When French poet Renier described Esfahan as ‘half of the world’ in the 16th century, it was the myriad wonders of the square called Naqsh-e Jahan that inspired him. it remains home to arguably the most majestic collection of buildings in the Islamic world. Naqsh-e Jahan means ‘pattern of the world’, and it’s a world that owes much to the vision of Shah Abbas the Great. Begun in 1602 as the centrepiece of Abbas’ new capital, the square was designed as home to the finest jewels of the Safavid empire – the incomparable Imam Mosque, the supremely elegant Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque and the indulgent and lavishly decorated Ali Qapu Palace and Qeysarieh Portal. At 512m long and 163m wide, this immense space is the second-largest square on earth – only Mao Zedong’s severe Tiananmen Sq in Beijing is bigger.