- Apr 19, 2015
Iran is a large country in the Middle East, between the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, and the Caspian Sea. It is bordered by Iraq to the west, Turkey, Azerbaijan's Naxcivan enclave, Armenia, and Azerbaijan to the northwest, Turkmenistan to the northeast, Afghanistan and Pakistan to the southeast.
Throughout history, Persia has generally been an empire, one whose fortunes varied enormously. In ancient times, Persia controlled most of what we now call the Middle East, and came close to conquering Greece. A few centuries later, Alexander of Macedonia conquered (among other things) the entire Persian Empire. Later, Persia was conquered by the Arabs in the expansion of Islam in the centuries immediately after the time of Muhammad; Persian and other languages of the region are still written with the Arabic alphabet. About 1250, Persia was overrun by the Mongols. Marco Polo passed through just after that, learned Persian, and wrote extensively of the region.
At other times, Persia conquered many of her neighbours. Her empire often included much of what we now call Central Asia (Polo counted Bukhara and Samarkand as Persian cities), and sometimes various other areas. A few generations after the Mongols took Persia, the dynasty they founded there took all of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and most of India. The Indian term "Moghul" for some of their rulers is from "Mongol", via Persia. Even in periods when she did not rule them, Persia has always exerted a large cultural influence on her neighbours, especially Afghanistan and Central Asia.
The Safavid dynasty re-united Persia as an independent state in 1501, established Shi'a Islam as the official religion, and ushered in a golden age of Persian culture. They were overthrown in 1736 by Nadir Shah, the last great Asian conqueror, who expanded the Empire to again include Afghanistan and much of India. His short-lived dynasty and its successor lasted until 1795. Then the Qajar dynasty ruled 1795-1925, a period of heavy pressure from foreign powers, notably Britain and Russia who jointly occupied Iran during World War I. In 1906, Qajar rule became a constitutional monarchy and the Majlis (Persian for parliament) was established.
Iran has a diverse climate. In the northwest, winters are cold with heavy snowfall and subzero temperatures during December and January. Spring and fall are relatively mild, while summers are dry and hot. In the south, winters are mild and the summers are very hot, having average daily temperatures in July exceeding 38° C (100° F) and can hit 50° C in parts of the desert. On the Khuzestan plain, summer heat is accompanied by high humidity.
In general, Iran has an arid climate in which most of the relatively scant annual precipitation falls from October through April. In most of the country, yearly precipitation averages 25 centimeters or less. The major exceptions are the higher mountain valleys of the Zagros and the Caspian coastal plain, where precipitation averages at least 50 cm annually. In the western part of the Caspian, rainfall exceeds 100 cm annually and is distributed relatively evenly throughout the year.
Rugged, mountainous rim; high, central basin with deserts, mountains; small, discontinuous plains along both coasts. The highest point is Mount Damavand (5,610 m). Desert: Two great deserts extend over much of central Iran: the Dasht-e Lut is covered largely with sand and rocks, and the Dasht-e Kavir is covered mainly with salt. Both deserts are inhospitable and virtually uninhabited. Mountain: The Zagros range stretches from the border with the Republic of Armenia in the north-west to the Persian Gulf, and then eastward into Baluchistan. Zagros is extremely hard, difficult to access, and populated largely by pastoral nomads. The Alborz mountain range, narrower than the Zagros, runs along the southern shore of the Caspian to meet the border ranges of Khorasan to the east. Forest: Approximately 11 percent of Iran is forested, most extensively in the Caspian region. Here one finds the broad-leafed, vigorous deciduous trees, usually oak, beech, linden, elm, walnut, ash, and hornbeam, as well as a few broad-leafed evergreens. Thorny shrubs and fern also abound.The narrow Caspian coastal plain, in contrast, is covered with rich brown forest soil.
Below is a list of nine of the most notable cities:
- Tehran– the vibrant capital, a beautiful city that suffers horrendous traffic and air pollution
- Isfahan– former capital with stunning architecture, great bazaar, and tree-lined boulevards. Most popular tourist destination in the country. There's a Persian saying, "Isfahan is half the world."
