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Iran At A Glance

Geography and Nature
Population and Ethnic Groups
Economy and Development
Religion and Culture
Language, Handwriting, Calendar and Flag
Government and Threefold Powers
Political and Administrative Divisions
Travel and Transportation
Visa and Tourism Regulations
Iranian Calendar
Money and System of Measurement
Post and Communication Services
Hotels, Guest-Houses and other Accommodation Facilities
Tourist Attractions
Pilgrimage Centers
Tourism Regions
Gilan, Mazandaran, and Golestan
Azarbaijan, Zanjan and Qazvin
Hamedan, Kermanshah, Kurdistan, and Ilam
Tehran, Ray & Qum
Markazi and Lorestan
Khorassan and Semnan
Isfahan and Bakhtiari
Fars and Boirahmad
Kerman and Yazd
Hormozgan, Boushehr & Sistan and Balouchistan
Rural Iran
Daily and Weekly Markets (Bazaars)
Traditional and National Food
Airlines Offices in Iran
Embassies in Iran
The Persian Rugs
Iranian English Daily Newspapers
The National Museums in Iran
In the Name of Allah

Geography and Nature
Telephone : IDD service available.
Country code: 98.
Outgoing international code: 00.
Telex/telegram : Facilities are available at the Central Telegraph Office, Meydan Sepah, Tehran. There are also telex facilities at the major hotels.
Post : Post Offices are found throughout all cities, towns and villages.
Dress According to the Islamic and social beliefs in Iran, it is necessary for women to be modestly covered & wearing ahead scarf.
Duty Free The import of following goods into Iran is strictly prohibited: Alcohol, narcotics, guns and ammunitions, radio apparatus, fashion magazines and obscene publications, and filmed, recorded or printed material carrying views contrary to those held by the Islamic regulations. Each passenger leaving the country is permitted to take his/her own personal luggage as well as Persian handicrafts, Gelims and one carpet (not bigger than 3 sq meters) as long as they are not antiques. Export of all antiques such as gems, coins, handwritten manus-cripts is prohibited. To export musical instruments, a permit is required from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.
Government Legislative power is vested in the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Majlis), with 275 members. The chief executive is the President, and both are elected by universal adult suffrage for a four-year term. A twelve-member Council of Guardians ensures that legislation is in accordance with the constitution and Islamic precepts.
Language Persian (Farsi) is the most widely spoken language. Arabic is spoken in Khuzestan in the southwest, and Turkish in the northwest around Tabriz. English, French and (to a lesser extent) German are spoken by many businessmen and officials.
Location Middle East.
Area : 1,648,000 sq km (636,296 sq miles).
Population : 68,727,000 (1998 estimate).
Population Density : 35 persq km.
Capital : Tehran. Population : 8,042,584(1994)
Geography : Iran is located in the Middle East, bounded to the north by the CIS and the Caspian Sea, the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan, the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, and the west by Iraq and Turkey. The center and east of the country is largely barren undulating desert, punctured by Qantas (irrigation canals and tree eases, but there are mountainous regions in the west along the Turkish and Iraqi borders and in the north where the Alburz Mountains rise steeply from a fertile belt around the Caspian Sea.
Money Currency :
Iranian Rials. Notes are in denominations of RL 10000, 5000, 2000, 1000, 500, 200 and 100. Coins are in denominations of 250, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5.All foreign currencies such as Deutsch Marks, Pound Sterling, US Dollars and Yens can be exchanged and credit cards (Mastercard & Visa) are also accepted.
Entry restrictions : Nationals of Israel will be refused entry under all circumstances.
Passports : Valid passport required by all.
Visas : Required by all except nationals of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey (for a stay not exceeding 3 months). Requirements are subject to change at short notice, and you are advised to contact the appropriate Embassy or Consular Section.
Types of visa : Entry, Transit, Business, Tourist and Journalist. Fee varies according to nationality of applicant, type of' visa and the existing regulation between countries.
Note: A visa cannot be issued for passports which have a validity of less than 6 months. Exit permits required by all (often included with visa).
Validity : Entry visa: up to 3 months from date of authorization.
Transit visa : maximum of 10 days. Application to: Embassy or Consulate. For addresses, see entries. Application requirements: Two completed application forms, four passport - sized photos and visa fees.
Note: To acquire a tourist visa within 10 days, it would be easier to apply to local tour operators in Iran . Temporary residence: All foreigners wishing to stay for more than three months must obtain a residence permit.
Religion Predominantly Islamic; mostly Shi'ite, with a minority of Sunnis. Many Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians also live in Iran.
