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What Is Iran Known for & Famous For
Iran is a country located in Western Asia. It is one of the longest continually existing civilizations in the world, tracing its roots to the Persian empire. Therefore it is a country worth exploring.
Iran has a fascinating history and a unique culture. It is most famous for being the birthplace of the Persian empire, one of the top oil producers globally, and an Islamic nation. It is also known for producing incredible carpets, having tasty food, and having hospitable citizens.
Below is an in-depth look into the things Iran is known for and those that make it famous.
1. Strong Religious Beliefs
An overwhelming majority of Iranians consider themselves devout Muslim believers. Most of them are Shia Muslims who adhere to the teachings of the Ithna Ashari or Twelver Sect. The Twelvers believe the 12th Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi al-Hujjah will return to save them from the world’s ills.
Most importantly, they staunchly follow the tenets of the Quran and Prophet Muhammad.
Iran is a large country traversing several climate zones resulting in diverse natural sceneries. They include Mount Damavand, the highest peak in the Middle East, and Turkmen Sahra, a series of rolling hills in Golestan Province.
There are deserts and plains like the Dasht-e Lut, the hottest place on Earth, and the Dasht-e Kavir. Iran is also home to animals like:
- Persian Leopards
- Brown Bears
The Iranian government is officially theocratic, meaning it rests on the belief that Allah(God) has exclusive sovereignty and the right to make laws followed by the people.
A Supreme Leader elected by the assembly of experts heads the Iranian political structure. The Guardian Council governs the assembly’s membership, which approves new members.
The Supreme Leader’s authority prevails over the armed forces, the judiciary, the executive, and other key government institutions. The legislature functions in two parts: the Islamic Consultative Council, Iran’s law-making authority, and the Guardian Council, the approving body.
The Iranian president is the second-ranking official in the government, is elected in an election, and serves a maximum of two terms, each lasting four years. With the parliament’s approval, the president can appoint ministers, negotiate trade deals with other countries, administer the national budget, and other executive state affairs.
Iranian civilization has existed for thousands of years, making it one of the oldest in the world. Its most notable period began around 550 B.C when Cyrus the Great founded the Persian Empire and the Achaemenid dynasty.
Afterward, a series of dynasties ruled Persia, like the Sassanids and Safavids. Another notable period of Iranian history was the 7th century, when they adopted Islam as their primary religion.
Persepolis is the ancient capital of the Persian Achaemenian dynasty in South-Western Iran. Persepolis is Greek, meaning “city of the Persians,” while the Persians called it Parsa. Construction of the city began around 518 BCE during the reign of Darius the Great and continued during the reigns of his son Xerxes I and his grandson Artaxerxes I.
The city is a sprawling archaeological site built on a large terrace. The east wing of the terrace borders the “Mount of Mercy,” making it semi-natural, while the other three sides consist of a retaining wall of height ranging from four to twelve meters high.
However, Alexander the Great attacked the city and burnt Xerxes’ palace in 330 BCE in retaliation for his invasion of Greece a century earlier.
UNESCO designated Persepolis a World Heritage Site in 1979 in recognition of the insight it provided into ancient Persian art, architecture, and planning.
Iranian architecture has a deep and historical tradition embedded in its history by dynasties that settled on the land. Iran has produced some of the world’s most exquisite works of Islamic art and architecture. These marvels appeared during the Safavid reign when Isfahan was Persia’s capital. Isfahan is one of Iran’s most prosperous artistic cities.
This city practiced several works of art such as gold beating, embossing, latticework, inlay, raised work, and painting. You may find this art in various religious structures in Iran, Najaf, Karbala, Damascus, and other Islamic holy cities.
Various local and international museums house these exquisite artworks due to their outstanding creative worth.
Iranian literature is the crown jewel of Persian culture and profoundly influenced Ottoman Turkey, Muslim India, and Turkic Central Asian literature. This literature arose in the 9th century with slight borrowing from the Arabic Alphabet with several Arabic loan words. Furthermore, It was the first Muslim language to break Arabic’s monopoly on writing.
