Siose Pol: A Unique Bridge and Symbol of Isfahan
During the years 1592-98, Shah Abbas I (1571-1629) launched a construction campaign in Isfahan to move the capital of the Safavid dynasty from Qazvin to Isfahan. During this campaign, Shah Abbas and many other rich dignitaries and businessmen patronized the building of new monuments in Isfahan.
One of the main sites around which a lot of construction took place was Zayandeh Rud (Zayandeh River), the vital heart of the city and one of the main reasons Shah Abbas chose Isfahan as his capital. On the Southern side of Zayande Rud, Shah Abbas I built his favorite promenade, Chahar-Bagh-e Payeen. On the Northern side of the river, there was a complex of gardens, Sa’adat Abad, which were connected together via another promenade called Chahar-Bagh-e Bālā. To connect these two boulevards, the construction of a new bridge became necessary.
To build the bridge, Allah Verdi Khan, the Georgian commander-in-chief of Shah Abbas’ army, volunteered to pay its costs. The construction of the bridge began in 1599 and continued up to 1602.
Some Confusing Points about the Name of the Bridge Made Clear
Eskandar Beik Turkman, the great historian during the reign of Shah Abbas, refers to the bridge as Pol-e Chehel Cheshmeh. But why Chehl-Cgheshme? In Farsi, pol means bridge, chehel means forty and cheshmeh, as used here, refers to the false arches flanking the upper side of the bridge. So, at the time of its construction, the bridge had forty niches along each of its sides, and so was called Chehel-Cheshmeh.
At the same time, it was also called Pol-e Allahverdi Khan or Allahverdi Khan bridge, bearing the name of the man who contributed a large sum of money for its construction.
Nowadays, there are 33 arches along each side of the bridge, and therefore it is called Si-o-Se Pol.
There is just one point to remember. Do not call the bridge “Si-o-Se Pol bridge”! It is like saying “33 bridge bridge.” The best name to commit to your memory is “Si-o-Se Pol.” Just say it and all the locals would direct you to this bridge.
The Architecture of SioSe Pol
An architectural masterpiece by maestro Hossein Banna Isfahani, SioSe Pol is295 meter long and 14.75 meter wide. No wonder, its extreme length makes SioSe Pol one of the largest bridges in Iran.
Occupying the widest part of the Zayandeh Rud where we have the shallowest depth of water, the bridge is built of stone, Saruj, plaster, and brick. This choice of material ensures that the bridge remains stable under high pressure and exposure to moisture.
Si-o-Se Pol can be divided into two parts: the upper part and the lower part. The upper part includes a main passageway which is flanked by two corridors decorated with false arches. The passageway was used by people who transferred with beasts of burden and the corridors by pedestrians. People also used to meet and sit or stand in the niches under the false arches to enjoy the scenery and take pleasure in the various celebrations held around the bridge.
The lower part of the bridge includes 25 rooms of various sizes. During hot summers, the king and his court used to lodge in these room and enjoy the cool breeze which wafted in through the open windows.
Ceremonies Held at SioSe Pol
During Shah Abbas reign, people used to celebrate Nowruz (Persian New Year) for three to seven days at this bridge. During Nowruz, the bridge was decorated with numerous lights, turning it into a shining spot. Also, Shah Abbas sometimes ordered the Golrizan ceremony over the bridge, where the path of Shah Abbas and his entourage was covered with flowers cast by people.
In addition, the bridge welcomed people to celebrate a water ceremony called Ab-Pashan. This celebration was held annually on 13th of July, when people splashed each other with water and danced gleefully. The king, noble men, politicians, poets and other notables also attended the ceremony.
Another Celebration held at SioSe Pol was Khaj-Shuyan, a ceremony in memory of Jesus baptism. Christians believe that the water becomes pure and sacred on this day, so they gather around sources of water and swim in them to purge themselves of worldly filth. Khaj-Shuyan Celebration was held by Christian Armenians living outside Isfahan in New Julfa neighborhood.
The Best Time to Visit SioSe Pol
Although SioSe retains its beauty all throughout the day, we suggest that you visit the bridge at sunset. Its beauty would mesmerize you!
What to do at SioSe Pol?
Well, if you are tired of everyday burdens of life, you can go to SioSe Pol to have a long walk and let off steam. Also, you can mix with the locals in the evening and immerse yourself in the joys of finding new friends from a totally different culture. In the past, there some tea houses around the bridge, but it is some years that they have been closed off.
On the northern side of the bridge, there are some shopping malls which you can visit. On the Southern side of bridge, there is a famous ice-cream shop known as Bastani-ye Pol. You can go there and enjoy ice-creams of different flavors.
A little further up, there is another shop which make magic with pomegranate. Their products include ice-cream with pomegranate, lavashak and all sorts of sour and pungent delicacies which make your mouth water.
Due to dire effects of climate change, the Zayaznde Rud river has dried up and so the bridges and parks around the river are a little bit less splendid than their glorious old days.