Iran is a land in western Asia, With over 81 million citizens, Iran is the world's 18th most populated country. Comprising a land area of 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi), it is the second-largest country in the Middle East and the 17th biggest in the world. Iran is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan, to the north by the Caspian Sea, to the northeast by Turkmenistan, to the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, and to the west by Turkey and Iraq. The country's central location in Eurasia and Western Asia and its proximity to the Strait of Hurmoz give it geostrategic significance. Tehran is the country's capital and largest city, as well as its leading economic and cultural center.
Iran is home to one of the world's oldest civilization beginning with the formation of the Elamite kingdoms in the fourth millennium BCE. It was first unified by the Iranian Medes in the seventh century BCE, leading its greatest regional size in the sixth century BCE, when Cyrus the Great founded the Achaemenid Empire, which grew from Eastern Europe to the Indus Valey, becoming one of the largest nations in history. The Iranian realm fell to Alexander The Great in the fourth century BCE and was split into several Hellenistic states. An Iranian resistance culminated in the establishment of the Parthian Empire, which was replaced in the third century CE by the Sassanian Empire, a leading world power for the next four centuries.
Arab Muslim defeated the Empire in the seventh century CE. The Islamization of Iran began to the decline of Zoroastrianism, which was by then the country's powerful religion, and Iran's main contributions to art and science spread within the Muslim rule through the Islamic golden age. After two centuries, a period of several native Muslim dynasties began, which were later conquered by the Seljuq Turks and the Ilkhan Mongols. The rise of the Safavids in the 15th century led to the reestablishment of a unified Iranian state and national identity, with the country turn to Shia marking a turning point in Iranian and Muslim History. Under Nader Shah. Iran was one of the most powerful states in the 18th century, though by the 19th century, a series of conflict with the Russian Empire drove to significant territorial losses. The Iranian Constitutional Revolution in the early 20th century led to the establishment of a constitutional Monarchy and the country's first parliament. A 1953 coup urged by the United Kingdom and the United State issued in the greater dictatorship and growing Western political influence. Subsequent widespread dissatisfaction and unrest against the monarchy led to the 1979 Revolution plus the establishment of an Islamic Republic, a political system that includes elements of a parliamentary democratic vetted and supervised by a theocracy governed by an autocratic”Supreme Leader”. During the 1980s, the country was engaged in a war with Iraq, which continued for almost nine years and ended in a high number of casualties and economic hurts for both sides.
The country's rich cultural legacy is reflected in part by it is 22 Unesco World Heritage sites, the third-largest number in Asia and eleventh-largest in the world. Iran is a multicultural country comprising various and ethnic and linguistic Groups, the largest being Persians (61%), Azeris (16%), Kurds (10%), and Lurs (6%).
Having 11 climates out of the world's 13, Iran's climate is different ranging from arid and semi-arid, to subtropical along the Caspian shore and the northern jungles. On the northern edge of the country (the Caspian seaside plain), temperatures rarely fall below freezing and the area remains humid for the rest of the year. Summer temperatures seldom 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. Gary Lewis, the United Nations Resident Administrator for Iran, has said that "Water scarcity poses the most severe human security challenge in Iran today".
To the west, settlements in the Zagros basin experience lower temperatures, severe winters with below zero common 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 rarely 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).
Regions and Cities
Iran is divided into Five regions with the thirty-one province (ostān), each governed by an appointed governor (ostāndār). The provinces are divided into counties (šahrestān) and subdivided into districts and sub-districts (dehestan).
The country 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 around the cities of Tehran, Isfahan, Ahvaz, and Qom. The listed populations are from the 2006/07 (1385 AP) census Tehran, with a population of around 8.8 million (2016 census), is the capital and largest city of Iran. It is an economical and cultural center and is the hub of the country's communication and transport networks.
The country's second most populous city, Mashhad, has a population of around 3.3 million (2016 census) and is the capital of the province of Razavi Khorasan. Being the site of the Imam Reza Shrine, it is a holy city in Shia Islam. About 15 to 20 million travelers visit the shrine every year.
Isfahan has a population of around 2.2 million (2016 census) and is Iran's third most populous city. It is the capital of the area of Isfahan and was also the third capital of the Safavid Empire. It is home to a wide variety of historical sites, including the famous Shah Square, Siosepol, and the churches at the Armenian district of New sulfa. It is also home to the world’s seventh largest shopping mall, Isfahan City Center.
The fourth most populous city of Iran, Karaj, has a population of around 1.9 million (2016 census). It is the capital of the province of Alborz and is situated 20 km west of Tehran, at the foot of the Albert mountain range. It is a major industrial city in Iran, with large facilities producing sugar, textiles, wire, and alcohol.
With a population of around 1.7 million (2016 census), Tabriz is the fifth most populous city of Iran and had been the second most populous until the late 1960s. It was the first capital of the Safavid Empire and is now the capital of the province of East Azerbaijan. It is also considered the country's second major industrial city (after Tehran).
Shiraz, with a population of around 1.8 million (2016 census), is Iran's sixth most populous city. It is the capital of the province of Fars and was also the capital of Iran under the reign of the Zand dynasty. It is placed near the ruins of Persepolis and Pasargad, two of the four capitals of the Achaemenid Empire.
