History of Iran
Iran is home to one of the world’s oldest continuous major civilizations. With historical and urban settlements dating back to 7000 BC. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel calls the Persians the “first Historical People”.
The Medes unified Iran as a nation and empire in 625 BC. The Achaemenid Empire (550–330 BC), founded by Cyrus the Great was the first Persian empire.
It ruled from the Balkans to North Africa and also Central Asia. Spanning three continents, from their seat of power in Persis (Persepolis). It was the largest empire yet seen and the first world empire.
The First Persian Empire was the only civilization in all of history to connect over 40% of the global population. Accounting for approximately 49.4 million of the world’s 112.4 million people in around 480 BC. They were succeeded by the Seleucid, Parthian, and Sasanian Empires, Who successively governed Iran for almost 1,000 years. They made Iran once again as a leading power in the world.
The Proto-Iranians are believed to have emerged as a separate branch of the Indo-Iranians in Central Asia. in the mid-2nd millennium BCE. At their peak of expansion in the mid-1st millennium BCE. the territory of the Iranian peoples stretched across the entire Eurasian Steppe. From the Great Hungarian Plain in the west to the Ordos Plateau in the east, to the Iranian Plateau in the south.
There are an estimated 200 million native speakers of Iranian languages. Currently, most of these Iranian peoples live in Iran, Afghanistan, Iraqi Kurdistan. and Kurdish majority populated areas of Turkey, Iran and Syria, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan.
Due to recent migrations, there are also large communities of speakers of Iranian languages in Europe and America. It may surprise you to know that Iran has the largest population of Jews in the Middle East outside Israel.
Traditional dress, music, food and crafts are some of the appealing aspects of Iran’s ethnic mix that visitors can appreciate.
Geography of Iran
Geographically, Iran is located in West Asia and borders the Caspian Sea, Persian Gulf, and Gulf of Oman. Its mountains have helped to shape both the political and the economic history of the country for several centuries. The mountains enclose several broad basins, on which major agricultural and urban settlements are located.
total: 1,648,195 km2
land: 1,531,595 km2
water: 116,600 km2
The territory of Iran comprises 1.648.195 square kilometers. double the size of neighboring Turkey and three times the size of France. Iran is a mountainous country. The Zagros Mountains bisect the country from north-west to south-east.
Many peaks in the Zagros exceed 3,000 meters above sea level. Rimming the Caspian Sea are the Alborz Mountains, which are narrow but high. Damavand, a potentially active volcano, which is the highest peak in Iran and west asia. The volcanic Mount Damavand (5,671 meters), located in the center of the Alborz.
The central portion of Iran is referred to as the Central Plateau. undefined The eastern part of the plateau is covered by two salt deserts. the Dasht-e Kavir (Great Desert) and the Dasht-e Lut (Barren Desert).
Iran borders Pakistan and Afghanistan on the east and Iraq on the west. Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan on the north. To its south Iran borders the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf. and to its north the Caspian Sea (the largest lake on earth, with an estimated surface area of 371,000 square kilometers.
With an area of 1,648,195 square kilometers, Iran ranks 17th in size among the countries of the world.
The Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman 1,770 kilometers southern border. Iran’s diagonal distance from northwest to southeast is approximately 2,333 kilometres.
Iran has a variable climate. In the northwest, winters are cold with heavy snowfall and subfreezing 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 hot, having average daily temperatures in July exceeding 38 °C.
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 250 millimeters or less. The major exceptions are the higher mountain valleys of the Zagros and the Caspian coastal plain. where precipitation averages at least 500 millimeters annually.
In the western part of the Caspian, rainfall exceeds 1,000 millimeters annually and is distributed relatively evenly throughout the year.
The arts of Iran are one of the richest art heritages in world history. They encompasses many traditional disciplines. Including architecture, painting, literature, music, weaving, pottery, calligraphy, metalworking and stonemasonry.
There is also a very vibrant Iranian modern and contemporary art scene. as well as cinema and photography.
From the yarn fiber to the colors, every part of the Persian rug is traditionally handmade. from natural ingredients over the course of many months.