- Mashad– greatest city of Eastern Iran with an important mosque, the shrine of the martyr Imam Reza
- Tabriz– provincial capital in Western Iran; it's been suggested by some that this is the site of the Biblical "Garden of Eden"
- Shiraz– a former capital, home of famous Persian poets such as Hafiz and Sa'di; known for gardens, especially roses. Very close to the famous ruins of Persepolis.
- Kermanshah– one of the oldest cities in Iran with great anthropological heritages. Taqe bostan and Bistoon are two of its world known sites.the center of medical care of west of iran.
- Hamedan– one of the oldest cities in Iran, also in the world, it has some features remaining from the Medes
- Yazd– a remote desert city – circumstance influenced special architectural themes where water streams run in underground rooms in houses and wind-towers to keep them cool.
- Kerman– provincial capital, one of Iran's oldest cities, and major center for carpets
- Mashhad–It is a religious city eighth Shi'a Imam buried.
- Qom– one of the holiest cities in the Middle East, considered the Jewel of Iran
- Bushehr– With an approximately 7,000 years history, Bushehr is one of the first civilized cities in Iran. Formerly called Reeshehr (ریشهر). This city is where the Iranian nuclear power plant located. Bushehr is also known as a very long and spectacular coastline neighboring the Persian Gulf.
- Urmia– Iran's western most city, located near turkey, with cool Mediterranean climate, known from 4000 BC
- PersepolisImpressive ruins of a vast city-like complex built over 2,500 years ago, near the Marvdasht town And Also the Marvdash is near the modern City of Shiraz. It was set on fire by Alexander of Macedon and further ruined by Arabs. Called TakhteJamshid in Persian, Persepolis is the symbol of Iranian nationality.
- Na’inorNaeinis a small and quiet town at the edge of desert. A small pattern of a desert town. Everything you like to see in a desert town you can find there.
- Kish Island, a free trade zone in the Persian Gulf, it is regarded as a consumer's 'paradise', with numerous malls, shopping centres, tourist attractions, and resort hotels. Kish is the home of Dariush Grand Hotel, a magnificent hotel in Iran and one of the top ten best hotels in the Middle East.
- Qeshm Island, is Iran's largest and the Persian Gulf's largest island. Qeshm island is famous for its wide range of ecotourist attractions such as the Hara marine forests. According to environmentalists, about 1.5% of the world birds and 25% of Iran's native birds annually migrate to Hara forests which is the first national geo park.
- Susa, orShushlocated 110km North of Ahvaz, was Iran's most ancient city. The Zigurat of Chughazanbil, Darius the Great's palace, the Jewish prophet Daniel's temple and Artaxerxer II 's palace are among the historical sites.
- Dizinis one of the highest ski resorts in the world located just two hours north of Tehran. Great powder snow, cheap prices and few international visitors makes this is a great place for a ski holiday.
- Pasargad, the first capital of the Achaemenid Empire, and home to the Tomb of Cyrus.
- Rasht, the city in the north with wonderful nature.
- Shahr-e Rey,one of the oldest city in south of Tehran,that's a must-see including cultural and historic heritage.
See Ancient cities
- Hegmatane(orEkbatana) - The capital of the ancient Meds. In modern-day Hamedan.
- Persepolise- Probably the most important historical site in Iran. The capital of the Achaemenid (Persian) Empire built by Darius. Near Shiraz.
- Pasargad(orPasargadae) - The initial capital of the Persian Empire built by Cyrus the Great. Near Shiraz.
- Susa- Built by Elamites an then adopted by Achaemenid (Persian) and Sasanid empires, it has three layers of civilisation in it. Located in the modern-day town of Shush in the Khuzestan province.
- Chogha Zanbil- A ziggurat build by Elamites. Near Shush.
- Na’inorNaeenorNaeinis a small pre-Islamic in central Iran with over 2000 years of history. It's a small pattern of an ancient desert town. the locals in Na’in still speak in ancient Zoroastrian dialect.
- Sialk Mound(Tappeh Sialk) - More than 7,000 years old, this is world's oldest ziggurat. In suburbs of Kashan.
Tombs of some famous people
- Cyrus the Greatin Pasargad near Shiraz.
- Avicennain Hamedan.
- Khayyamin Neyshaboor (near Mashhad).
- Prophet Danielin Susa (Shush).
- Mordechaiand Esther in Hamedan.
- SaadiandHafezfamous Persian poets in Shiraz.