Covering an area of 1,648,000 square kilometers, the Islamic Republic of Iran is located in southwestern Asia. The Caspian Sea, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Armenia in the north; Afghanistan and Pakistan in the east; Turkey and Iraq in the west surround the country. On the south Iran borders the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman. Total terrestrial borders of the country are 6,032 km, and total water borders are 2,700 km.
Iran is situated at the heart of the Middle East and, as a bridge, links the Caspian Sea, the largest land-locked body of water in the world, to the Persian Gulf. It is also a crossroad between the East and the West. Thus, historically, Iran has been in the juncture of cultural, intellectual and political manifestations of both the East and the West, while preserving it's unique identity.
Unique landscapes such as limpid water springs, pomegranate orchards, pistacho gardens, rows of lombardy poplars, decampment of nomads in different seasons, stelliferous nights, rocky mountains, endless high and low lands, extinct snow-clad volcanoes, dense forests of the Alborz Mountain Range, and coastlines of the Caspian Sea, the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman are all eye-catching and memorable.
Iran's landscapes vary remarkably at different seasons. They are at times full of stone and sand, at times full of floodwater, sometimes covered by snow or by lush vegetation. Iranian artists have portrayed Iran's nature as a sign of diversity and charm in their different and diverse artistic works. Iranians also have traditionally valued Water as a symbol of life and development. Innumerable permanent streams can be seen flowing in meadows, gardens, orchards, homes, mosques and sacred places irrigating trees.
Nature and it's diversity in Iran are valuable parameters for development of the tourism industry. In total, it is estimated that 19 million hectares of terrestrial land are covered by orchards, gardens and farmlands; 10 million hectares are forests; and the remaining include barren lands, desert, and mountains.
Among significant characteristics of the vast land of Iran is the existence of high mountains as well as flat plains, desert areas, rivers and lakes contributing to unique geographical conditions in which, at any time of the year, and in each section of the country, one of the four seasons in visible. Thus, in winter, swimming and water skiing are possible in the warm waters of the Persian Gulf,and at the same time winter sports, like skiing are possible in the northern and western mountains of the country, while one can enjoy the pleasant spring weather along the shores of the Caspian Sea-at the same time of the year.
The high Alborz Mountains, sealing off the narrow Caspian strip, are covered with dense forests and lush vegetation which have to be crossed when traveling to northern Iran.
The coastline of the Persian Gulf in the south is rocky and mountainous in some areas and sandy and swampy in others; it is not as even as the northern shores of the country. The southern provinces of Iran, especially Khuzistan, which encompass some parts of vast Mesopotamia (between two rivers) plain, are very flat and level with low altitude. If one walks in the northern or western mountains of Iran, he/she will be able to see so many eye-catching views and towns, villages, orchards, gardens and meadows with and amazing lanscpe. In any case, Iran has many amazing lanscapes in very unexpected places.
The overall elevation of the plateau of Iran give many provinces and altitude of over 1,000 m., and this is an important geographic feature of this land. The magnificent Alborz Mountain Range in the north, the Zagross Mountain Range in the west and some other mountain chains, which extend from Khorassan to Baluchistan in the east, surrounded plateau of Iran which is mostly desert in the middle. The most important summits in Iran are; Damavand (5671 m.) northeast of Tehran; Sabalan (4880 m.) west of Ardebil; Sahand (3707 m.) in the south of Tabriz; Takht-e-Solayman (4820 m.) in the center of Mazandaran; Zardkooh (4550 m.) in Bakhtiari; Dena (4309 m.) north of Yasouj; and Taftan (3941 m.) south of Zahedan.
Complexity and diversity of geological and calcareous structures have contributed to the formation of so many caves in different provinces, especially in Azerbaijan, Kurdistan, and Hamedan, which are attractive to numerous tourists. Visiting some of these caves is highly recommended and they are amongst important tourism attractions.
The mountains of Iran belong to the folding of the Cenozoic Period and some of them, with volcanic origins, have brought about the means of formation of thermal springs. They have created suitable conditions for winters and mountain sports. The two well-known deserts of Iran, Dashe-e-Lout and Dasht-e-Kavir, covering and area of over 360000 square kilometers, are amongst the most interesting yet unknown places.
With more than 500 known mineral water and thermal springs used for different purposes, Iran has an important potential in this regard. Most of these springs are located in the Alborz Mountain Range, in Azarbaijan and in the Zagross Mountain and some are located close to Isfahan, Mashhad and Bandar Abbas. The thermal springs of Sarain (Ardebil), Larijan (at the slopes of Alborz), and Mahallat attract many people all arround the year for recreation and therapeutic purposes.
