History : The region now called Iran was occupied by the Medes and the Persians in the 1500s B.C., until the Persian king Cyrus the Great overthrew the Medes and became ruler of the Achaemenid (Persian) Empire, which reached from the Indus to the Nile at its zenith in 525 B.C. Persia fell to Alexander in 331–330 B.C. and a succession of other rulers: the Seleucids (312–302 B.C.), the Greek-speaking Parthians (247 B.C.–A.D. 226), the Sasanians (224–c. 640), and the Arab Muslims (in 641). By the mid-800s Persia had become an international scientific and cultural center. In the 12th century it was invaded by the Mongols. The Safavid dynasty (1501–1722), under whom the dominant religion became Shiite Islam, followed, and was then replaced by the Qajar dynasty (1794–1925).Like ancient Persia, which included parts of Iraq, Iran has a long, creative and glorious history. Unlike many other Middle Eastern countries, Iran managed to remain independent throughout much of its history. Today it has a population of about 70 million persons. Principle ethnic groups are Persian 51%, Azeri 24%, Gilaki and Mazandarani 8%, Kurd 7% and Arab 3%. Iran is a Muslim country, with 89% Shi'a and 10% Sunni Muslims. The remaining 1% belong to Jewish, Bahai and Zoroastrian faiths. The Bahai and Zoroastrian faiths originated in Iran. Major Languages of Iran are Persian (Fars) and Persian dialects 58%, Turkic and Turkic dialects 26%, Kurdish 9%, Luri 2%, Baluchi 1%, Arabic 1%, Turkish 1%. Since 1979, Iran is an Islamic Republic.After the death, in 1779, of Mohammad Karim Khan Zand, who was the Zand dynasty ruler of southern Persia, Agha Mohammad Khan, a leader of the Qajar tribe, reunified the country, defeated numerous rivals and brought all of Iran under his rule, establishing the Qajar dynasty. In 1796 he was formally crowned as Shah, but he was assassinated in 1797 and was succeeded by his nephew, Fath Ali Shah.
Geography : Known as Persia until 1935, Iran became an Islamic republic in 1979 after the ruling monarchy was overthrown and the shah was forced into exile. Conservative clerical forces established a theocratic system of government with ultimate political authority nominally vested in a learned religious scholar. Iranian-US relations have been strained since a group of Iranian students seized the US Embassy in Tehran on 4 November 1979 and held it until 20 January 1981. During 1980-88, Iran fought a bloody, indecisive war with Iraq that eventually expanded into the Persian Gulf and led to clashes between US Navy and Iranian military forces between 1987-1988. Iran is a country in southwestern Asia, located on the eastern side of the Persian Gulf. It lies at the easternmost edge of the geographic and cultural region known as the Middle East.The neighbors of Iran are: Armenia and Azerbaijan on the northwest, Turkmenistan on the northeast, Iraq and Turkey on the west, Afghanistan and Pakistan on the east. Iran is the second largest country in the Middle East, after Saudi Arabia. It extends over a total area of 1,648,000 sq km. The country is almost triangle-shaped with its longest side extending from the border with Turkey in the northwest to the border with Pakistan in the southeast as long as 2,500 km.One of the world's most mountainous countries, Iran contains two major ranges of mountains, the Alborz with the highest peak in Asia west of the Himalayas, Damavand (5671 m above sea level) and the Zagros that cuts across the country for more than 1,600 km extending from north west to the south east of the country.A series of massive, heavily eroded mountain ranges surround Iran's high interior basin. Most of the country is above 1,500 feet, one-sixth of it over 6,500 high. In sharp contrast are the coastal regions outside the mountain ring. In the north, the 400-mile strip along the Caspian Sea, never more than 70 miles wide and frequently narrowing to 10, falls sharply from the 10,000-foot summit to 90 feet below sea level.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. As it moves southward, it broadens into a 125-mile-wide band of parallel, alternating mountains lying between the plains of Mesopotamia and the great central plateau of Iran. It is drained on the west by streams that cut deep, narrow gorges and water fertile valleys. The land is extremely hard, difficult to access, and populated largely by pastoral nomads.The vast deserts of Iran stretch across the plateau from the north-west, close to Tehran and Qom, for a distance of about 400 miles to the south-east and beyond the frontier. Approximately one-sixth of the total area of Iran is barren desert.The largest rivers are: the Karun (890 km.), Sefidrood (765), Karkheh (755), Mand (685), Qara-Chay (540), Atrak (535), Dez (515), Hendijan (488), Jovein (440), Jarahi (438), Zayandehrood (405). All streams are seasonal and variable; spring floods do enormous damage, and there is little water flow in summer when many streams disappear.
