Iran ایران also known as Persia officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered on the northwest by Armenia, Azerbaijan with Kazakhstan and Russia across the Caspian Sea. On the northeast by Turkmenistan. On the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan. On the south by the Persian Gulf and on the west by Turkey and Iraq. Comprising a land area of 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi), it is the second-largest nation in the Middle East and the 18th-largest in the world. With over 77 million inhabitants, Iran is the world's 17th most populous nation. It is the only country that has both a Caspian Sea and Indian Ocean coastline. Iran has been of geostrategic importance because of its central location in Eurasia and Western Asia and the Strait of Hormuz. Tehran is the capital and largest city, serving as the cultural, commercial, and industrial center of the nation. Iran is a major regional and middle power, exerting considerable influence in international energy security and the world economy through its large reserves of fossil fuels, which include the largest natural gas supply in the world and the fourth-largest proven petroleum reserves. It hosts Asia's fourth-largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Globally, it ranks 8th in the world for the amount of books published per year, and was ranked first in scientific progress in the world in 2011.
The name of Iran (ایران) is the Modern Persian derivative from the Proto-Iranian term Aryānā, meaning "Land of the Aryans", first attested in Zoroastrianism's Avesta tradition. The term Ērān is found to refer to Iran in a 3rd-century Sassanid inscription, and the Parthian inscription that accompanies it uses the Parthian term "aryān" in reference to Iranians. Historically Iran has been referred to as "Persia" or similar (La Perse, Persien, Perzië, etc.) by the Western world, mainly due to the writings of Greek historians who called Iran Persis (Περσίς), meaning land of the Persians. As the most extensive and close interaction the Ancient Greeks ever had with any outsider was that with the Persians, the termination became coined forever, even long after the Persian rule in Ancient Greece and beyond had ended and other dynasties were now ruling the regions. In 1935 Rezā Shāh requested that the international community refer to the country as Iran. Opposition to the name change led to the reversal of the decision, and in 1959 both names were to be used interchangeably. Today both "Persia" and "Iran" are used interchangeably in cultural contexts; however, "Iran" is the name used officially in political contexts. The historical and cultural wider usage of "Iran" is not restricted to the modern state proper. Irānshahr or Irānzamīn (Greater Iran) corresponded to territories of Iranian cultural or linguistic zones. Besides modern Iran, it included portions of the Caucasus, Mesopotamia, Eastern Arabia, the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia.
Iran's climate ranges from arid or semiarid, to subtropical along the Caspian coast and the northern forests. On the northern edge of the country (the Caspian coastal plain) temperatures rarely fall below freezing and the area remains humid for the rest of the year. Summer temperatures rarely exceed 29 °C (84.2 °F). Annual precipitation is 680 mm (26.8 in) in the eastern part of the plain and more than 1,700 mm (66.9 in) in the western part. To the west, settlements in the Zagros basin experience lower temperatures, severe winters with below zero average daily temperatures and heavy snowfall. The eastern and central basins are arid, with less than 200 mm (7.9 in) of rain, and have occasional deserts. Average summer temperatures exceed 38 °C (100.4 °F). The coastal plains of the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman in southern Iran have mild winters, and very humid and hot summers. The annual precipitation ranges from 135 to 355 mm (5.3 to 14.0 in).
Iran is divided into five regions with thirty one provinces (ostān), each governed by an appointed governor. The provinces are divided into counties (shahrestān), and subdivided into districts (bakhsh) and sub-districts (dehestān). Iran has one of the highest urban growth rates in the world. From 1950 to 2002, the urban proportion of the population increased from 27% to 60%. The United Nations predicts that by 2030, 80% of the population will be urban. Most internal migrants have settled near the cities of Tehran, Isfahan, Ahvaz, and Qom. The listed populations are from the 2006/07 (1385 AP) census. Tehran, with a population of 7,705,036, is the largest city in Iran and is the capital. Tehran, like many big cities, suffers from severe air pollution. It is the hub of the country's communication and transport network. Mashhad, with a population of 2,410,800, is the second largest Iranian city and the centre of the Razavi Khorasan Province. Mashhad is one of the holiest Shia cities in the world as it is the site of the Imam Reza shrine. It is the centre of tourism in Iran, and between 15 and 20 million pilgrims go to the Imam Reza's shrine every year. Another major Iranian city is Isfahan (population 1,583,609), which is the capital of Isfahan Province. The Naqsh-e Jahan Square in Isfahan has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The city contains a wide variety of Islamic architectural sites ranging from the 11th to the 19th century. The growth of the suburban area around the city has turned Isfahan into Iran's second most populous metropolitan area (3,430,353). The fourth major city of Iran is Tabriz (population 1,378,935), the capital of the East Azerbaijan Province. It is also the second industrial city of Iran after Tehran. Tabriz had been the second largest city in Iran until the late 1960s and one of its former capitals and residence of the crown prince under the Qajar dynasty. The city has proven extremely influential in the country’s recent history. The fifth major city is Karaj (population 1,377,450), located in Alborz Province and situated 20 km west of Tehran, at the foot of the Alborz mountains. however, the city is increasingly becoming an extension of metropolitan Tehran. The sixth major Iranian city is Shiraz (population 1,214,808); it is the capital of Fars Province. The Elamite civilization to the west greatly influenced the area, which soon came to be known as Persis. The ancient Persians were present in the region from about the 9th century BCE, and became rulers of a large
empire under the Achaemenid dynasty in the 6th century BCE. The ruins of Persepolis and Pasargadae, two of the four capitals of the Achaemenid Empire, are located in or near Shiraz. Persepolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire and is situated 70 kilometres (43 mi) northeast of modern Shiraz. UNESCO declared the citadel of Persepolis a World Heritage Site in 1979.