The coasts of the Caspian Sea, with pleasant sandy beaches, are among the most important tourist attractions in Iran. Moreover, the southern shores and islands of Iran have their own natural beauty and being used as tourism attractions especially in winter. The slopes of Alborz and Zagross Mountains with numerous springs, lakes and wetlands have their own beautiful and eye-catching landscapes.
Iran is situated in the global arid zone and the Plateau of Iran enjoy a relatively dry climate. Alborz and Zagross mountain chains trap the humidity and air currents of the Caspian Sea and the Mediterranean climate preventing them from penetration to the inner parts. Iran, due to its location between 25 and 40 degrees latitude as well as its mountains, Iran enjoys considerably variable climates.
The average annual temperature increases from the northwest to the southeast throughout the country and varies from 10oC in Azarbaijan to 25-30o C in the south and southeast in the same season. The northern and southern shores of Iran have diverse climatic conditions compared with the central and mountainous regions. For example, the average annual temperature of Bandar Abbas in southern Iran is 15.5o C in January.
Difference of average annual rainfall is also very high in different parts of the country varying from 2,000 mm. in Guilan to less than 100 mm. in the central parts of Iran. Average annual precipitation in Iran is about 275 mm.
In January and February, there are three climatic zones in Iran. Shores of the Caspian Sea have mild and relatively cold weather, central parts have typical winter weather, and southern parts enjoy moderate and pleasant weather. Most regions of Iran enjoy pleasant weather in the spring, especially in April. However, the weather in southern regions of Iran grows very hot unexpectedly as early as March.
The climatic conditions of the country become more diverse in the summer. Due to high humidity, the weather at the Caspian Sea coast is hot during the day, but it is pleasant at night. In the southern coastlines of Iran, days are very hot and nights are relatively warm with high humidity, which can be intolerable by non-natives. It is therefore recommended that tourists choose their travel destinations while taking the weather conditions into account. The best season for travelling to Iran is spring. However, in every season there are provinces which are more favorable than others from climatic point of view.
The cities of Shiraz, Isfahan, Mashhad, Tehran and Tabriz, which are the main tourism centers of Iran, enjoy different climates. Shiraz, with four months of warmth, ranks first and Tabriz, with only one month of warmth, ranks last. Azarbaijan, Kurdistan, Hamedan and Khorassan provinces are known as cool places in the summer.
In general, the entire northern part of the country, especially the northern slopes of Alborz Mountains, like Noor Valley, Kelardasht, Katalem, as well as provinces such as Azarbaijan and Khorassan and central regions of the Zagross Mountains - between Tooyserkan and Golpayegan - are very popular destinations for week-ends and holidays by domestic as well as foreign tourists in the summer. Tourists may use the southern regions of Iran 5-6 months of the year, especially in winters.
Tourists, who visit the southern coasts of Iran in winter, can enjoy very pleasant weather; while at the same time the cities of Isfahan and Fars provinces are rainy and snowy. In general, in the summer, the weather in most parts of the country is warm but not intolerable. Spring and autumn are a suitable time for touring all around the country. Hotels are usually booked up during national holidays for Nowrooz )Iranian New Year starting March 21).
The plateau of Iran is among the oldest civilization centers in the history of humanity and has an important place in archeological studies. The history of settlement in the Plateau of Iran, from the new Stone Age till the migration of Aryans to this region, is not yet very clear. But there is reliable evidence indicating that Iran has been inhabited since a very long time ago. Settlement centers have emerged close to water resources like springs, rivers, lakes or totally close to Alborz and Zagross mountains.
The most important centers of this kind are: Tappeh (hill) Sialk in Kashan, Tappeh Hesar in Damghan, Torang Tappeh in Gorgan, Tappeh Hekmataneh in Hamedan, Tappeh Hassanloo in Azerbaijan, Marlik Tappeh in Roodbar, and Susa (Shoosh) in Khuzistan. According to archeological excavations conducted in these civilization centers, some vestiges have been discovered, the antiquity of which dates back to the 5th millennium B.C.
The migration of Aryan tribes to the Plateau of Iran began in the 2th millennium B.C. Out of these tribes, the Parthians dwelled in Khorassan, the Medes in the west, and the Parsees resided in southern Iran. The Median Empire rose in Hekmataneh (Ekbatan), the present Hamedan. The Achaemenidae established the first great Persian Empire after defeating the Medes and conquest of their capital. The limits of the Achaemenian territory during the reign of Dariush I (522-485 BC.) extended from the plain of Sind River in the east to the borders of Greece in the west. Passargad and Persepolis are among the vestiges of this period and, as important historical sites, are visited by a significant number of foreign tourists anually.
