The View From Your Window Contest: Winner #211


A reader thinks it’s San Francisco:

The new strip mall on the other, never-photographed side of Alamo Square?

Another picks the “Smokeless Coal Capital” of America:

Looks like the roof of Tamarack arts center near Beckley, West Virginia. I just stopped there during a road trip in late April.


Hard one this week. The closest I can get is Aden in Yemen, judging by the profile of the mountains and Arabic signage.

Another correctly notes the significance of taking the contest to the Middle East this week:

So, as a Muslim (fringy as I am), I couldn’t help thinking that this week’s contest was maybe in honor of the beginning of Ramadan. If so, great! If not, thanks for not posting a picture of one of the souped-up Arab metropolises built to be viewed from the space station.

The view looks like some sort of shopping plaza, or entrance to an arcade. It’s rather desultory, certainly doesn’t call to mind the shiny new buildings and streets of one of the UAE cities. The hilly terrain bordering the city suggested Yemen or Jordan or Algeria. Given that of the three Yemen seems the most economically oppressed, I settled on Sana a. Never having been there, I have no clue as to whether or not the signage is in multiple languages. I’m pretty sure that in Jordan and Algeria they are at least also in English and French.

Of course, I could be dead wrong, again … grr. Perhaps if we were to get a glimpse of the populace, as in whether or not there is a completely or partially shrouded female population. That would certainly give me a better idea as to the sort of prevailing religious influence on the politics.

Still, I really hope I’m closer this time, and NOT because it’s Ramadan!

Another is thinking Kabul:

That dust (rumored to be a very high fecal content due to the open sewers), those mountains, the Arabic script, and somewhat decrepit window – looks a lot like the Afghan capital. Actually, it’s the wife’s guess. I’ve learned to listen to her. A few weeks back she said: that’s Chateau de Chillon! I said, no it’s not; it looks a lot like it, but the view is wrong. Stupid me. I lived in Lausanne 7 years and now feel very silly.

I can’t guess a window now, as we’re at 34,000 feet over Alaska en route to Tokyo. Normally that would give plenty of time to search, but the 9 month old in my lap is demanding attention and refuses to sleep.

Or Lebanon?

Well, I see Arabic writing in a somewhat rundown city, but no visible minarets, so perhaps a relatively secular nation. I’d guess Beirut or Amman, but Amman has lots of buildings on its hills, while Beirut has areas that look relatively sparse, so I’m going with it. I’m not one of those folks who tries to get the exact building; I’m just hoping this isn’t a shopping center in Detroit. That would be embarrassing, even for someone whose goal is “get the right city.”

Another gets the right country:


The only times I think I know the view it’s because I think I’ve been there. Well, it’s a big world, so the chances of that happening are miniscule.

But it really does seem like these are the green pyramids on top of the Golestan Mall in Shahrak-e Gharb, Tehran, Iran. It’s where my wife would buy dubbed pirated Disney DVDs for our bilingual children (they were only allowed to watch Disney movies in Farsi) Of course it could be that every mall in Iran has green pyramids …

Another nails the right city:

By George, I’ve got it! This was taken in Isfahan, Iran (or, as most Iranians call the city, Esfahan). The turquoise roofs are unmistakably Persian, as is the script on the store signs and the somewhat less prominent signage in the middle of the photo for some sort of civic office (the part I can make out says “Information and Communications of the Mayoralty of Isfahan”). I hope the recognition of Farsi won’t be considered a case of cheating, albeit a mild one.

The beautifully intricate architecture, impressive bridges, ancient artwork, and overall grandeur of the city warrant the famous proverb “Esfahan nesf-e jahan” (Isfahan is half the world). I should know: I have fond memories of family visits to Isfahan as a child, but am reluctant to return so as not to spoil the mental imagery I have of evenings spent on the banks of Zayandeh-Rood (Zayandeh River), which, alas, has been drying up gradually in recent years.

Here’s our sparse OpenHeatMap of everyone’s entries, which totaled less than 30 this week:

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Another reader was tipped off by “distinctive mountain peak in the background”. And behind that mountain is apparently some international intrigue:

We pretty quickly narrowed this one down to Isfahan, Iran. Firstly, it’s obviously somewhere in the Middle East and secondly one of our number is an Iranian Jew whose family is from that area. Then once comparing the mountain range visible in the picture to that on the map we determined it was in the north-northeast suburbs of Isfahan looking generally to the northeast (see map):


But from there we were stumped. So that’s what we’ve got for this week.

It’s interesting to note that on the other side of those mountains is the Natanz nuclear uranium enrichment facility, host of 1,000 centrifuges and the very plant that was infected by the Stuxnet computer virus at the hands of Israel and the U.S. intelligence agencies in 2007.

