Iran 2014

ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN

PART 1, General Information

PART 2, BLOG Pictures and Gallery

PART 3, VIDEO CLIP

PART 1,   GENERAL INFORMATION

Capital city; Tehran

Population; 82 million

Currency;  Iranian Rial

Km travelled; 3305

Days in Iran; 30

Languages; Persian

General

Used to be called Persia is the second largest country in the Middle East. Iran is home to the oldest civilizations in the world. In 1963 with the help of the USA and the United Kingdom the white revolution started with the Shah of Persia. This resulted in land reform, industrial growth and woman’s rights. However, in 1979 due to widespread dissatisfaction and unrest against the monarchy which resulted into the Islamic republic. In the 1980’s a war between Iraq and Iran. Iran is a major supplier of Natural gas and has huge oil reserves. Iran also holds 22 UNESCO World Heritage sites, which is the third largest in Asia and 11th largest in the world.

Tourist Highlights

Although tourism declined significantly, since the removal of some sanctions against Iran in 2015, tourism has increased a little. Tehran, Isfahan and Shiraz remain the 3 major tourist hubs, but Iran has a lot more to offer for those who travelling by car. The majority of tourist visiting Iran are Muslims visiting the pilgrim sites in Mashad and Qom. For this reason, domestic tourism in Iran is the largest in the world. Poor image, unstable regional conditions, weak advertising all are reasons for people to avoid visiting Iran. However, for us Iran and Pakistan both were surprise countries with some of the nicest people we met during our years of travel around the world.

TEHRAN                                                                                                                                           the Capital of Iran, is located on the south hillside of the Alborz mountain range with the height of 900 to 1800 m above the sea level Tehran consists of three parts as “Kan“ , ”Markazi“, and “Aftab“; three cities named “Tehran“, “Bomehen“, ”Pardis”; and four rural districts. Azadi square symbolized Tehran in the past and Milad tower plays this role, at present. Tehran’s image abroad was strongly influenced by the Iranian Revolution of the late 1970s. In the last two decades of the 20th century, television screens and newspaper articles around the world portrayed Tehran as a deeply religious city steeped in tradition, fighting against modernization and Westernization. While the Iranian self-image is that of an ancient people with a long history and a rich heritage, Tehran challenges these images, as the corporeal city is relatively young. Most buildings were built after the mid-1960s, and half of the population is less than 27 years old. The city is located on the slopes of the Elburz mountain and its highest peak Mount Damavand (5600 meters) is visible from the city. The lower suburbs are at around 1100 meters while the higher suburbs are at around 1700 meters.

QOM

Just 140Km south of Tehran It is situated on the banks of the Qom River and is considered holy by Shi’a Islam as is the shrine of Fatima bint Musa. The city is the largest centre for Shiʿa scholarship in the world, and is a significant destination of pilgrimage, with around twenty million pilgrims visiting the city every year, the majority being Iranians but also other Shi’a Muslims from all around the world. Another very popular religious site of pilgrimage formerly outside the city of Qom but now more of a suburb is called Jamkaran. Qom’s proximity to Tehran has allowed the clerical establishment easy access to monitor the affairs and decisions of state. Many Grand Ayatollahs possess offices in both Tehran and Qom. Southeast of Qom is the ancient city of Kashan.

ISFAHAN

Isfahan has a population of approximately 1.6 million, making it the third largest city in Iran after Tehran and Mashhad. Isfahan is an important city as it is located at the intersection of the two-principal north–south and east–west routes that traverse Iran. It is famous for its Perso–Islamic architecture, grand boulevards, covered bridges, palaces, tiled mosques, and minarets. Isfahan also has many historical buildings, monuments, paintings and artefacts. Must see parts are Naqsh Jahan Square, Shahi Bazaar, Qeysarie Bazaar The bridges on the Zayanderud river comprise some of the finest architecture in Isfahan. The oldest bridge is the shahrestan bridge.

SHIRAZ

It has a moderate climate and has been a regional trade centre for over a thousand years. Shiraz is one of the oldest cities of ancient Persia. It is also considered by many Iranians to be the city of gardens, due to the many gardens and fruit trees that can be seen in the city. Until 1979 even wine. Must do visits Nasir ol Molk Mosque, Shah Cheragh, Baba Kuhi on top of the mountain overlooking Shiraz, The Quran Gate the entrance to Shiraz and Vakil Bazaar. In winter you could even visit the Pooadkaf ski resort.