After the decline of the Achaemenian dynasty, and the destruction of Persepolis by Alexander, his successors the Seleucids dominated over Iran for a short period of time. During this time the interaction between Iranian and Hellenic cultures occurred. Around the year 250 BC, the Parthians, who were an Aryan tribe as well as horse riders, advanced from Khorassan towards the west and south-west and founded their empire over Iran Plateau in Teesfoon. This empire survived only until the year 224 AAD. The Sassanides, after defeating the last Parthian king in 225 AD. founded a new empire which lasted until mid 7th century AD.
With respect to its political, social, and cultural characteristics, the ancient period of Iran (Persia) is one of the most magnificent epochs of Iranian history. Out of this era, so many cultural and historical monuments have remained in Persepolis, Passargad, Susa (Shoosh), Shooshtar, Hamedan Marvdasht (Nagkhs-e-Rostam), Tagh-e-Bostan, Sarvestan, and Nayshabour, which are worth seeing.
The influence of Islam in Iran began in the early 7th century AD after the decline of the Sassanid Empire. Since then, new era began in the history of Iran which caused fundamental changes in social, political, religious, governmental changes in social, political, religious, governmental, and general conditions of the country. Iranians, who were very unhappy with the existing social and economic inequalities in the time of the Sassanids, accepted Islam easily and contributed to its expansion and enrichment.
However, Iranians never covered up their opposition against dominance and the tyranny of the Omayyad and Abbasid Caliphs and founded many autonomous movements to confront them. In return, the Omayyad and the Abbasid Caliphs, tried to neutralize and suppress these movements, which were based on partisanship of the Holy Prophet of Islam family and establishment of a government on the basis of Imamat, by supporting non-Iranian forces.
Continuity of wars of attrition among local governors weakened the overall power of the country and favored conditions for invasion by stranger tribes of Central Asia, like the Seljuk Turks, Mongols, and Timurids. In the Safavid time, the second great Iranian Empire was founded, and the Shiite sect of Islam, disciples of which were seriously limited till then, was formalized. The dynamic nature of Shiism and its political and social commitments firmly safeguarded Iranian independence and national identity against Ottoman assaults, Thus, Iran once again became a new political and religious power.
With the decline of the Safavid, Afsharieh and later the Zandieh took the throne. After the Zandieh rule, the Qajars took power. At this time the influence of foreign powers such as Britain and Russia in the internal affairs of Iran significantly increased. Meanwhile, socal movements of Tobacco, Constitutional Revolution, Forest Uprising, and Shaykh Mohammed Khiabani's Revolt took place. In the Pahlavi period, Oil Industry Nationalization Movement incited the uprising of June 5th 1963, and other autonomous movements resulting in the Islamic Revolution under the leadership of Imam Khomeini in 1979.
The history of Iran has many vicissitudes with many empires and dynasties having ruled over this country of which the most imoprtant are:
- Achaemenian 533-330 BC
- Seleucidian 330-247 BC
- Parthian 274BC.-224AD
- Sassanids 224-651AD
- Muslim Conquest 645AD
- Omayyad and Abbasid 749-932AD
- Saffarids 866-903AD
- Samanids 819-999AD
- Al Buwayhids 945-1055AD
- Ghaznavids 977-1186AD
- Seljukids 1038-1194 AD
- Kharazmshahian 1077-1231AD
- Mongol invasion of Iran 1220AD
- Ilkhanids 256-1353 AD
- Mozaffarids 1314-1393 AD
- Timurids 1370-1506 AD
- Turkamens 1380-1468 AD
- Safavids 1501-1732 AD
- Afsharids 1734-1796 AD
- Zandian 1750-1794 AD
- Qajar 1779-1924 AD
- Pahlavi 1924-1979 AD
- The Islamic Revolution 1979 AD
The historical battlefields of Iran. especially religious ones are attractions for pilgrims and tourists. For example, the battlefield against Mongols in Nayshabour, and Chaldaran battlefield against the Ottoman Empire may be of special interest. And finally Iran-Iraq battlefields in Khoramshahr, Bostan, and Howayzeh have special attractions for some tourists.
Population and Ethnic Groups
According to the latest census in 1996, the population of Iran was estimated to be a little more than 60 millions of which about 37 million were urban dwellers, 23 million villagers and a small percentage nomad tribes. The most populated cities are Tehran, Mashhad, Isfahan Tabriz, Shiraz, Qom, Ahwaz, Rasht, Orumiyeh, and Kermanshah.