A standard version of Persian had already emerged under the Sasanians and spread to the empire’s provinces, pushing out other Iranian languages with writing traditions in Central Asia.
During the 9th century, an elite variant of Persian known as Farsi reappeared as a written language in Iranian areas farthest from Baghdad and is now the country’s official language.
Shiraz is one of the oldest and most populated cities in Iran. It is the capital of the Fars Province in Southwestern Iran. The city is known for its gardens and the contributions of its inhabitants to poetry and literature.
Some notable landmarks in the city include the tombs of poets Saadi and Hafez, Eram Garden, and Nasir al-Mulk Mosque.
9. Persian Empire
Ancient Iran was known as Persia and was the most dominant nation in West Asia for over a millennium between 550 BC and AD 650. The ancient Persians trace their footsteps back to the 7th Century BC when they settled in the Southern portion of the Iranian plateau.
It is here that they rose and defeated the Median, Lydian, and Neo- Babylonian empires and established the Achaemenid Empire.
They successfully centralized administration and bureaucracy by using a multicultural policy which enabled them to build roads, manage a postal system, develop civil service, and run its sizable professional army. After being conquered by Alexander the Great in 330 BC, the elite Iranians settled in the Central Plateau and reclaimed power through the Parthian Empire.
Iranian people appreciate the art of hospitality. They pride themselves on being welcoming and thoughtful of others. These are traits instilled in them over numerous generations, making them an integral part of their culture.
Iranians love hosting guests. Whenever they receive visitors, they do not hesitate to provide the best food and accommodation they can afford to ensure you are comfortable.
Moreover, Iranians are very interactive with foreigners in the streets. If you happen to be lost, they will help you find your way to your destination. They also offer foreigners advice on how best to visit the country. Locals invite guests to afternoon tea sessions and captivating conversations in small villages.
Overall, Iranians care about their visitors and always look to leave a good impression on them.
Food is an essential part of Iranian culture. Iranians use food to express their heritage, diversity, sense of community, and variety of ingredients. As a result, there are certain customs associated with food. For instance, Iranians eat most meals in a group setting on shared plates.
Iranian food consists of some of the world’s most delicious and freshly sourced ingredients. They cook most of their food using ingredients readily available within their borders. They include rice, saffron, herbs, pomegranates, pistachios, walnuts, almonds, and wheat. The most popular food in Iran is the kebab.
They also use ingredients only found in Iran. For example, narenj belongs to the citrus family and grows in Northern Iran. Other unique ingredients include rosewater and Iranian hogweed. Overall, consider visiting a Persian restaurant to enjoy irresistible Iranian cuisine.
Rice is the most widely consumed food in Iran. It is grown mainly in Gilan, Fars, and Mazandaran provinces. Gilan alone produces more than half of the nation’s rice. The varieties grown include gerde, domsiah, and doodi.
Iranians prepare rice mainly by boiling it and serving it with an accompaniment or boiling it mixed in with other ingredients.
Iran is one of the top date producers and exporters globally. Their dates are popular on global markets due to their softness and sweet taste. They also have several health benefits like lowering cholesterol levels, thus improving cardiovascular health.
Some common Iranian date varieties include water dates, mazafati fresh dates, zahedi dates, kabkab dates, and piarom dates.
Iran is a multilingual nation, but Persian is the most widely spoken and official language. Other languages spoken include Kurdish, Tajik, and Gilaki, which belong to the Iranian branch of languages in the larger Indo-European language family.
Iranians also speak languages of Turkic origin, like Azerbaijani. Moreover, there is a small minority that speaks Arabic.
Nowruz is Persian for ‘new day.’ It symbolizes the beginning of a new year on the Iranian calendar. Nowruz is celebrated on the 20th or 21st of March, officially when winter ends and spring begins in the Northern Hemisphere.
Nowruz celebrations in Iran last thirteen days, during which learning institutions remain closed.
The most recognizable variations of the sport are the Kurdish style and the traditional Koshti Pahlevani. As a result, Iran has become one of the most dominant wrestling nations in international competitions.