PERSEPOLIS

Is also known as Takht-e Jamshid Palace and was the Capital of the Achaemenid Empire. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979 and located around 100km North East of Shiraz. The site includes a 125,000 square meter terrace, partly artificially constructed and partly cut out of a mountain. Persepolis dates to 515 before Christ and is a must-see destination.

TABRIZ

Located in the north-west of Iran is surrounded by mountains in the north, south and east and flat lands as well as the Talkherud salt marsh in the west, like a partly big hollow or a plain with fantastic view among the mountains, at the height of 1350 to 1550 m above the sea level in different areas. This city enjoys a highly cold weather in winter and warm and arid in summer. It is a leading centre for Leather production, in addition to being famous for the other arts and handicrafts, for a long time. Tabriz and Maragheh handmade carpets are famous in all around the world due to their specific design and high quality. Carpet weaving was flourished since Safavid Dynasty and has been exported to western countries especially since Qajar Dynasty, which was continued during Pahlavi. It is still one of the major Iranian exporting goods. Tabriz is considered as one of the major and important Carpet weaving cities of the world. Another must see is the Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex the largest enclosed complex in Iran and anywhere around the world. The complex includes different commercial, religious, cultural, health, sports, hygienic and residential functions; the complex including many houses for local and non-local traders is the masterpiece of Iranian architecture.

YADZ                                                                                                                                         located in a vast and arid valley surrounded by Shirkuh and Kharanegh mountain range on the Lut desert Plain. Yazd is one of the most spectacular places because of its water reservoirs, alleys, mills, architectural and historical symbols as one of the most remarkable architectural examples of the hot and arid area in the world. Yazd Goldsmith and jewellery are of the most famous industries in Iran, which is comparable with Italy.

BAM

Located on the Kerman –Zahedan road in a vast plain between Barez and Kabodi mountains range at the height of 1060 km above the sea level. However the main reason to visit Bam is the Arg-e-Bam the largest mud brick complex of the world, is a huge fort, at the heart of which the main Arg. (castle) Bam city and its Arg had been among the most historical military forts constructed along the Silk Road. Mud brick, clay and rarely stone, brick and palm tree trunk are the main materials used in structure of this place. The historic Arg-e-Bam is composed of different architectural sectors as: ditch, fence, various forts and gates, mosque, bazaar, tekyeh, fire temple, inn, school, bath, prison, gym, and aristocratic or public residential area (interconnected public houses), royal domain including soldier’s home, stables, mill, the house of army commander and the ruler house parts including, an edifice for four seasons (a three-story building as royal palace), monitoring tower, and water well (the drinking water of Arg inhabitants was supplied from the wells in the yard of their houses). Unfortunately, this unique complex was seriously damaged during the earthquake in 2003 in which more than 26000 people were killed and destroyed the city and most of the ancient citadel dating back over 2000 years. During our visit in 2014 it was in the process of being restored and reconstructed by workers from many countries.

KERMAN

Surrounded by mountains at 1800 meters it is the second highest city in Iran. Located on the main road to Bandar Abas and Chabahar. For us the most interesting sight was the Yakhdan (Icehouse) this was the house where Ice was kept in the summer

MEYBOD

Numerous tile and ceramic factories have turned this city into the centre of tile and ceramic industry in Iran. Handicrafts especially Meybod carpet and ceramic products export to the other cities of Yazd, all around of Iran and World. The biggest Quail breeding centre in the country with the second place in the Middle East is in Meybod. Maybod is probably the origin of Zilu weaving art, which was used to cover floors of important places, especially mosques. Agriculture is common in this city from the past. People of this city are Muslims and they speak in Farsi with Yazdi dialect.

