The Glories of the Persian Empire - The Legacy of the mighty Achaemenian Kings and Alexander the Great - The stunning ceremonial city of Persepolis - The wondrous monuments of Islamic Persia

Iran offers the visitor an unforgettable journey through 3,000 years of history: the mighty dynasty of the great Achaemenian kings, from Cyrus 1 to Darius III, whose empire came to an end at the hand of Alexander the Great and whose ceremonial capital at Persepolis remains one of the world's archeological wonders; the splendid monuments of Islamic Persia which reached their zenith under the great builder Shah Abbas in the 17th century, and the 20th century revolution that felled the Shah and established an Islamic republic under Imam Khomeini. Iran offers the visitor an extraordinary and unforgettable travel experience.

Official name: The Islamic Republic of Iran.
Head of Government: President Hojjat-ol-Islam Seyid Mohammad Khatami
Religion: Islam
Currency: Rial
Climate: Optimum times to visit are September to November and March to May when median daytime temperatures average in the 70s F. Summers can be extremely hot in the main tourist regions of Isfahan, Shiraz, Yazd, Kerman and Bam and temperatures in excess of 100F should be expected. Winters in the southern regions of Iran can be pleasant but the north can be very cold with snowfall.

 Natural Resources 

Petroleum, Natural Gas, coal, chromium, copper, iron ore, lead, manganese, zinc, sulfur


Population: 65,179,752 (July 1999 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 36% (male 11,963,438; female 11,447,191)
15-64 years: 60% (male 19,549,935; female 19,276,784)
65 years and over: 4% (male 1,561,877; female 1,380,527) (1999 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.07% (1999 est.)
Birth rate: 20.71 births/1,000 population (1999 est.)
Death rate: 5.39 deaths/1,000 population (1999 est.)
Net migration rate: -4.6 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1999 est.)
Languages: Persian and Persian dialects 58%, Turkic and Turkic dialects 26%, Kurdish 9%, Luri 2%, Balochi 1%, Arabic 1%, Turkish 1%, other 2%


Country name:
conventional long form: Islamic Republic of Iran
conventional short form: Iran
local long form: Jomhuri-ye Eslami-ye Iran
local short form: Iran
Data code: IR
Government type: theocratic republic
Capital: Tehran
International organization participation: CCC, CP, ECO, ESCAP, FAO, G-19, G-24, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO, ITU, NAM, OIC, OPCW, OPEC, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WMO, WToO
Diplomatic representation in the US: none; note-Iran has an Interests Section in the Pakistani Embassy, headed by Fariborz JAHANSUZAN; address: Iranian Interests Section, Pakistani Embassy, 2209 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20007; telephone: [1] (202) 965-4990
Diplomatic representation from the US: none; note-protecting power in Iran is Switzerland
Flag description: three equal horizontal bands of green (top), white, and red; the national emblem (a stylized representation of the word Allah) in red is centered in the white band; ALLAH AKBAR (God is Great) in white Arabic script is repeated 11 times along the bottom edge of the green band and 11 times along the top edge of the red band.       top of page


Currency: 10 Iranian Rials (IRR) = 01 Toman; note-domestic figures are generally referred to in terms of the Toman
Exchange rates: USD 01 = IRR 8750 (During 1st six months of 2004)
Fiscal year: 21 March-20 March


total: 7,286 km
broad gauge: 94 km 1.676-m gauge
standard gauge: 7,192 km 1.435-m gauge (146 km electrified) (1996 est.)
total: 162,000 km
paved: 81,000 km (including 470 km of expressways)
unpaved: 81,000 km (1996 est.)
Waterways: 904 km; the Shatt al Arab is usually navigable by maritime traffic for about 130 km; channel has been dredged to 3 m and is in use
Pipelines: crude oil 5,900 km; petroleum products 3,900 km; natural gas 4,550 km
Ports and harbors: Abadan (largely destroyed in fighting during 1980-88 war), Ahvaz, Bandar 'Abbas, Bandar-e Anzali, Bushehr, Bandar-e Imam Khomeyni, Bandar-e Lengeh, Bandar-e Mahshahr, Bandar-e Torkaman, Chabahar (Bandar Beheshti), Jazireh-ye Khark, Jazireh-ye Lavan, Jazireh-ye Sirri, Khorramshahr (limited operation since November 1992), Now Shahr
Merchant marine:
total: 132 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 3,238,293 GRT/5,658,259 DWT
ships by type: bulk 46, cargo 35, chemical tanker 4, combination bulk 1, container 5, liquefied gas tanker 1, multifunction large-load carrier 6, oil tanker 21, refrigerated cargo 2, roll-on/roll-off cargo 10, short-sea passenger 1 (1998 est.)
Airports: 288 (1998 est.)
Airports-with paved runways:
total: 110
over 3,047 m: 38
2,438 to 3,047 m: 18
1,524 to 2,437 m: 25
914 to 1,523 m: 23
under 914 m: 6 (1998 est.)
Airports-with unpaved runways:
total: 178
over 3,047 m: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 5
1,524 to 2,437 m: 14
914 to 1,523 m: 126
under 914 m: 32 (1998 est.)
Heliports: 11 (1998 est.)