Another gets the exact location:

This is a view from a window of the Shah Abbas Hotel in Isfahan, Iran. The hotel is currently known as the Abbasi Hotel. The view is towards the south. The building across the way is a shopping mall housing carpet dealers and other tourist shops. The hotel was created from an old Safavid caravanseri and is attached to a small bazaar and a religious school. As the Iranians say, “Isfahan is half the world”. A wonderful place with great people. I was there as a Peace Corps volunteer forty years ago and went back again five years ago. I stayed at the Abbasi, perhaps in this room. Certainly one very similar.

A fantastic entry from a former winner:

The contest view is from the southern-facing exterior of the Abbasi Hotel (entry on Amadegah Street) in Isfahan, Iran. Not surprisingly, the view is from a lesser photographed aspect of this very elaborate hotel and misses most of the hotel’s iconic views.

The Persian writing on the shopping complex signs suggested Iran, so I began searching hotels and general views of Tehran. A series of photographs linked to a Tehran hotel included scenes of the Khaju Bridge in Isfahan. A mountain peak in the background appeared similar to that in the contest window, so I switched the search to Isfahan. I passed through many photographs from the Abbasi Hotel before seeing one taken towards the south, which included the distinct rows of blue triangular decorative elements on the roof of the neighboring shopping complex. The brick balcony arches on the hotels southern façade also matched that of the contest window (very nicely done brickwork). The angle of the contest photograph shows only the upper portion of the baloney’s decorative railing which is characteristic of this side of the hotel (part of the railing’s cross pattern is slightly visible in the right-hand corner of the contest photograph). A collage of clues:


Several features of the shopping complex visible in the contest view place the window on the western side of the building’s southern façade (number and relative location of blue triangles on roof, the stairs, bend in the shopping complex roofline, roof triangles visible in right-hand side of photograph, etc.). I relied primarily on sight lines to locate the general area of the contest window and chose, with significant uncertainly, the third window in from the western side of the building’s southern face on the upper-most floor (see attached):


I selected the upper floor because the view is through the upper tree canopy and misses the tops of palm trees that line this side of the hotel. I suspect a view from a lower floor would include crowns of the palm trees. Views from the shopping complex toward the hotel suggest that the tree canopy would extend to the upper floor.

Thank you for another fine tour of a World Heritage site.

Thank your fellow readers, one of whom is a former resident:

This is a view of a shopping complex built when I lived in Isfahan, Iran in the 1970s. The highest peak in the distance is crowned with the ruins of an Assasin’s Castle. This group gave us the word assassin and is currently known as Ishmaelis. The blue tile roof echoes the colors across the street of the side of a large complex built in the 1700’s.

There is the Madrassa (religious school) Modari – Shah complete with a bulbous blue tile dome. On the other side of this is a brick covered bazaar called the Boland bazaar because of it’s high domes.  Next to the school and across the street from the pictured complex is the former Caravan Serai. Rents from this and the Bazaar helped finance the school. This is a very practical arrangement often followed in the Islamic world. A shopping complex supports the mosque. Of course this can often get out of hand.

This caravan serai was turned into a deluxe hotel with a beautiful garden in the central courtyard. By the 1900s, all of these buildings were in severe disrepair as Islamic dynasties rarely keep up buildings from a former dynasty. A sadly little known American Persian scholar and his wife, Arthur Upham Pope, convinced the last Shah’s father, Reza Shah, to fund the restoration of Iran’s architectural heritage. This involved the training of scores of craftsmen, research, etc. Much of the Islamic Architecture one sees in Iran is due to his work. Without him there probably would have been little left as. Reza Shah’s son, the last Shah, continued this funding. His wive, the Shahbanu was very active in this area. Mr. and Mrs. Pope elected to be buried in Isfahan. They said they were not just ordinary scholars, they loved their adopted country, Iran.

The Shah built them a wonderful simple brick tomb in an early Islamic style on the banks of the river that flows through the city. When Khomeini took over mobs smashed into the tomb, dug up the bones and fed them to the stray dogs. The tomb has since been repaired.

Chini, as is wont, was the only reader to guess the correct window:

I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that Persian speakers had a bit of a head start with this one. But not being able to read the signs helped to make this one of those perfect not too easy, not too hard views. More importantly, we’re not in Tehran. Lovely city, but another search through its 10,000 high rises would have just about driven me mad.

VFYW Isfahan Bird's Eye Marked - Copy

Instead, this week’s view comes from Isfahan, Iran and looks south by southwest along a heading of 191.78 degrees. The pic was likely snapped from a balcony on the third (physical) story of the Abbassi Hotel. The hotel itself is a local landmark because it was once a caravanserai, an ancient form of Persian trading inn.

VFYW Isfahan Actual Window Marked - Copy

It’s room 301, to be exact. Our winner this week was the only reader (who hasn’t previously won a contest) to guess the correct hotel and floor:

This picture was taken from a second or third floor balcony from the Abbasi Hotel in Isfahan. It is facing south toward Amadegah Street. There is a sign in the picture for the telecom organization of the City of Isfahan. The website of this organization gave me the address which I was able to find on Google Maps.


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