A Qanat is a system of underground canals transporting mountain water and water from highland aquifers to low-lying dry areas. This technique is a common water harvesting method in Iran, the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China.
It is a common belief the invention of the technique occurred in Persia during the early First millennium B.C.
A qanat system is invaluable since it allows water supply to dry areas while evaporation minimally ensures more water reaches the people. Moreover, it is sustainable since it utilizes gravity to transport water negating the need to use energy to pump the water.
Though many qanat systems have fallen into disrepair, there is growing interest in their rehabilitation, especially as water scarcity becomes more prevalent.
Water conservationists are looking for ways to integrate traditional qanat system technology with modern innovation to increase efficiency and promote sustainable water management practices.
18. Persian Carpets
Carpet weaving is a vital part of Iranian culture. The practice has a history that spans thousands of years. However, it started to gain more prominence within and outside Persian borders in the 15th century, thanks to the support of the Royal court.
It usually takes several months to make Persian carpets since artisans weave them by hand. The carpet weavers use either wool or silk to make them. The result is high-quality products with intricate patterns, elaborate color schemes, and unparalleled craftsmanship.
Persian carpets come in different knotting and weaving styles. The style depends on where the carpet is from since different cities and villages use varying techniques. The most prominent carpet weaving regions with unique styles include Qom, Nain, and Herat.
All the above aspects make Persian carpets the most sought after globally. In addition, Persian rugs are very durable, with some lasting centuries.
19. Persian Cats
Persian cats are an old breed of cat originally from Persia. Some of the breed’s more distinct features include a beautiful flowing coat of hair, short face, snub nose, and round head. These features make the Persian cat one of the most desirable pedigree cats globally.
They first gained popularity in Europe when an Italian called Pietro Della Valle brought them to Italy in 1626. Their popularity increased during the 19th century since they were among Queen Victoria’s favorites. Their personality also makes them enduring too many cat lovers.
Persian cats are quiet and gentle and prefer to laze around the home instead of running outside. Therefore, they are great companions since they also like cuddling. They have a life span of 10 to 15 years and weigh 7 to 12 pounds. However, they require daily grooming to ensure their long fur stays clean and untangled.
Tehran is the administrative and economic capital of Iran, located at the foot of the Elburz mountains. It became Iran’s capital in 1786 after Agha Mohammad Khan chose it for its strategic location. He could rule the loyal Southern territories while keeping an eye on troublesome Northern regions like Azerbaijan.
Today the city has over 10 million people and is home to numerous landmarks like the Azadi and Molar Towers.
21. Nasir Ol Molk Mosque
The Nasir Ol Molk Mosque in Shiraz, Iran, is one of the most impressive architectural marvels in the country. Construction of the Mosque started in 1876 during the reign of the Qajar Dynasty and ended in 1888. The mosque features hundreds of painted tiles on the roof, Persian rugs covering the floor, and spectacular stained glass emanating color in every direction.
The mosque displays the rich ancient Iranian history, consisting of a vibrant art and crafts culture. Many people call it the ‘pink mosque’ due to the many pink tiles covering the ceiling.
When you visit the mosque in the early morning, when the sun’s rays are reflecting against the stained-glass patterns, you shall see a kaleidoscope-like pattern on the mosque’s floor.
22. Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great founded the ancient Iranian Empire. At the time of his reign, his kingdom stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indus River, making it the greatest ever. Cyrus built his kingdom through conquest and negotiation, demonstrating his abilities as a warrior and politician.
Cyrus the Great became king after overthrowing his grandfather Astyages and united his Kingdom, Median, with the one he inherited from his father. King Cyrus commanded several well-known campaigns during his reign, including the conquests of Lydia and Babylonia.
According to the Bible, Cyrus is the prince who liberated the Jewish people from their Babylonian oppressors.
23. Islamic Golden Age
The Islamic Golden Age refers to a period of intellectual, economic, cultural, and religious prosperity within the Muslim community. The era lasted about five centuries beginning in the 8th century and ending in the 13th century.