 8000 BC   The Agricultural Revolution made possible permanent settlements and the creation of complex civilizations. The Iranian plateau became the cradle of one the oldest civilizations in history.

 5000 BC   The Haji Firuz Tepe Wine Jar, discovered in Iran, is the oldest archaeological finding of wine-making in the world.

3900 BC   Sialk (near Kashan), the first city on the Iranian plateau, was built.

 1500 BC   The Persians and the Medes, two groups of Aryan nomads, migrated to the Iranian plateau from central Asia.

 1000 BC   The Prophet Zoroaster was one of the first prophets to introduce the concepts of: monotheism, duality of good and evil, mankind's free choice between the two alternatives, messianic redemption, resurrection, final judgement, heaven (the word "paradise" comes from Old Persian), hell and the notion of an almighty, kind, loving and forgiving God. He believed man's salvation in life and in the afterlife could only be ensured through Good thoughts, Good Words and Good Deeds. Many of these concepts had a profound influence on Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Persians adopted Zoroastrianism at a time when Greeks and, later, Romans still practiced polytheistic religions. (There is some dispute concerning Zoroaster's exact period.)

 559 - 530 BC   Cyrus the Great established the Persian Empire in 550 BC, the first world empire. His respect for local traditions, laws, languages, and religions set the foundation of a relatively benevolent empire.

 539 BC   Babylonia surrendered peacefully to Cyrus the Great. Welcomed as a liberator because of his compassionate policies, Cyrus freed the Jews from captivity and assisted them to migrate to their homeland and to reconstruct their temple in Jerusalem. In the Old Testament, in the Book of Isaiah, Cyrus is hailed as the Shepherd of the Lord.

I am Cyrus, King of the World. When I entered Babylon I did not allow anyone to terrorize the land. I kept in view the needs of its people and all its sanctuaries to promote their well being..... put an end to their misfortune. The great God has delivered all lands into my hand, the lands that I have made to dwell in peaceful habitation.for more information

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 Farsi - Persian Language 

Persian Language, also known as Farsi, is the most widely spoken member of the Iranian branch of the Indo-Iranian languages, a subfamily of the Indo-European languages. It is the language of Iran (formerly Persia) and is also widely spoken in Afghanistan and, in an archaic form, in Tajikistan and the Pamir Mountain region.

Persian is spoken today primarily in Iran, Afghanistan, but was historically a more widely understood language in an area ranging from the Middle East to India. Significant populations of speakers in other Persian Gulf countries (Bahrain, Iraq, Oman, People's Democratic Republic of Hmmam Ganjali Khan Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates), as well as large communities in the USA.

Total numbers of speakers is high: over 30 million Farsi speakers (about 50% of Iran's population); over 7 million Dari Persian speakers in Afghanistan (25% of the population); and about 2 million Dari Persian speakers in Pakistan.

Three phases may be distinguished in the development of Iranian languages: Old, Middle, and Modern. Old Iranian is represented by Avestan and Old Persian. Avestan, probably spoken in the northeast of ancient Persia, is the language of the Avesta, the sacred scriptures of Zoroastrianism. Except for this scriptural use, Avestan died out centuries before the advent of Islam. Old Persian is recorded in the southwest in cuneiform inscriptions of the Persian kings of the Achaemenid dynasty (circa 550-330 BC), notably Darius I and Xerxes I. Old Persian and Avestan have close affinity with Sanskrit, and, like Sanskrit, Greek, and Latin, are highly inflected languages.