- Imam Rezaan ornate shrine to the eighth of the Shiite imams (the only one buried in Iran) in Mashhad.
Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art. Housing an impressive collection worth $2.5 billion dollars, it is one of the most important art museums of Asia. The museum displays artwork by famous Western artists including Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky, Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp and Jackson Pollock.
Sadabad. A palace complex where Mohammad-Reza Shah and his family used to live. Some palaces converted to museums now. In Tehran.
Forty Pillar Palace(Chehel Sotoun) literally: “Forty Columns”) is a pavilion in the middle of a park at the far end of a long pool, in Isfahan, Iran, built by Shah Abbas II to be used for his entertainment and receptions. In this palace, Shah Abbas II and his successors would receive dignitaries and ambassadors, either on the terrace or in one of the stately reception halls.The name, meaning "Forty Columns" in Persian, was inspired by the twenty slender wooden columns supporting the entrance pavilion, which, when reflected in the waters of the fountain, are said to appear to be forty.
Ālī Qāpū (The Royal Palace)- Early 17th Century. It is forty-eight meters high and there are seven floors, each accessible by a difficult spiral staircase. In the sixth floor music room, deep circular niches are found in the walls, having not only aesthetic value, but also acoustic. It is rich in naturalistic wall paintings by Reza Abbassi, the court painter of Shah Abbas I, and his pupils. There are floral, animal, and bird motifs.
Squares and Streets
Naqsh-e Jahan Squarealso known as imam square-1602. With two mosques and the bazaar.It is an important historical site, and one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites.The square is surrounded by buildings from the Safavid era.
Vank Cathedralin Isfahan.
Saint Thaddeus Monasteryin West Azerbaijan Province.
Meymand(Meimand), Kerman province, Shahr-e-Babak (Persian Gulf high way). Meymand (Maymand, Meimand, Maimand) is a very ancient village located nearby Shahr -e- Babak city in Kerman Province. Maymand is believed to be one humanities earliest remaining places of habitation on the Iranian Plateau and dates back 12,000 years. It is still inhabited by around 150 people, mostly hospitable elderly citizens who live in 410 houses hand hewn into the rocks. 10,000 year old stone engravings surround the village. 6,000 year old potteries relics reveal a long history of the village. Living conditions in Maymand are harsh due to the aridity of the land and to high temperatures in summers and very cold winters. In 2005 Meymand was awarded the Melina Mercury International Prize for the safeguarding and management of cultural landscapes. edit
Desert trekking and desert excursions
Though the northern part of Iran is covered by dense rain forests called Shomal or the Jungles of Iran. The eastern parts consists mostly of desert basins such as the Dasht-e Kavir, Iran's largest desert, in the north-central portion of the country and the Dasht-e Lut, in the east, as well as some salt lakes. There is also the Central desert which as can be understood from its name is located in the central regions. This is because the mountain ranges are too high for rain clouds to reach these regions. The desert in the upper picture is around Na'in. it's called Varzaneh moving sand dunes. There are sand hills from 5 to 62 meters that always moving when the wind blows. The highest sand dunes in Iran. There are a lot of activities that can be done in the desert areas including; desert tracking, camel riding, bicycle riding and 4x4 driving excursions. In some parts of the deserts there are some camping sites available. The easiest budget priced desert tours can be organised in Na'in and Kashan.
Norouz Eve, The beginning of Iranian New Year and the start of the Spring. On the 20th or 21st of March. It is rooted in the Zoroastrian religion.
Chehar-shanbe Suri(Wednesday festival) - On the last Wednesday before Noruz. People set up fires. The traditional festival involves jumping over the fire while saying a specific sentence. Nowadays it involves a lot of firecrackers Although the government is against it and police usualy Disperse the young people's gathering!.
Nimeye Sha'ban, The birthday of the last of Shiite imams. It is celebrated according to the Islamic lunar calendar so its date is different every year relative to the Gregorian calendar.
Golabgiri, of Kashan city near Isfahan. During the spring some people go there to obtain the local rose water. It has very nice smell and many use it in traditional drinks.
There are five ski piste around Tehran. They are at Dizin, Darbandsar, Tochal and Shemshak. The longest one is the Dizin piste, this is north of Tehran and reachable during winter by using either Chalous Road or Fasham Road. The more professional slope is at Shemshak and that is the one used for national and international tournaments. The ski pistes near Tehran are all normally accessible by road in around 1-2 hr.
