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Esfahan’s bridges to history threatened by development, neglect

The Iranian city of Esfahan is renowned for it centuries-old bridges, but these architectural marvels are under threat due to pollution, neglect and a governmental water diversion scheme.
(FILES) Iranian women look at the "Si-o-Se Pol" bridge (33 arches bridge) on Zayandeh Rud river in Isfahan 13 July 2002. A young French tourist has been shot dead by a known criminal in the Iranian city of Isfahan, one of the country's main tourist draws, the Fars news agency reported 10 December 2007. AFP PHOTO/Behrouz MEHRI (Photo credit should read BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

It was once the capital of ancient Persia. Today, it’s a metropolis in the center of Iran, still home to some of the world’s finest architecture. Esfahan’s beautiful mosaic domes, tall minarets, magnificent palaces and mosques have given it the title of "Nesf-e-Jahan," meaning "Half of the World" in Persian. At least that’s what Iranians call it — though foreign visitors usually show no hesitation in expressing their admiration.

One of the highlights of the city that catches the eye of every visitor is its legendary set of bridges. These structures cross the Zayandeh Rood, which runs through Esfahan. Pol-e-Shahrestan — ‘pol’ meaning ‘bridge’ in Persian — is the oldest to cross the Zayandeh Rood. It was initially erected during the Sassanid era (third-seventh century) and later restored during the Buyid and Seljuk periods. Located in the eastern part of the city, in the old district of Jay, this historic structure connected what was once the village of Shahrestan on the north side with the agricultural area on the southern bank. Today, it is the entrance to Esfahan’s fairground, with many pedestrians crossing it every day, oblivious to the history under their feet.

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