The art of rug weaving has its roots in the culture and customs of Iranians and their feelings. Weavers mix elegant patterns with a myriad of colors. The Iranian carpet is similar to the Persian garden. full of florae, birds, and beasts.
Oriental historian Basil Gray believes ” has offered a particularly unique [sic] art to the world which is excellent in its kind”.
Caves in Iran’s Lorestan province exhibit painted imagery of animals and hunting scenes. Some such as those in Fars Province and Sialk are at least 5,000 years old.
Painting in Iran is thought to have reached a climax during the Tamerlane era. when outstanding masters such as Kamaleddin Behzad gave birth to a new style of painting.
Paintings of the Qajar period, are a combination of European influences. and Safavid miniature schools of painting such as those introduced by Reza Abbasi. Masters such as Kamal-ol-molk, further pushed forward the European influence in Iran. It was during the Qajar era when “Coffee House painting” emerged. Subjects of this style were often religious in nature depicting scenes from Shia epics.
Pottery and Ceramics
Prominent archeologist Roman Ghirshman believes. “the taste and talent of this people [Iranians] can be seen through the designs of their earthen wares”.
Of the thousands of archeological sites and historic ruins of Iran. almost every single one can be found to have been filled, at some point, with earthenware of exceptional quality. Thousands of unique vessels alone were found in Sialk and Jiroft sites.
The occupation of the potter (“kuzeh gar”) has a special place in Persian literature.
During the course of Iran’s recorded history a unique distinctive music developed accompanied by numerous musical instruments. several of which came to be the first prototypes of some modern musical instruments of today.
The earliest references to musicians in Iran are found in Susa and Elam. In the 3rd millennium BC. Reliefs, sculptures, and mosaics such as those in Bishapur. from periods of antiquity depict a vibrant musical culture.
Iran is filled with tombs of poets and musicians. Persian literature is by far the most stalwart expression of the Iranian genius. While there are interesting works in prose, it is poetry where the Iranian literature shines at its most. Some notable Iranian poets are: Ferdowsi, Khayyam, Hafiz, Attar, Sa’di, Nizami, Sanai, Rudaki, Rumi, Jami, and Shahriar.
The tradition and style in the garden design of Persian gardens has influenced the design of gardens from Andalusia to India and beyond. The gardens of the Alhambra show the influence of Persian Paradise garden philosophy and style in a Moorish Palace scale from the era of Al-Andalus in Spain. The Taj Mahal is one of the largest Persian Garden interpretations in the world. from the era of the Mughal Empire in India.
With 300 international awards in the past 25 years, films from Iran continue to be celebrated worldwide. Few of the best known directors are Abbas Kiarostami, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, and Majid Majidi.
Iranian culture is today considered to be centered in what is called the Iranian Plateau. and has its origins tracing back to the Andronovo culture of the late Bronze Age. which is associated with other cultures of the Eurasian Steppe. It was, however, later developed distinguishably from its earlier generations in the Steppe. where a large number of Iranian-speaking peoples continued to participate. resulting in a differentiation that is displayed in Iranian mythology as the contrast between Iran and Turan.
The social event of Nowruz is an ancient Iranian festival. It is still celebrated by nearly all of the Iranian peoples. With numerous artistic, scientific, architectural, and philosophical achievements. and numerous kingdoms and empires that bridged much of the civilized world in antiquity. the Iranian peoples were often in close contact with people from various western and eastern parts of the world.
The architecture of Iran is one with an exceedingly ancient Persian tradition and heritage. As Arthur Pope put it, “the meaningful Impact of Persian architecture is versatile. Not overwhelming but dignified, magnificent and impressive”.
Iranian architecture or Persian architecture is the architecture of Iran and parts of the West Asia and Central Asia. Its history dates back to at least 5,000 BC with characteristic examples distributed over a vast area. from Turkey and Iraq to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Persian buildings vary from peasant huts to tea houses and gardens. pavilions to “some of the most majestic structures the world has ever seen”.
In addition to historic gates, palaces, and mosques, the rapid growth of cities such as the capital. Tehran brought about a wave of demolition and new construction.