Climate and Weather : Iran has a complex climate, ranging from subtropical to subpolar. In winter, a high-pressure belt, centered in Siberia, slashes west and south to the interior of the Iranian Plateau, while low pressure systems develop over the warm waters of the Caspian, the Persian Gulf, and the Mediterranean. In summer, one of the lowest pressure centres in the world prevails in the south. In the summer, temperatures vary from a high of 123 F (50o C) in Khuzistan at the head of the Persian Gulf to a low of 35 F (1o C) in Azerbaijan in the north-west. Precipitation also varies greatly, ranging from less than two inches in the south-east to about 78 in the Caspian region.The totally different up and down altitudes of Iran are the major reasons for the several various climates. The Caspian coastal plain on the northern edge of the country with an average elevation of about the sea level remains humid all year round. Winter temperatures rarely fall below freezing point and maximum summer temperatures rarely exceed 29? C. Annual precipitation averages 650 mm in the eastern part of the plain (Mazandaran Province) and more than 1,900 mm in the western part (Gilan Province).The central plateau region also experiences regional variations. The arid basins of central and eastern Iran generally receive less than 200 mm of precipitation per year.With an area of 1,648,000 square kilometers, Iran ranks sixteenth in size among the countries of the world. Iran is about one-fifth the size of the continental United States, or slightly larger than the combined area of the contiguous states of California, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.The mountains enclose several broad basins, or plateaus, on which major agricultural and urban settlements are located. Until the twentieth century, when major highways and railroads were constructed through the mountains to connect the population centers, these basins tended to be relatively isolated from one another.
Crafts and Culture : The art of calligraphy is one of the reputable and famous arts in Iran. The glorious art of calligraphy and its numerous decorations have always been praised by Iranologs. The importance of the art of calligraphy among Iranian arts is such, that some arts seem to be imperfect, without decorative calligraphy. Iranians more than any other nation have used various calligraphy to enrich and beautify earthen-ware, metallic vessels and historic buildings. Most of the handwritten books of Iran specially the Holy Quran, and collections of poems such as Shahnameh, Hafez, Golestan, Boostan and Khayam have been recognized as precious artistic works because of their graceful and delicate calligraphy. These books possess extraordinary value and importance for the art experts all around the world. We can positively affirm that the finest and the most sumptuous carpets of the world are woven in Iran. The art of carpet weaving in Iran is deeply connected with the culture and the customs of the people of this land and it sources from their instinctive feelings. Iranian skillful carpet weavers mix wonderful patterns with admirable colors. An art which is only expected from outstanding painters. Art experts in the world compare the Iranian carpet to a multicolored pleasant garden, full of flowers, vegetables, birds and beasts and terrestrial and legendary creatures. Everyone can possess this little charming garden in his house. The Iranian carpet spread in the most magnificent palaces of the world or in simple rustic rooms, ravishes the eye and the soul by its beauty. Huan Tsang, the Chinese world traveler (7th century AD) praises in his writings the artistry of Iranians in weaving carpets and silken cloths. Exploring metal, was the beginning of important changes in the civilization of man. Without any doubt, the first people, who were successful in making metal objects, were the pioneers of their age. In Iran, the art of metal work goes back to the pre historic era.During the last two decades massive emigration of Iranians into the North American Continent has added a new force into the already mixed and rich ethnic makeup of the continent. Over a million and a half live in the United States alone and they are amongst the best educated and wealthiest of all the emigrant groups. Most have emigrated with their families and as such form coherent social units which in turn increases their chances of achieving a healthy and prosperous life.The ethnic make up of the country is also divided based on religion, i.e. Muslims, Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, Bahai etc. Non Muslims despite centuries of segregation are as Iranian as any one else in the country and are proud of their Iranian heritage. The emphasis here is on common ceremonies and major festivals celebrated by all Iranians, like the New Year plus the most important Muslim feasts and rituals such as Ramadan.The celebrations and rituals are described in detail and an anthropological approach is used to link the rituals to the core of the belief system to make their comprehension easier. Islamic festivities and rituals are also discussed with their history and rites.
