Ali Qapu is believed by some to be an Ottoman word meaning Great Gate while while other attribute it to an altered word of “ Ali’s Qapu” meaning Ali’s gate because Shah Abbas had installed one of the doors of Imam Ali’s Holy Shrine (AS) in the entrance of the palace. In the Safavid era it was identified by different names such as “Dowlat-Khaneh Mobarak Naghsh-i-Jahan” and “Qasr-i-Dowlat Khaneh. The exiting plasterworks are among the most splendid examples of plasterworks which despite considerable damages, still retain their glory and grandeur. The combination of these with artistic miniatures by Reza Abbasi and the unique design of the complex leave deep impact on the visitors.
A unique monument of the Safavid era, the Ali Qapu Palace was commissioned by Shah Abbas I in the first quarter of the 17th century in the west wing of Naghsh-i-Jahan Square. The Palace was used for official reception.
“The Sound Room” or “Music Hall” characterized by acoustic plasterworks for natural reflection or reverberation of songs is a must-see. Plasterworks of the Music Hall were completely designed in the shape of various dishes such as bowl, pitcher, and so on which, besides their ornamental quality, serve natural acoustic purposes.
As a five-storied building, it is decorated with precious murals and plasterworks by master artists including Reza Abbas, a well-known painter during the reign of Shah Abbas I.
The Ali Qapu Palace was used for official reception by the successors of Shah Abbas I as well. However, some measures were taken to further the decorations. The construction of Hijdah Sutun iwan (a vaulted portal opening onto a courtyard) on the third floor which ended under Shah Abbas ll is one such construction measure. The iwan faces Naghshe-i-Jahan square and is characterized by wooden pillars and fences and a copper pound in the center. The iwan was used as platform by the Safavid rulers for watching military parades or polo games at festivals.