Iranian architecture displays great variety, both structural and aesthetic, from a variety of traditions and experience.
Iran has a vast variety of delicious foods.
Between the familiar kebab and the decidedly outré grilled lamb’s testicles. there’s a vast spectrum of foods. caviar, pickle, and smoked fish in the north. samosas, falafel and hot and sour shrimp in the south. noodles, flatbread and rosewater-scented ice cream across the country.
Iran’s culinary culture has historically interacted with the cuisines of the neighboring regions. including Caucasian cuisine, Turkish cuisine, Greek cuisine, Central Asian cuisine, and Russian cuisine.
Through the Persianized Central Asian Mughal dynasty. aspects of Iranian cuisine were also adopted into Indian cuisine and Pakistani cuisines.
Typical Iranian main dishes are combinations of rice with meat, vegetables, and nuts. Herbs are frequently used, along with fruits. such as plums, pomegranates, quince, prunes, apricots, and raisins. Characteristic Iranian flavorings such as saffron, dried lime and other sources of sour flavoring. cinnamon, turmeric, and parsley are mixed and used in various dishes.
Outside Iran, Iranian cuisine is especially found in cities of the Iranian diaspora. such as London, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Toronto, and especially Los Angeles and its environs.
In Iran, kebabs are served either with rice or with bread. A dish of chelow white rice with kebab is called chelow kabab. which is considered the national dish of Iran. The rice can also be prepared using the kateh method. and hence the dish would be called kateh kabab.
There are many varied traditional Iranian dishes. such as the chelo-kabab (kebab and rice) and Jooje Kabab (chicken kebab).
Chelo-kebab is normally eaten with grilled tomatoes. and herbs such as mint with the red powder of somagh sprinkled on the rice added to it. The powder is sourish and adds taste to the dish.
Fruits and Vegetables
Agriculture of Iran produces many fruits and vegetables. Thus, a bowl of fresh fruit is common on Iranian tables. and vegetables are standard sides to most meals. These are not only enjoyed fresh and ripe as desserts. but are also combined with meat and form accompaniments to main dishes. When fresh fruits are not available, a large variety of dried fruits such as dates, fig, apricots and peach are used instead.
Southern Iran is one of the world’s major date producers. Vegetables such as pumpkins, spinach, green beans, fava beans, courgette. varieties of squash, onion, garlic and carrot are commonly used in Iranian dishes. Tomatoes, cucumbersand scallion often accompany a meal. While the eggplant is “the potato of Iran”. Iranians are fond of fresh green salads dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, chili, and garlic.
Fruit dolma is probably a specialty of Iranian cuisine. The fruit is first cooked, then stuffed with meat, seasonings, and sometimes tomato sauce. The dolma is then simmered in meat broth or a sweet-and-sour sauce.
In 400 BC, the ancient Iranians invented a special chilled food, made of rose water and vermicelli. It was served to royalty in summertime. The ice was mixed with saffron, fruits, and various other flavors. Today, one of the most famous Iranian desserts in the semi-frozen noodle dessert known as falude. It has its roots in the city of Shiraz, a former capital of the country. Bastani e zaferani, Persian for “saffron ice cream”. is a traditional Iranian ice cream which is also commonly referred to as “the traditional ice cream”. Other typical Iranian desserts include several forms of rice, wheat and dairy desserts.
Iran is the world’s 7th major tea producer mostly cultivated in its northern regions. In Iranian culture, tea (čāy) is widely consumed and is typically the first thing offered to a guest. Iranians traditionally put a lump of sugar cube in the mouth before drinking the tea. Rock candies are also widely used, typically flavored with saffron.
Iran’s traditional coffee is served strong, sweet, and “booby-trapped with a sediment of grounds”. In present-day Iran, cafés are trendy mostly in urban areas. where a variety of brews and desserts are served. Turkish coffee is also popular in Iran.
Wine has also a significant presence in Iranian culture. Shirazi wine is Iran’s historically most famous wine production. originating from the city of Shiraz. By the 9th century the city of Shiraz had already established a reputation for producing the finest wine in the world and was Iran’s wine capital.