ZAHEDAN

First town you reach when arriving into Iran from Pakistan. The most significant characteristics of this area are the intense heat, arid and warm climate. This city possesses service structure and it is an academic, cultural, historical and religious city. It is the gateway to Afghanistan and Pakistan. The town is a mix of Shite Muslims and Sunnite Muslims. The town was also the terminus of the Quetta (Pakistan) Railway line but due to security concerns this train was cancelled in 2014.  This is not a tourist town and the city is full of opium smugglers being so close to the Afghanistan border. Another issue is religious tension and kidnappings. It was only weeks ago the Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards lost members in a suicide attack by the Sunni Muslim group Jaish al Adl

CLIMATE:

Iran has many different climates.  ran is a vast country and has different types of climate: mild and quite wet on the coast of the Caspian Sea, continental and arid in the plateau, cold in high mountains, desert and hot on the southern coast and in the southeast.
Iran is an arid country; however, in the west and the north, the rains are a bit more abundant than in the east and the south. The only rainy area is the Caspian Sea coast. Summer is sunny everywhere (except on the shores of the Caspian Sea).

QOM

Summer; 15 degrees at night to 50 degrees during the day

Winter: minus 15 at night to 28 degrees during the day

Rain; January to March however minimal

ISFAHAN

Summer; 20 degrees at night to 44 degrees during the day

Winter: minus 3 at night to 16 degrees during the day

Rain; January to April however minimal

SHIRAZ

Summer; 22 degrees at night to 44 degrees during the day

Winter: minus 2 at night to 16 degrees during the day

Rain; January to April however minimal

TEHRAN

Summer; 20 degrees at night to 45 degrees during the day

Winter: minus 5 at night to 12 degrees during the day

Rain; November to April

BAM

Summer; 22 degrees at night to 49 degrees during the day

Winter: 0 at night to 25 degrees during the day

Rain; very little

ZAHEDAN

Summer; 25 degrees at night to 50 degrees during the day

Winter: 0 at night to 27 degrees during the day

Rain; very little

PART 2 BLOG Pictures and Gallery

Arriving at the Taf Tan border was interesting as the week before 5 border guards were kidnapped and found dead the following day. The custom formalities were simple at Taf Tan and took about half an hour. As we left, Pakistani customs reminded Clary to cover up before entering the Iran gate. We were greeted by “WELCOME TO IRAN”. Customs was organized and fast on the Iranian side and our Army escort was already waiting to take us on perfect roads out of the danger zone. It took less than 3 hours to reach Zahadan. (Iran part of Baluchistan) For us the journey was easy and with a well-organized escort system in both Pakistan and Far South-East Iran for foreigners we never felt unsafe.

SOUTH EAST IRAN

If you tell your average Iranian that you want to go to Zahedan, chances are they will think you need your head examined. Zahedan is normally associated with opium smugglers, kidnapping and religious tensions — not tourism. We had a mandatory army escort from the Pakistan border to Zahedan and were not allowed to leave the compound without an escort. I must admit though, journeying alongside the border with Afghanistan and Pakistan where it appears smuggled gasoline is carried by every second car you meet and the stories of opium smugglers kidnapping foreigners in exchanged for the opium confiscated by police was a bit of a worry. No doubt in my mind that Police, Army and Customs are all involved in this business as it is done very openly and for all to see! The fumes from the cargo are so strong that you know what is on board when utes, trucks and buses pass. Anyway, next morning we had to go to the police station and register our arrival. The process took a while and the police chief appeared to be in no mood to expedite matters. For over an hour, we sat on a bench in his office as crack addicts, bag snatchers, and young reckless drivers were brought in and locked up.

It did not take long (at the first army checkpoint) that I was told to do the same. No shorts but long trousers RIGHT NOW. Most men wore long white robes and round religious caps, many with long beards; most women were wearing the burqa. Zahedan is located near Pakistan and Afghanistan, only about 41 km (25 mi) south of the tripoint of the borders of the three countries. We were told Zahedan is a dangerous and violent city with many bombings. Hence, we left town the next day towards Bam. Iran is a safe place to travel and it is true Iranian people are very friendly and everyone will ask you the question: what do you hear about Iran in your country? (That is those who speak English)

The City of Bam, situated on the Silk Road and long famed for its ancient citadel, became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2004. The region around the city has long been known for its date palms, which are among the most productive in Iran. It is best known as the site of the ancient citadel Arg-e Bam, once one of the world’s largest mud-brick complexes. Located on a hilltop, the citadel consisted of a series of three concentric walls made of mud brick and palm timbers, the outer wall of which enclosed the old city. In 2003 the region around Bam was struck by a massive earthquake that killed more than 26,000 people and devastated the modern city, and the ancient citadel with a history dating back 2000 years ago was largely destroyed.