Middle Iranian is represented not only by Middle Persian and the closely related Parthian language but also by several Central Asian tongues. Parthian was the language of the Arsacid or Parthian Empire (circa 250 BC-AD 226). Although it is known chiefly through inscriptions of the early kings of the following Sassanian period, Parthian declined when Sassanian power expanded. During the Arsacid period, however, it influenced Persian. The language of the Sassanian Empire (AD 226-641) was Middle Persian, often called Pahlavi (a term more strictly reserved for a form of the language used in certain Zoroastrian writings). Middle Persian has a simpler grammar than Old Persian and was usually written in an ambiguous script with multivalent letters, adopted from Aramaic; it declined after the Arab conquest in the 7th century. Although much of the Middle Persian literature was translated into Arabic, the bulk of its writings was lost during Islamic times. Other Middle Iranian tongues were also spoken in Sassanian Persia or in bordering regions of Central Asia: Khwarazmian, in Khiva; Bactrian, in Bactria; Sogdian, in the vast region of Sogdiana, including the cities of Samarqand and Bukhoro; and Saka (a name associated with various Scythian kingdoms), in Chinese Turkestan. Sogdian produced a body of Christian, Buddhist, and secular literature, and Saka's Khotanese dialect was the vehicle of an important Buddhist literature. Most Khwarezmian texts are from the post-Islamic period. Bactrian is known only in a few recently discovered inscriptions in Afghanistan.

Modern Persian had developed by the 9th century. It is a continuation of an area-wide standard language that had considerable Parthian and Middle Persian elements, with additional influences from other Iranian languages. Written in Perso-Arabic script (an expanded version of Arabic script), it has been the official and cultural language of Persia since it first appeared. Its grammar is simpler than that of Middle Persian, and it has absorbed a vast Arabic vocabulary.

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The Freedom Circle & ManumentThe modern capital of Iran, a sprawling, frenetic city that is host to some of the craziest driving in the world, can be prone to pollution and suffer from smog. Nevertheless, it has many interesting sights and warrants the two day stay we recommend in our suggested itineraries. Listed below are some recommended sights:

(1) The Azadi (Freedom) Monument, built by the former Shah to commemorate 2,500 years of the Persian Empire, but now reflecting the nation's freedom following the Islamic Revolution.
(2) The Carpet Museum, housing some of the most beautiful carpets and tapestries in the Islamic world.
(3) The Sa'adabad Gardens of the former Shah, the location of his secondary palace which has now been converted into a museum. The dining room is magnificent. Of particular note are two enormous stone boots standing in the grounds, the remains of a gigantic statue of Reza Shah (the last Shah's father) that was destroyed in the revolution. Included in the complex are the palace of the Shah's mother and a Fine Arts Museum. The grounds are particularly nice to walk around.
(4) The Golestan Palace, where the coronations of the former Shah and his father took place. Particularly notable are the Hall of Mirrors and the Grand Hall.
(5) Archeological Museum, covering 7,000 years of Persian history, from the 5th millenium BC to the 19th century AD.
(6) Glass & Ceramics Museum, housed in an early 20th century home that was formerly the Egyptian Embassy.
(7) National Jewels Museum, containing a dazzling display of precious stones including the 182-carat diamond known as The Sea Of Light, the Globe of Jewels containing over 50,000 precious stones and weighing 80 pounds, and the Pahlavi Crown used at the coronation of the former Shah of Iran.
(8) The Sepahsalar Mosque & Madrasa. The largest mosque in Tehran with eight minarets, it also functions as a theological college.
(7) The Bazaar
(8) The former US Embassy where the American hostages were held. Entrance not allowed.
(9) The Shrine of Imam Khomeini. This beautiful golden-domed complex is the mausoleum of the founder of the Islamic Revolution, Imam Khomeini. Non-Muslims are allowed inside the mosque.
(10) Behesht-é Zahra. A vast cemetery housing thousands of graves of the Muslim martyrs killed in the Iran-Iraq war. Although it is not normally on the tourist schedule, a visit to the cemetery is recommended for those who would like a deeper understanding of the war and its effect upon the Iranian people. The gravestone carry photographs of the deceased, and a particularly poignant day to visit is on a Friday when families tend the graves. Naturally, visitors should behave with extreme respect at all times.


Masjedeh Shaikh LotfollahKnown in Persian history as "half the world", Isfahan is a feast of Islamic architecture, with stunningly beautiful buildings constructed under the auspices of the great Shah Abbas in the 17th century. Three of the most important are to be found flanking the sides of the magnificent Imam Square: the majestic Imam Mosque, viewed by many as the greatest in the Islamic world, the Sheikh Loftallah Mosque with its resplendent dome, and the 7-storey Ali Qapu Palace with its views over the square and, especially, its fascinating music room.

