Ali Qapu; another Iranian architecture masterpiece

Ali Qapu is a terrific royal residence in Isfahan, Iran. It is situated on the western side of the Naqsh e Jahan Square, across from Sheik Lotfollah Mosque, and had been initially planned as a tremendous entryway. It is forty-eight meters high and there are six stories, each open by a troublesome spiral staircase. On the 6th floor, Music Hall, profound round specialties are found in the walls, having aesthetic esteem, yet additionally acoustic.

Ali Qapu is greater than the Moscow Red Square, one of the most extensive and famous areas in the world. This field has a superior history compared to the Concord Square in Persia. It is known as the second largest square in the world after the Tiananmen Square of Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

The name Ali Qapu, from Persian 'Ālī (signifying "magnificent" or "extraordinary"), and Azerbaijani Qāpū (e.g "entryway" or “gate”), was given to this spot as it was a comfortable access to the Safavid royal residences which extended from the Naqsh e Jahan Square to the Chahar Baq Boulevard. The structure, another brilliant Safavid building, was worked under the order of Shah Abbas in the mid seventeenth century. It was here that the incredible ruler used to receive honorable guests, and foreign ministers. Shah Abbas celebrated Nowruz (Iranian New Year) 1597 C.E. for the first time.

Ali Qapu is rich in naturalistic wall sketches by Reza Abbasi, the court painter of Shah Abbas I, and his trainees. There are flower, beasts, and bird motifs in his work. The profoundly ornamented entryways and windows of the castle have practically all been looted now and again of social ravages. Just a single window on the third floor has remained safe over time. Ali Qapu was fixed and restored generously amid the rule of Shah Sultan Hussein, the last Safavid ruler, yet fell into a loathsome condition of incapacitation again amid the short rule of attacking Afghans. Under the rule of Nasir ol Din Shah e Qajar (1848– 96), the Safavid cornices and flower tiles over the entrance were supplanted by tiles bearing engravings.

History and Construction stages

Ali Qapu's was established in a few phases, starting from a structure with a solitary door, with access to the administration building complex, and finishing off with the current shape. The construction took around seventy years.

Stage 1: The underlying structure going about as access to the complex was a cubic in shape with two stories, the whole structure measured 20 by 19 meter and 13 meter high.

Stage 2: Foundation of the upper corridor, based on the passageway vestibule, with cubical shape, over the underlying cubic shape structure with a similar stature in two stories.

Stage 3: Foundation of the fifth story, the Music Amphitheater or the Music Hall, based on the lower corridor, utilizing the focal space for sky facing window, and in this way the vertical augmentation being underlined.

Stage 4: Foundation of the eastern verandah or structure progressing towards the square, bolstered by the pinnacle formed structure. By establishment of this verandah, the passageway vestibule was reached out along the primary gate to the market, opposite toward the eastern flank of the structure.

Stage 5: Foundation of the wooden roof of the overhang, upheld by 18 wooden sections, and contemporaneous with erection of the roof, an extra stairway of the southern flank was established and was known as the Kingly Stairway.

Stage 6: During this stage, a water tower was worked in the northern flank for arrangement of water for the copper pool of the segmented gallery. Mortar adornments in gathering story and the Music Hall.

The room on the 6th floor is additionally brightened with mortar work, speaking to pots and vessels and one is renowned as the music and sound room. It is positively well worth visiting for the cut out improvements round the room, which speak to an impressive masterful accomplishment. These cut out shapes were not put there to go about as organizers; the stucco-work is most fragile and tumbles to pieces at the most elevated touch. So we reason that it was put in position in these spaces for adornment and improvement. The rooms were utilized for private gatherings and for the ruler's artists, and these empty places in the dividers held the echoes and created the hints of the singing and melodic instruments obviously in all parts.

Interior design

The embellishment of the extensive room on the third floor which opens out on the vast pillared lobby, and which was utilized by Shah Abbas for engaging his official visitors, is the most fascinating. Luckily, the roofs, on which flying creatures are portrayed in their characteristic hues, have stayed without impedance in their unique state from Safavid times, and these are the best rooftops in the structure.