Food :Generally, hot tea, cheese and local bread is found in every breakfast menu, no matter where in Iran you are. In the northern provinces of Mazandaran and Gilan, asal (honey) and occasionally, cooked cold rice and fish may be found on the breakfast spread. In central Iran mast (yogurt) and khameh (soft cream) is somewhat common for breakfast. In the mountainous provinces, butter, yogurt and cheese is quite popular. In the southern and humid regions (Khoozistan and the provinces along the coast of the Persian Gulf) cheese and khorma (dates) are on the menu. Standards of food hygiene are mostly satisfactory in all categories of eating-houses, except for Iranian sausages which can cause stomach problems. In general most Iranian cooking is healthy and nutritious, and you shouldn't have much problem in keeping to a balanced diet. At street stalls it is advisable only to eat hot food that you have watched being cooked. Chelo is rice prepared in several stages over 24 hours, boiled and steamed and served separately, while polo is rice cooked with the other ingredients. Rice in general is berenj. The rice is always fluffy and tender, never sticky and soggy. Ab-e gusht ra ziad kin, is what you might hear the hostess telling her cook when you arrive at someone's house unexpectedly. This phrase, which means increase the water of Abgusht, is a very popular joke among Iranians. Abgusht is supposed to be a very flexible meal, one which can easily be expanded when unexpected guests arrive for dinner.Basic Abgusht can be varied in several ways. Some people prefer not make it watery, serving the broth as a soup and the meat and the rest of the ingredients separately. Others use less water and let it cook until a very thick broth remains.Since Iranians serve rice as a main dish and since most of the sauce served with it are very filling, they serve light desserts. If you ever eat at an Iranian home, you will be served fresh fruits and compote in winter.Dolmeh, the Iranian stuffed, usually stands for any kind of vegetable and fruit stuffed with meat and rice. Dolmeh Barg, literally meaning stuffed leaves, is the name for stuffed grape leaves. This is a real favorite of the Middle Eastern nations.Mast, known in the West as yogurt, is used almost in every Iranian family as well as all over the Middle Eastern and Balkan countries. Some physicians attribute the stamina and longevity of the Middle Eastern and Balkan people to Mast.
Travelling to Iran : Iran is a land of extraordinary contrast, the mountain are cold, the deserts are hot and in spring and autumn there is no more beautiful such a place on earth. Walking and driving in Mountains, rivers, valleys, deserts, jungles, visiting nomad's life and touching the nature through Adventure tours makes your any ambitions be truth.Iran has a rich culture and, it remains widely misrepresented and little understood by the general public. Iranians are most friendly people. Forget about what you saw on the news, go and use your own eyes. You will not be disappointed.The Iranian people are naturally kind, hospitable and generous. Despite any preconceptions built up by the Western media, Iran is also a very safe country to visit. Tourism is now a well-accepted and welcome industry in Iran and, provided you stick to the local customs and show respect when visiting holy places, you will never be made to feel unwelcome. Although more and more travelers are visiting Iran each year, foreigners are still a novelty: you'll find that the Iranians are surprisingly interested in you. No cause for alarm - it's only because they genuinely want to talk to you, or practice their English on you. In rural areas non-English speakers will still take a hearty interest in you. Fortunately your guide can always interpret, which makes conversation with the locals possible - and sometimes hilarious. Here it's not unusual for locals to invite you into their homes where you'll suddenly find yourself reclining on a Persian carpet with your smiling hosts, drinking tea and sharing fresh fruit and pistachio nuts - to the intense amusement of their children. Men should wear short- or long-sleeved shirts and long trousers. Jeans are fine; shorts are not. For women the aim is not to draw attention to the shape of your body nor to have any flesh showing except your face and hands. A headscarf is compulsory - take lots, the more colourful and cheerful