Surrounding the square are walkways housing souvenir shops, while on the fourth side of the square is the vibrant Bazaar. Here you can "shop-till-you-drop", anything from exquisitely painted ceramic plates to the finest silk carpets.

A visit to the famous bridges of Isfahan is a must, and to take refreshment in the small chaikhana (teahouse) under Khaju Bridge is a delight. The bridges span the Zayandé River and are very picturesque.

Other sites of interest (and there are so many) include the Shaking Minarets of Jonban, which sway when pushed hard from inside (a climb to the top is for the nerve-steady only), the beautiful 17th century Vank Armenian Church, the Chehel Sotoun (Forty Columns) Museum housed in an attractive pavilion, and the hilltop fire temple of the Zoroastrians.    
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Takht-e-JamshidThe city of poets and flowers, Shiraz is a lovely town with several must-see sites for the visitor, in addition to the nearby Achaemenian city of Persepolis. The mausoleums of the two venerated Persian poets, Hafez and Sa'adi, set in beautiful flower gardens, are unmissable, as is the 14th century Shah Cheragh shrine, an important Shi'ite pilgrimage site (the brother of Emam Reza is buried here) - the interior of the shrine is a wondrous display of mirror tiles. Another must-see is the Nasir-ol-Molk Mosque with its incredibly beautiful tilework, and the Ali ibn Hamza Mosque which is also emblazoned with mirror tiles.

Shiraz enjoys some splendid gardens, the most famous being Bagh-é Eram, or Garden of Paradise, home to a pretty 19th century Qajar palace which looks enchanting in its flowered setting beside a pool. The famous cypress trees of Shiraz may also be seen here.
Narenjestan-é qavam, or qavam Orangery, is an elegant 19th century house with orange trees in its garden. The house offers some fascinating tilework in the shape of a crescent depicting a lion and the sun in the centre with leopards devouring deer on either side.


One of the most attractive towns in Iran, famed for its myriad wind towers that provide natural air conditioning for the inhabitants, and its network of kuchés, or narrow lanes.
Yazd is also the centre of Zoroastrianism, the religion of the ancient Achaemenian kings of Persia and practised to this day. There is a Zoroastrian temple containing a sacred flame said to have been burning non-stop for over 1500 years. Located just outside the town are the Towers of Silence, an ancient Zoroastrian burial site built on two hills. In fact, "burial" is the wrong word, as the dead would be laid out above ground to be devoured by birds of prey.
There are two beautiful mosques, the 14th century Masjed-é Jame', or Friday Mosque, with its imposing minarets, splendid dome and mosaics, and the 15th century Amir Chakhmaq Mosque.
Other sites include the 11th century Tomb of the 12 Imams (although none is actually buried here) and Alexander's Prison, a circular pit said to have been built by Alexander the Great.


Hamadan (Hamedan) is situated 400 km south west of Tehran, 190 km east of Kermanshah and 530 km north west of Isfahan at the elevation of 1800 meters.

GanjnamehToday's Hamadan is what is left of Ecbatana, The Medes' capital before they formed a union with the Persians. The poet Ferdowsi says that Ecbatana was build by King Jamshid. The modern Hamadan consists of a large central roundabout with six avenues running into it.

While lacking antique vestiges, Hamadan, has several monuments worthy of interest. They are usually mausoleums. Their exterior was recently renewed by constructions inspired by the spindle-shaped structure of Mongol towers, to the exclusion of all other features of these towers. The best one covers the Tomb of the famous Ibn Sina called Abu Ali by the Persians and Avicenna by the Western world.

  • Baba Tahir Oryan , Born in Hamadan, Iran, in the early eleventh century, was considered by his contemporaries as one of the most eminent, erudite mystics and sentimentalists of his time, a reputation he has held in the affection of his countrymen to the present day.

  • Ganjnameh ,The Achaemenian treasure inventory - Abbas-Abad Valley, 5Kms. West of Hamadan. Two inscriptions carved on the face of Alvand mountain, belonging to Darius and Xerxes [Khashayarshah].

  • Abu Ali Sina (Avicenna)

  • Hamadan Rugs

  • Mausoleum of Esther - An Achaemenian Queen

  • Hamadan Weather Forecast


Mashhad, Iran's holiest city, is located 850 kilometers North East of Tehran. Back in the 9th century, Imam Reza was poinsoned and martyred in the city. He was the eighth Imam (head spiritual leader) of Shi'ate Islam (Some consider him Imam of all Muslims . His holy position made his tomb a sacred place for pilgrims to worship. Millions of people pay pilgrimage to the holy shrine, undoubtedly the largest and most magnificent of its kind, every year. There are plenty of priceless objects and unique manuscripts in the shrine's library. Mashad is a tourist city with many hotels of various categories as well as a great number of guest houses for the pilgrims who come to this city from the other parts of the country everyday by tens of flights, trains and buses.

