid times, when the city was at the height of its glory Even today, Isfahan remains one of the Iran's most beautiful cities and its monuments can be ranked among the most splendid of the Islamic world The atmosphere in town is a relaxed one: this is a place to wander in, to get to know slowly, with its gardens, its river side and its shopping streets. It is a town that contains a multitude of hidden treasures and a quick visit, even if it takes in the main monuments, will hardly do it justice. However, many Iranians do not share these feelings about Isfahan and will tell you that its inhabitants are mean and unpleasant people; best to see for yourself and make up your own mind.
The main monuments of Isfahan are essentially the work of one man, Shah Abbas the Great, who made the town his capital in 1598 and had it rebuilt according to a precise plan, with large avenues, magnificent gardens and a royal palace. Isfahan history is considerably older than the Safavid Dynasty; some scholars have even identified it with the Achaemenian city of Gaba mentioned by Strabon.