A multi-faceted building

Architectural extensions in different periods and on different sides of the building have given it astonishingly different looks from each side. From Naqsh-e Jahan square and the eastern side view, due to the outcropping of the balconey, you face a 2-story building, while it is a 5-story building facing the western side and back, and a 3-story building from the two sides. The second floor (fifth floor) has been created as a semi-floor so that is is not included in the facade. The existence of a water fountain in the north and an additional staircase in the south have given it a four-floor building look from the either sides of the building. Despite these differences and considering the ground floor as the first floor, Ali Qapu is a six-story palace.

The design of the stairs

The height of Ali Qapu is 48 meters and there are three staircases linking the six floors of the building. There are two identical spiral staircases in northwest and sowthwast containing 114 stais from the ground floor to the roof. You may take 94 steps to reach the music hall. Each stair is 22 cm high and they reach 32 in some parts. The width of the stairs varies from 1 meter to 85 cm in the upmost parts of the building.

Architecturally speaking, spiral staircases play an important role in enhancing the strength and stability of the building. In high buildings like Ali Qapu, there is less space for spiral stairs, therefore the puiding gets taller in shape if you include spiral staires and that is the case with Ali Qapu. Evidently, this type of staircase could only be used by the crew, guards and soldiers to reach the upper floors from the first floor as fast as possible. The other interesting fact is that only through these steps one can access all floors from the back of the building.


What gives Ali Qapu a magnificent appearance is the beauty of the decorations that cannot be easily ignored. The facade is made of bricks. This brick structure is adorned in the vaults above each entrance, or the same lattices with seven color tiles, decorations and Eslimi script. Aside from tileworks which is the significance of Safavid period, and paintings that were inseparable elements of Safavid architecture, there are a variety of artworks with different styles exhibited in Ali Qapu.

Stucco decoration

What is significant about the stucco in Ali Qapu is that unlike other places, in this palace the stucco carvings are exteremely delicate and thin so that it doesn’t look like a carved work when viewing from distance.

Vase Carving

In a specific section of the palace the exterior parts of the decorations look like vases and pots and similar containers. This special design is called vase carving  which distinguishes Ali Qapu from other paleces of the same historical period.


Moqarnas is one of the most important aspects of the Islamic architecture of Iran. It is one of the architectural elements used in the beautification of Iranian buildings, especially mosques and tombstones. Multi-story moqarnas, that is patterns built up upon one another are seen abundantly on the ceiling of the ports and domes.

Moqarnas in Safavid period is an integral part of the decorative art, as it is evident in Ali Qapu. The shapes of the magnificent Moqarnas in Ali Qapu vary from triangles to polygons. The external surface of moqarnas forms shapes like vases and pots.


Safavid kings were very interested in art and painting, and this led to the growth and excellence of manuscripts and their transfer to the walls. That is why many experts consider the most valuable wall paintings and their prevalence in the Safavid period. Ali Qapu wall paintings are the representation of Safavid painting in large sizes.

Apparently, in the time of Shah Abbas II, due to a large earthquake a lot of cracks and cracks occurred in the building damaging the wall paintings. In the next period, during Solomon’s reign, they made scratches on the paintings and added another cover layer to the wall for repainting. So there are two layers of painting in Ali Qapu. On the other hand, during the Qajar period, new paintings manuscripts on the white plaster layer of the walls covered the decorations of the Safavid period.

The paintings of Ali Qapu have no signature and date and this makes them difficult to be historically identified. The Eslimi patterns of sketches of birds are so delicate and beautiful. 


Tempera is a permanent, fast-drying painting medium that consists of colorful pigments mixed with a water-soluble binder medium that is glutinous like egg yolk. The paintings in which tempera is used are also called Tempera.

In Isfahan the temperas show ifluences from European styles; the costumes, the head coverings, the characters’ sitting potures on the chairs, etc. in all paintings throughout the palace the gilding technique I also evident.


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