© Stefan Baum / age fotostock
Iran is a particularly mountainous country that is partially deserted. The several mountain mountain chains dominating the Iranian landscape include Zagros and Alborz, which has the highest peak in the country. These mountain chains are separated by various plateaus and basins and all rather desert-like.
There are very few rivers in Iran. However, two of them include the Kârun, the longest one in Iran flowing into the Shat al-Arab, and the Safid, which flows into the Caspian Sea.
Iran's coasts are bordered by the Caspian Sea in the north and the Gulf of Oman in the south. While there are some superb beaches along the 400 mi-long coastline in the north, the coastline in the south is no less magnificent!
Iran's towns and cities have an incredible Islamic architectural heritage to accompany their fascinating past. The capital, Tehran, is home to a plethora of superb monuments. If you plan on staying in the city, make sure you don't miss out on a visit to the Grand Bazaar.
Iran is one of the countries of the Fertile Crescent where agriculture and writing systems were born. The Iranian civilisation is one of the oldest in the world, with its history going back thousands of years. Richard Nelson Frye, a distinguished expert on Iranian studies, once said "Iran's glory has always been its culture". This culture is expressed in many different ways: the language, the mythology, the religion, the art, the poetry and the literature.
Persian mythology is one of the founding elements of the Iranian culture. It is both similar and fundamentally different to Hindu mythology; similar because Iranians are neighbours with all of the Indo-Europeans and even more so with the Aryans of India, but different because they are more of a moral-based society than a mythology-based one. Nowruz; the Persian New Year was officially registered on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009.
The Iranian language has inspired many writers, including Goethe, and is known for being a language that makes it easy to write poetry. The rugs, gardens and cuisine are all fundamental and essential parts of the Iranian culture.
Iranian art has undergone many transformations since the era of Antiquity, especially with the arrival of Islam, which instilled new artistic codes without hindering its evolution. The current trend for today's artists is to revisit some of the great works of Iranian art by incorporating modern elements or by recreating them using the art of graffiti.
An Arabic people, the Iranians learned about the importance of geometry, both symbolic and in architecture, early on, and have used it to create many architectural masterpieces.
Iranian architecture employs a repetition of geometric shapes, richly decorated ceramic surfaces, sculpted stucco and bricks, and is recognisable for its calligraphy and floral patterns.
There are 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Iran; Arg-é Bam in Kerman, Naghsh-e Jahan Square in Isfahan, Pasargadae and Persepolis in the province of Fars, Chogha Zanbil in the province of Khuzestan, the Mashhad Mir Bozorg (Mir Mara'shi) Tomb in Amol, Takht-e Soleyman in western Azerbaijan-e-Gharbi and the Dome of Soltaniyeh in Zanjan.
Examples of the Iranian architectural know-how and the feats this civilisation has been able to accomplish can be seen beyond the country's borders. There are many monuments around the world that were built by Iranian architects and which are even listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including: the Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan, the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi in Kazakhstan, the historical centres of Bukhara and Shahrisabz, the citadel, ancient city and fortified buildings of Darband in Daghestan, and the city of Samarcande in Uzbekistan.
The semi-desert zones are the kingdom of felines and gazelles, like the Eurasian lynx, the Pallas cat, the Indian gazelle, the Persian gazelle, and the Persian onager.
Some of the species are in danger of extinction, such as the Iranian cheetah, of which there are only 60 left. Other rare species that make up part of Iran's fauna include the Caspian snowcock, the Persian fallow deer, and some varieties of fish.
Iran is also home to many bird species, like for instance, the long-legged buzzard, the common kestrel, the royal eagle, the bearded vulture, the black-bellied sandgrouse that lives in the Steppes, and the Asian houbara bustard that lives in the desert.
The large forests and mountains are home to wild boar, bears, deer and ibex.
Despite this wealth of fauna, since the 1950s Iran has been confronted with many problems that are affecting the quality of the environment: air pollution, deforestation, desertification, water pollution, and a decrease in marshland due to droughts, among other things.