the better. The perfect outfit would be a loose, long-sleeved shirt worn over jeans/cotton trousers or a full skirt with knee-high socks and comfortable shoes or sandals.Because Iran is not touristy yet, there are no tacky souvenir stalls. The best place to shop is the bazaar where you can buy authentic, locally produced goods. Your local guide will help you negotiate. Carpets or kilims are a must as prices are half the price you'd pay in Europe or the US (see below more details). Gold is also a good buy.In general, Iranians are warm, friendly and generous individuals with a strong interest in foreigners and other cultures. In dealing with Iranians, the following tips relating to customs and etiquette may prove useful: Despite progress in recent years, the pace of liberalisation in Iran remains slow and its legally-enforced Islamic codes of conduct dictate many aspects of public life. Respecting the dozens of unspoken rules and regulations of Iranian life can be a daunting prospect for travellers, but don't be intimidated. As a foreigner you will be given leeway and it doesn't take long to acclimatise yourself.
Things to do in Iran : Although no trip to Iran would be complete without a glimpse at the stunning architecture and sombre environments of its mosques or holy shrines, many travellers are daunted by the prospect of walking into the foreign world of a mosque. Don't let these fears stop you; Iranians are welcoming and will understand any unintended breach of protocol.While not as comfortable or fast as Europe or North America, Iranian transport is of high quality, and is very affordable. There are few places the very cheap buses don't travel to, the train network is limited but comfortable and reasonably priced and travel by air is laughably cheap, especially by international standards(in fact one of the cheapest in the world).Because Iran is not touristy yet, there are no tacky souvenir stalls. The best place to shop is the bazaar where you can buy authentic, locally produced goods. Your local guide will help you negotiate. Carpets or kilims are a must as prices are half the price you'd pay in Europe or the US (see below more details). Gold is also a good buy. Those interested in natural remedies, local spices such as saffron, and perfumed oils can have a field day. And don't forget to buy the caviar and the pistachios.The Alborz mountain chain is a popular destination for excursions from Tehran. There are numerous mountain resorts offering cable car facilities as well as ski slopes. Within easy reach of Tehran are the towns of Rey, Varamin, Qazvin and Shemshak, which have preserved much of their original character. Esfahan is the former capital of Persia and has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The city’s most remarkable feature is its magnificent central square which is roughly seven times larger than San Marco in Venice. The mosques, palaces, bridges and gardens also deserve a visit.Waterskiing facilities are available at the Karadj Dam near Tehran.The ski season runs from January to March in the Alborz Mountains. Resorts include Abe Ali, 62km (38 miles) east of Tehran; the Noor Slope, 71km (44 miles) from the capital; Shemshak, 59km (37 miles) from Tehran, and Dizine near the town of Gatchsar.The haphazard bazaar is one of the best things to visit while in Teehran. Teehran is a very big city and apart from the nice museums, only this huge bazaar will be worth to spend a few couple of hours spending money. This bazaar is just enormous and would definately loose many hours as son as you enter it.Dolphin Park comprised of the dolphin and seal pools, bird garden, cactus garden, underwater aquarium, etc. The park has daily dolphin show. Thousands of palm tree have been planted there. Butter flies, Exotic birds, Cactus and silk gardens also can be found here.It is located in Derakht-e-Sabz Park. Green Tree attracts visitor since it is believed by tying a knot around it branches will bring luck, or solve your problem. It is interesting to see many knots on its branches, make the tree’s branches look colourful (and seems many people have problem to solve).The Donya road also known as The World Road, is an island ring road that covers all around the island. The view is breathtaking, especially in the afternoon, when the sun goes down. It would be nice to cycling in this road, since there is rarely a car pass by here.