Iran has coastline along the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf. A popular place for its beaches is Kish Island in the Persian Gulf that men can enjoy it all the year & women can use only covered beaches.kish beaches is famous for its sun shine at beaches so its so interesting for europians.
Meal times in Iran vary considerably from those in Europe and the US. Lunch can be served from 12PM-3PM. and dinner is often eaten after 8PM. These and other social occasions in Iran are often long, drawn-out affairs conducted in a relatively relaxed tempo, often involving pastries, fruit and possibly nuts. As it is considered rude to refuse what is served, visitors should accept the items offered, even if they do not intend to consume them.
The importation and consumption of alcohol is strictly banned. Penalties are severe. Religious minorities, however, are allowed to manufacture and consume alcohol, but not to sell or import it. Pork and pork products are forbidden and, like alcohol, their import is illegal.
The good news for travellers is that Iranian cuisine is superb. A wide range of influences from Central Asia, the Caucasus, Russia, Europe and the Middle East have created a diverse, relatively healthy range of dishes that focus on fresh produce and aromatic herbs. The bad news, however, is that Iranians prefer to eat at home, rather than in restaurants, so decent eateries are scarce and stick to a repetitive selection of dishes (mainly kebabs). An invitation to an Iranian home for dinner will be a definite highlight of your stay. When visiting an Iranian household for the first time or on a special occasion it is customary for Iranians to bring a small gift. Flowers, sweets or pastries are popular gift choices.
Fragrant rice(برنج, berenj) is the staple of Iranian food. Boiled and then steamed, it is often coloured with saffron or flavoured with a variety of spices. When served plain as an accompaniment it is known as chelo (چلو). The two most common meat / chelo combinations are kebab variations (chelo kabāb, چلو کباب) or rotisserie chicken (chelo morgh, چلو مرغ). Flavoured rice, known as polo, is often served as a main course or as an accompaniment to a meat dish. Examples include shirin polo flavoured with orange zest, young cherries and honey glazed carrots, the broad-bean and herb heavy bāghli polo and sabzi polo laced with parsley, dill and mint.
The rice and kebab dish chelo kabāb(چلو کباب) and its half-dozen variations are the most common (and often the only) items on Iranian restaurant menus. A grilled skewer of meat is served on a bed of fluffy rice, and accompanied by an array of condiments. You can add butter, grilled tomatoes and a sour spice known as somāgh to your rice, while some restaurants also provide a raw egg yolk. Raw onion and fresh basil are used to clear your palate between mouthfuls. Variations in kabāb dishes come from the meats they are served with. You will commonly see:
- Kabāb koobideh(كباب كوبيده) - a kebab of minced beef, shredded onion and spices.
- Kabāb barg(كباب برگ) - pieces of lamb marinated in lemon juice and shredded onion.
- Kabāb makhsoos(كباب مخصوص) - usually the most expensive option, this big kebab uses the highest quality meat.
- Joojeh kabāb(جوجه كباب) - a skewer of chicken pieces marinated in lemon juice and saffron.
- Kabāb bakhtiāri(كباب بختیارِی) - great for the indecisive eater, this is a skewer of alternating chicken and lamb pieces.
At home people most often eatrice with a thick stew(khoresht, خورشت) containing a modest amount of meat. There are dozens of khoresht variations such as the sweet and sour fessenjān made from ground walnuts and pomegranate syrup, ghormeh-sabzi based on fresh herbs, dried limes and kidney beans, gheimeh flavoured with split-peas and often garnished with French fries, and the sweet sib-āloo which uses apples and plums.
Hearty Iranian soups(āsh, آش) are meals in themselves. The most popular is the vegetarian āsh reshteh (آش رشته) made from herbs, chickpeas and thick noodles, and garnished with yoghurt and fried onions.
Flat bread(nān, نان) is another pillar of Iranian food. It is served at breakfast with herbs, feta cheese and a variety of jams, or as an accompaniment to meals. Sangak (سنگک) is a dimpled variety cooked on a pebbled oven while lavāsh (لواش) is a thin and bland staple.
There are several good international restaurants which offer Chinese, Japanese, Italian and French food as well as vegetarian menus in Tehran and other major cities.