More than half the population of the country is active. Total employed population of the country is reported at about 14.5 million, and about 39.5% of the total population are below 14 years of age. Thus, the population of Iran is one of youngest in the world. From an employment point of view, the age distribution of the employed population, 10 years of age and above, in different economic sectors is 23.04% in agriculture, 44.5% in services, and 30.7% in industry.
Out of the total population of the country, 6 years of age and above, 79.51% are literate. The rate of literacy in urban areas is 96.88%, and in rural areas is 91.37%. This ratio is 84.66% for men and 74.21% for women with a greater difference between sexes in rural areas. In urban areas this ratio is 89.56% and 81.7% and in rural areas is 76.74% and 62.41% for men and women, respectively.
In general, tourists are very interested in seeing the decampment of nomad tribes. The main reason for that is the fact that these nomad tribes have well safeguarded their old traditions and culture. The present life style of nomads in Iran is not so different from that of our predecessors. Therefore, visiting the nomad tribes and recognition of their life style, especially decampment between winter and summer settlements is very interesting and will help them to get acquainted with the life and culture of ancient Iranians.
Iran is situated on the way of Central and the East Asia to western countries. As a result different ethnic groups live in Iran. Among them are Farsis, Kurds, Lors, Baluchis, Bakhtiaris, Azari Turks, Taleshs, Turkmens, Ghashghais, and Arabs. Other smaller ethnic groups who live in Iran are Turkmen, who live in Turkmen Sahara and north of Khorassan. They are different from other Iranian ethnic groups in appearance, language, and culture. Ghashghais are of Turkish origin and live in the central part of Iran. Arab clans, on the other hand, mostly live in Khuzistan and are scattered along the coastline of the Persian Gulf. Today, the geographic distribution and composition of ethnic groups is more or less mixed due to development and interaction between different ethnic groups.
Some groups of colored people scattered in the southern provinces of Iran are the descendants of slave trade with Zanzibar in the past. The existing Indian minority in the south of Iran are also descendants of Indian merchants of the past.
Economy and Development
According to the Article 44 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, the economy of Iran is composed of three sectors: private, state, and cooperative. Presently, only 2.5% of the country's economy is owned by cooperatives; the most predominant ownership is concentrated in state and private sectors.
Regarding the official figures, 50% of the country's Gross National Product (GNP) comes from governmental monopolies, which with the calculation of contribution of other governmental firms reaches 60%. In the last four decades, the main source of income of the country has been oil and gas exports. This amount has been about 64% of the country's total budget in 1995. In spite of severe fluctuations in the global oil price, the oil export still plays a very important role in the economy of the country and is the main source of income in foreign currency.
The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is composed of four sectors: agriculture, industry & mine, services and oil. During the past 18 years (1977-1995), the added value of agriculture sector has reached 3,740 billion Rls. With 130% increase on the basis of fixed prices of 1982. This sector, since the Islamic Revolution, has always been the impetus of Iran's economy.
On the contrary, for decreasing dependency on oil income and due to unstable global prices of oil, contribution of oil export to GDP of the country has decreased from 39.4% in 1979 to 18.1% in 1996. In this period, the contribution of agriculture sector incresaes from 14.7% to 26.9%, and the contribution of industry and mine sector increase from 20.8% to 23.7%.
After termination of the Iraqi-imposed war in 1988 and stabilization of the political and economical condition of the country, the added value in the economic sector began to grow.
Between the years 1989 and 1994, the average growth rate in different sectors increased to 5.7% in agriculture, 7.9% in industry and mine, and 6.7% in services. Since 1994, along with foreign currency shortage and its impacts on the national economy, industry and mine sector has become the essential means in accelerating economic growth of the country.
Since the victory of the Islamic Revolution, sub-sectors of industry and mine such as water, electricity, and natural gas have been the most thriving aspects of the country's economy.
In the services sector, the highest rate of growth belongs to transportation an communications. This phenomenon has brought about the condition in which the services sector, plays an important role in the economy of the country during last year with a relatively sound structure. During the period 1988-1994, the added value of transportation, warehousing and communication sectors has increased more than 97% all together.
In general, positive changes in national production and added value in recent years have shifted the national economy towards production, especially industrial production.
In 1994, for the first time since the early 1990s, the growth of added value in the industry and mine sector exceeded the average growth of GDP and even sector's growth. While the figures of these indices for GDP and services were 1.6% and 2.5% respectively, the mine and industry sector experienced an annual growth of 4.9% that increased to 5.7% in 1995. At the end of 1995, the contribution of different economic sectors in gross domestic product (GDP) was 26.9% in agriculture, 23.7% in mine and industry, 42.9% in services, and 18.1% in oil, on the basis of factors price (fixed prices of 1982).

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