Before he died, the city was known as Sanabad, a small village in the north of Persia. After his death, pilgrims came and ended up staying in Mashhad. The village grew into a small city because of his shrine. Sunni Muslim forces sacked the city, followed by the Mongols in the 13th century. The shrine was badly damaged and, after time, rebuilt.

Ferdosi Tomb (Tous)In the 16th century, three Safavid dynasty rulers established Shi'ite Islam for the whole territory. The shrine was restored, enlarged, and a Ghoharshad mosque was built. These rulers made pilgrimages to the site and since then it has become the most holy Shi'ite pilgrimage in Iran.

The city's climatic condition is varied with very cold winters, pleasant springs, usually mild summers and beautiful autumns. The magnificent holy shrine of Imam Reza and the historical and artistic complex attached to it including the courtyards, porticos and porches, the Goharshad Mosque (of Timurid period) as well as its rich museum and libray are the most significant sights to be seen by any visitor and pilgrim. There is a magnificent golden dome over the shrine's building; surrounded by several proches. The Grand Gohaharshad Mosque is located to the south of the shrine, the museum and the tomb of Sheikh Bahaee to the southeast and Parizad and Balasar Schools to the west.

Other than a number of large beautiful parks, the other sights tomb of Nader Shah, Kooh Sangi pool. There are also some sights outside the city. Tomb of Khajeh Morad kilometers from Mashad along the road to Tehran, the tomb of Khajeh Rabi' located 6 kilometers north of the city where there are some inscriptions by the renowned Safavid calligrapher Reza Abbasi, and the tomb of Khajeh Abasalt in a distance of 20 kilometers from Mashad along the road to Neishabur. (the three personalities were the disciples of Imam Reza). Among the other sights are the tomb of the great poet Ferdowsi in Tus, 24 kilometers away from Mashad; and the Summer resorts at Torghabeh, Torogh, Akhlomod, Zoshk and Shandiz.                   top of page



The unique geographical location of Iran, which has served as a bridge between the East and the West, together with its diverse climatic conditions and various raw materials available, have caused the flourishing of many arts and crafts in this country all through its long history .
In the pre-Islamic era, and from Achaemenid to Sassanian dynasties (559 BC- 651 AD ), precious items such as textile, metalwork, jewelry, lusterware and glassware were exported from Iran to China and Europe.
One of the main features of the Iranian handicrafts is the continuous preservation of traditional styles and original designs. As a result, art works produced by contemporary craftsmen look like masterpieces made in the past.


In Persian carpets coloring is the most important process, since it comes from the herbs and plants like madder, leaves and trunk of opopnax tree , leaves and branches of yellow weed and straw, pomegranate peels and walnut shells and oaks,... each creating by itself a beautiful, stable and delightful color. Each substance is not only the source of a particular color, but can also they provide a combination of different colors.
Carpet weaving is a precious legacy of previous generations. Thousands of designing, dyeing and weaving workshops across Iran (in Azarbaijan, Baluchistan, Lorestan, Fars , Kerman and other provinces) have made the carpet industry practically the largest in the country.

Gilim weaving with a very long history since antiquity is one of the most ancient products of Fars and Kerman nomads. Unlike the carpet that can be used only from one side, Gilim can be used from both sides.

Most of the designs are geometrical and stem from nature and the weaver’s surroundings.
Tribal people are the major producers of Gilim in Iran.
These Gilims are made in different colors and sizes. Some of the most famous types of gilim are "shireki pich", " suzani", " kafsadeh" and "chehelmashuleh (sinehriz)" .

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 Dialogue Among Civilization 

I would like to propose, in the name of the Islamic Republic of Iran, that  the United Nations, as a first step, designate the year 2001 as the "Year of Dialogue among Civilizations," with the earnest hope that through such a dialogue, the realization of universal justice and liberty be initiated.

"Excerpt from President Khatami's address to the United Nations" 

In response to the proposal made by the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the United Nations' General Assembly declared 2001 as the year of Dialogue Among Civilizations. The Iranian government subsequently founded the International Centre for Dialogue Among Civilizations (ICDAC) in February 1999.

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