Fast food and snacks
Most food outlets in Iran are either kabābis or fast food outlets serving a standard fare of burgers, sandwiches, felafels or pizza (پیتزا).
Many teahouses also serve traditional snacks and light meals. The most common of these is ābgusht (آبگوشت) a hot pot made from lamb, chickpeas and dried limes that is also known as dizi, also the name of the dish in which its served. You will be given a bowl (the dizi) containing the ābgusht and another, smaller one. Drain the broth into the smaller bowl and eat it like a soup with the bread provided. Then pound the remaining meat and vegetables into a paste with the pestle provided and eat with even more bread, pieces raw onion and wads of fresh herbs.
Sweets and desserts
The never ending demand for dentists in Iran lies testament to the country's obsession with sweets and pastries, known collectively as shirini (شیرینی).
Iranian baghlava tends to be harder and more crystalline than its Turkish equivalent while the pistachio noughat called gaz (گز) is an Isfahan speciality. Sohan is a rich pistachio brittle popular in Qom, and freshly-baked pastries are often taken as gifts to people's houses. Lavāshak fruit leathers are delicious fruit leathers made from dried plums.
Honey-saffron and pistachio are just two local flavours of ice cream, while fāloodeh (فالوده) is a deliciously refreshing sorbet made from rosewater and vermicelli noodles made from starch, served with lashings of lemon juice.
Given that most travellers are stuck eating kebabs for much of their trip, vegetarians will have a particularly difficult time in Iran. Most snack shops sell felafels (فلافل) and garden salads (sālād-e-fassl, سالاد فصل) and greengrocers are common. Most ash varieties are meat-free and filling, as are most variations of kookoo (کوکو), the Iranian take on the frittata. The phrases man giaa-khaar hastam (I am vegetarian) and bedoon-e goosht (without meat) will come in handy.
It's a safe bet that all food in Iran is halal (حلال, ḥalāl, halaal) and will conform with Islamic dietary laws as specified in the Qur'an, however those seeking a strict kosher diet may have to concentrate their efforts in the districts with higher numbers of Jewish inhabitants. If in Tehran look in areas such as older parts in the south of the city, like Udlajan or the Yusef Abad neighbourhood.
Black tea (chāi, چای/span>) is the national drink of alcohol-free Iran. It is served strong and with crystallised or cubed sugar (ghand, قند) which is held artfully between the teeth while tea is sipped through. You can try asking for milk in your tea, but expect nothing but strange looks or a big delay in return.
Tea houses (chāi khāneh, چای خانه) are a favourite local haunt for men (and less commonly families) to drink tea and puff away on a water pipe.
Lovers of coffee (ghahveh, قهوه) have little to cheer in Iran but their choices have increased recently. Where available, it is served Turkish style, French coffee or espresso. Imported instant coffee (nescāffe, نسكافه)) and instant Cappuccino are available also.
A wide variety of fruit juices (āb miveh, آب ميوه) and drinks are available from shops and street vendors including cherry cordial (sharbat ālbāloo, شربت آلبالو) and banana milkshakes (shir moz, شير موز)
Soft drinks are widely available. International products such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi, and their brand names including 7up, Sprite and Fanta have sold alongside local brands such as Zam Zam Cola ( زم زم كولا , Zam Zam Kola). The local cola has a taste not unlike "Coca-Cola Original" or "Pepsi Original". Both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo's concentrates entered Iran via Irish subsidiaries and circumvented the US trade embargoes. Ironically ZamZam was originally launched in 1954 as a subsidiary of the Pepsi Cola company. As an intriguing outcome of the Iranian cola wars the real coke was generally sold in plastic bottles and the non-genuine coke, using a substitute syrup devised to overcome earlier Clinton era US imposed embargoes, was distributed in the real thing bottles that the then syrup-less bottler was left stuck with at the time.
Doogh (دوغ) is a sour drink made from yoghurt, salt, and water (sometimes gaseous) and sometimes flavoured with mint or other plants. It takes some getting used to, but will rehydrate you quickly in the heat of Iran's summer. It is the same as Turkish Ayran.
Drinking alcohol is illegal, and if seen by police may be met with punishment. Therefore, you will not find any place in Iran that openly sells alcohol.