Also spelled Esfahan, this city in central Iran - a five-hour drive or hourlong flight south of Tehran - is the country's top tourist destination for very good reason. Dating back as far as 2700 BCE to the pre-Persian Elamite civilization, Iran's third largest urb (pop. nearly 2 million, metro area nearly 4 million) flourished especially from 1050 to 1722 - the last 124 years of which it was the capital of the Persian Empire - and the Persians called it Nesf-e Jahan, meaning "Half of The World."

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