Although tourism declined significantly during the war with Iraq, it has subsequently recovered. About 1,659,000 foreign tourists visited Iran in 2004 and 2.3 million in 2009 mostly from Asian countries, including the republics of Central Asia, while about 10% came from the European Union and North America.
The most popular tourist destinations are Isfahan, Mashhad and Shiraz. In the early 2000s the industry faced serious limitations in infrastructure, communications, industry standards and personnel training. The majority of the 300,000 tourist visas granted in 2003 were obtained by Asian Muslims, who presumably intended to visit important pilgrimage sites in Mashhad and Qom. Several organized tours from Germany, France and other European countries come to Iran annually to visit archaeological sites and monuments. In 2003 Iran ranked 68th in tourism revenues worldwide. According to UNESCO and the deputy head of research for Iran Travel and Tourism Organization (ITTO), Iran is rated among the "10 most touristic countries in the world". Domestic tourism in Iran is one of the largest in the world. Weak advertising, unstable regional conditions, a poor public image in some parts of the world, and absence of efficient planning schemes in the tourism sector have all hindered the growth of tourism.
Geographic distribution of the modern Iranian languages: Persian (green), Pashto (purple) and Kurdish (turquoise), as well as smaller communities of other Iranian languages the majority of the population speaks the Persian language, which is also the official language of the country, as well as other Iranian languages or dialects. Turkic languages and dialects, most importantly Azerbaijani language, are spoken in different areas in Iran. In southwestern and southern Iran, the Luri language and Lari language are spoken. In Kurdistan Province and nearby area's Kurdish is widely spoken. In Khuzestan, many distinct Persian dialects are spoken. Arabic is also spoken in Khuzestan. Notable minority languages in Iran include Armenian, Georgian, and Neo-Aramaic. Circassian was also once widely used by the large Circassian minority, but due to assimilation over the many years no sizable number of Circassians speak the language anymore.
Iranian art has one of the richest art heritages in world history and encompasses many disciplines including architecture, painting, weaving, pottery, calligraphy, metalworking and stonemasonry. There is also a very vibrant Iranian modern and contemporary art scene. The modern art movement in Iran had its genesis in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The 1949 opening of the Apadana gallery in Tehran by Mahmoud Javadipour and other colleagues, and the emergence of artists like Marcos Grigorian in the 1950s, signaled a commitment to the creation of a form of modern art grounded in Iran. Carpet-weaving is undoubtedly one of the most distinguished manifestations of Persian culture and art, and dates back to ancient Persia and the Bronze Age. Iran is the world's largest producer and exporter of handmade carpets, producing three quarters of the world's total output and having a share of 30% of world's export markets.
According to Persian historian and archaeologist Arthur Pope, the supreme Iranian art, in the proper meaning of the word, has always been its architecture. The supremacy of architecture applies to both pre-and post-Islamic periods. The history of architecture of Iran goes back to seventh millennium BC. This art has been completed by various issues, particularly the rituals. Iranian architecture generally displays great variety, both structural and aesthetic, developing gradually and coherently out of earlier traditions and experience. Without sudden innovations, and despite the repeated trauma of invasions and cultural shocks, it has achieved "an individuality distinct from that of other Muslim countries". Its paramount virtues are several: "a marked feeling for form and scale; structural inventiveness, especially in vault and dome construction; a genius for decoration with a freedom and success not rivaled in any other architecture". Persians were among the first to use mathematics, geometry, and astronomy in architecture and also have extraordinary skills in making massive domes which can be seen frequently in the structure of bazaars and mosques. This greatly inspired the architecture of Iran's neighbors as well. The main building types of classical Iranian architecture are the mosque and the palace. Besides being home to a large number of art houses and galleries, Iran also holds one of the largest and most valuable jewel collections in the world. Iran ranks seventh among countries in the world with the most archeological architectural ruins and attractions from antiquity as recognized by UNESCO. Fifteen of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites are creations of Iranian architecture.
The ruins of Persepolis
Bagh-e Ferdows in Tajrish
Liberty Tower in Tehran City
Entrance gate to the Shah Mosque in Isfahan City
Ahmad Shah Qajar's Pavilion in Niavaran
Shapour Xast Castle in Khorramabad City