Iran played a significant role during the Islamic Golden Age. Some of its contributions lie in religious scholarship. The country gave rise to influential Sunni and Shia theologians like Shaykh Tusi and Imam Ghazali.
Iran also contributed to other fields like poetry, physics, astronomy, mathematics, and philosophy. The most renowned Iranian poet is Mawlana Rumi. Moreover, prominent contributors to academics include Al-Farabi, Omar Khayyam, Muhammad Ibn Zakarriya, and Al-Biruni.
Therefore, the Iranian contribution to Islamic enlightenment is invaluable.
The Iranian culture is one of the most influential in the world, and many view it as the cradle of civilization. In the Iranian culture, family is revered, and they take their responsibilities in the family very seriously.
They protect their own and shield them from prying queries by other people who are not in the family. For the Iranians, family loyalty is crucial and comes above anything else.
The most significant selling points of the Iranian culture are art, architecture, poetry, medicine, technology, engineering, and philosophy. Many Iranians practice Islam, and the faith governs their relationship with other citizens and the state.
While they use a solar calendar, most official religious holidays run on the lunar calendar. However, unlike in many states, the official working days are between Saturday and Wednesday.
25. Shia Islam
Shia Islam is a branch of Islam practiced by about 10% of Muslims worldwide. Its origins trace back to the 7th century after the death of Prophet Muhammad. Followers of Shia Islam believe Ali, Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law was his rightful successor.
That belief gave rise to the Shia sect, which only intensified after Ali’s assassination and killing of his sons Hassan and Hussein years later.
Hafez was a Persian lyric poet who lived in Shiraz during the 14th century. Many Iranians consider him one of the most talented and influential poets in Iranian history. His most well-known work is called the Divan of Hafez.
It is a compilation of poems of varying styles, including sonnet-like verses, odes, and quatrains.
Arguably, oil is one of the planet’s most precious liquids, and Iran has this fluid in abundance. Iran is the world’s 4th largest oil producer and OPEC’s 2nd largest exporter. Approximately 10% and 15% of the world’s proven oil and gas reserves are on Iranian soil.
In 2012 Iran was exporting around 1.5 million barrels of crude oil daily, and experts estimated that by 2015, the country would make $250 billion worth of gas revenues.
The National Iranian Oil Company is a government-owned oil and natural gas producer responsible for the exploitation, drilling, production, distribution, and export of Iran’s crude oil reserves. It is currently the world’s 2nd largest oil company.
Iran is a remarkable country with so much to offer than meets the eye. It has a rich history spanning centuries. The people of Iran have contributed significantly to the development of art, architecture, poetry, and engineering. It is possible to see remnants of their ancient work in today’s modern societies.
- BBC: Sunnis and Shia: Islam’s Ancient Schism
- Britannica: Shiraz
- Britannica: Tehran
- Britannica: Persepolis
- Britannica: Religion of Iran
- Cat Time: Persian
- Britannica: Cyrus the Great
- British Council: Nowruz
- Culture Trip: The 10 Most Beautiful Natural Wonders in Iran
- Encyclopedia: The Divan of Hafiz
- Geev: All About Persian Food
- Iran Chamber Society: History of Iran: Cyrus The Great
- PBS: The Structure Of Power In Iran
- Britannica: Iranian architecture
- History: Persian Empire
- Iran Chamber Society: Persian Language and Literature
- Iran Tourism: Iranian Hospitality
- Iran Press: Iranian Wrestling; What Iran is Known For
- Khan Academy: Persepolis: The Audience Hall of Darius and Xerxes
- MEI: Harvesting Water and Harnessing Cooperation: Qanat Systems in the Middle East and Asia
- Must Go: Indo-Iranian Branch
- Atlas Obscura: Nasir al-Mulk Mosque
- OPEC: Iran facts and figures
- Persians are not Arabs: Persian Dates
- SurfIran: All About Rice in Iran: History, Cultivation and Traditional Iranian Rice-Based Foods
- US History: Persian Empire
- Tehran Times: Persian carpet: a crossroads of intricate designs, lavish colors, and peerless artistry