Although tourism declined significantly during the war with Iraq, it has been finally 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. Since the removal of some penalties against Iran in 2015, tourism has re-surged in the country. Over five million tourists visited Iran in the fiscal year of 2014–2015, four percent more than the earlier year.
Alongside the capital, the most popular tourist destinations are Isfahan, Mashhad, and Shiraz. In the early 2000s, the industry met serious limitations in a foundation, communications, industry standards, and personnel training. The majority of the 300,000 travel visas granted in 2003 were taken by Asian Muslims, who likely intended to visit 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 masterpieces. In 2003, Iran ranked 68th in tourism revenues worldwide. According to the Unesco and the deputy head of research for Iran’s Tourism organization, Iran is rated fourth among the top 10 destinations in the Middle East. Domestic Tourism in Iran is one of the largest in the world. Weak advertising, unstable regional conditions, a poor public thought in some parts of the world, and absence of efficient planning schemes in the tourism sector have all hindered the growth of tourism
The majority of the population speak Persian, which is also the official Language of the country. Others combine speakers of a number of other Iranian Language within the greater Indo Europa family, and languages referring to some other ethnicities living in Iran.
In northern Iran, mostly confined to Gilan and Mazenderan, the Gilaki an Mazandarani languages are widely spoken, both having relations to the neighboring Caucasian Language. In parts of Gilan, the Talysh language is also widely spoken, which stretches up to the neighboring Republic of Azerbaijan. Varieties of Kurdish are generally spoken in the province of Kurdistan and nearby areas. In Khuzestan, several distinct varieties of Persian are spoken. Lurish and Lari are also spoken in southern Iran.
Azerbaijani Turkish, which is by far the most spoken language in the country after Persian, as well as a number of other Turkish Language and accents, is spoken in various regions of Iran, especially in the region of Azerbaijan.
Notable minority languages in Iran include Armenian, Georgia, Neo Aramaic, and Arabic. Khuzi Arabic is spoken by the Arabs in Khuzestan, as well as the wider group of Iranians Arab. Circassian was also once widely spoken by the large Circassian youth, but, due to assimilation over the many years, no sizable number of Circassians speak the language anymore.
Percentages of spoken language continue to be a point of debate, as many options that they are politically motivated; most notably regarding the largest and second-largest ethnicities in Iran, the Persians and Azerbaijanis. Percentages given by the CIA’s World Factbook include 53% Persian, 16% Azerbaijani Turkish, 10% Kurdish, 7% Mazandarani and Gilaki, 7% Lurish, 2% Turkmen, 2% Balochi, 2% Arabic, and 2% the remainder Armenian, Georgian, Neo Aramaic, and Circassian.
The art of Iran contains many disciplines, including architecture, stonemasonry, metalworking, weaving, pottery, painting, and calligraphy. Iranian works of art show a great variation in style, in different regions and periods. The art of the Medes remains unknown but has been theoretically attributed to the Scythian Style. The Achaemenids borrowed massively from the art of their neighboring civilizations but produced a combination of a unique style, with an eclectic architecture remaining at sites such as Persepolis and Pasargadae. Greek iconography was imported by the Seleucids, followed by the recombination of Hellenistic and earlier Near Eastern elements in the art of the Parthians, with remains such as the Temple of Anahita and the Statue of the Parthian nobleman. By the time of the Sasanians, Iranian art reached across a general renaissance. Although of unclear development, Sassanians Art was highly famous and spread into far regions. Taq e Bostan, Taq e Kasra, Naghsh e Rostam, and the Shapurkwast Castle are among the surviving masterpieces from the Sasanian period.
During the Middle Ages, Sasanian art played a prominent role in the formation of both European and Asian medieval art, which carried forward to the Islamic world, and much of what later shifted known as Islamic learning—including medicine, architecture, Philosophy, Philology, and Literature—were of Sasanian basis.
The Safavid era is known as the Golden Age of Iranian art, and Safavid achievements of the art show a far more unitary development than in any other period, as part of a political evolution that reunified Iran as a cultural entity. Safavid Art exerted noticeable influences upon the neighboring Ottomans, the Mughals, and the Deccan, and was also influential through its fashion and garden architecture on 11th–17th-century Europe.
Iran's contemporary art traces its origins back to the time of kamal ol Molk, a prominent realist painter at the court of the Qajar dynasty who affected the norms of painting and adopted a naturalistic style that would compete with photographic works. A new Iranian school of fine art was established by Kamal-ol-Molk in 1928 and was followed by the so-called "coffeehouse" style of painting.
Main articles: Iranian Architecture and Persian Gardens
The history of architecture in Iran goes back to the seventh millennium BC. Iranians were among the first to use mathematics, geometry, and astronomy in architecture. Iranian architecture displays great variety, both structural and aesthetic, developing gradually and coherently out of earlier traditions and experience. The guiding motive of Iranian architecture is its cosmic symbolism, "by which man is brought into communication and participation with the powers of heaven".
Iran ranks seventh among Unesco’s list of countries with the most archaeological ruins and magnetism from antiquity.