Our next stop was Yazd also called the Bride of the Desert, an architecturally unique city. It is also known in Iran for the high quality of its handicrafts and Silk weaving. The city has a history of over 3,000 years. Yazd has some of the finest examples of traditional desert Persian residential architecture. Because of its climate, it has one of the largest networks of qanats in the world, and Yazdi qanat makers are considered the most skilled in Iran.

To deal with the extremely hot summers, many old buildings in Yazd have magnificent windcatchers, and large underground areas. The city is also home to prime examples of yakhchals, the latter of which were used to store ice retrieved from glaciers in the nearby mountains.

CENTRAL IRAN

The palace complex at Persepolis was founded by Darius the Great around 518 years B.C, although more than 100 years passed before it was finally completed. The wealth of the Persian empire is/was evident while walking around this magnificent site which lie at the foot of Kouh-e Rahmat, or “Mountain of Mercy,” in the plain of Marv Dasht about 50 kilometres north of Shiraz. Its majestic audience halls and residential palaces perished in flames when Alexander the Great conquered and looted Persepolis in 330 B.C. and, according to Plutarch, carried away its treasures on 20,000 mules and 5,000 camels. From the time of its barbaric destruction until A.D. 1620, when its site was first identified, Persepolis lay buried under its own ruins. At our overnight camp in the carpark of Persepolis we were joined by dozens of camping loving Iranians. The next morning we left for Shiraz, the capital city of the Fars province with lots of Persian culture. It is also being said to be the origin of one of the best wines in the world called Syrah (no longer). People, especially youths who almost all speak English well enough, all want to talk to us. They’re all very welcoming and the amount of invitations to come and visit their home were many. Places we visited were, Saadi Tomb, Hafez Tomb, Arg of Karim Khan. Esfahan is one of the oldest cities of Iran with a  1million population, located 414 km south of Tehran and 481 km north of Shiraz. This 2500 years old city served as Persia’s capital from 1598 to 1722.

The city is known for its silver filigree and metal work and the abundance of great historical monuments. Esfahan is under domination of Arabs, like other cities of Iran. The stunning mosques of Esfahan are among the most beautiful and interesting in the world. Imam Mosque (it was called Shah mosque before Iran’s Revolution) it is an excellent example of Islamic architecture of Iran. The Shah Mosque of Esfahan is one of the everlasting masterpieces of architecture in Iran. It is registered, along with the Naghsh-i Jahan Square, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Royal Palace is forty-eight metres high and there are seven floors, each accessible by a difficult spiral staircase. Esfahan has some beautiful bridges, an example is  The Shahrestan Bridge built in the 11th Century. It is one of the oldest surviving bridges in Iran. Khaju Bridge, built in 1650, is the finest bridge in the province of Esfahan. There is also The Bridge of 33 Arches, built in 1602. We read on the internet that this area operates many nuclear facilities east of Esfahan, notably including Iran’s uranium conversion facility. The site also houses three small research reactors, constructed with Chinese and North Korean assistance. The Esfahan site also houses Iran’s largest missile production facility. Our next stop was the holy city of Qum. Qum is the smallest province in Iran. The province has an area of approximately 12,000 square kilometres. It is bounded by Tehran and Sāweh to the north, Delījān and Kāshān to the south, and the Salt Lake and Tafresh to the east. The province includes one city, four regions, nine rural districts and 256 villages. Since it adjoins the central desert, Qum has a semi-desert climate. During the Islamic Revolution in 1979 CE, the population of Qum had reached about 400,000. After the revolution, the city underwent rapid growth and its current population approaches 1,000,000, many whom are religious students coming from all over the world to study in this great centre of Islamic.

Aside from being a world-renowned centre of Islamic knowledge, Qum is also a commercial city, due to its location at the crossroads that connects northern Iran to its south, and the vast number of pilgrims. Qum consists of over 200 Islamic education and research centres and organisations, catering for over 40,000 scholars and students from over 80 countries of the world. Almost all its women are covered from head to toe. Mullahs walk around in flowing brown robes. The seminaries are packed with earnest young students, steeped in the values of the Islamic Revolution. Locals say there are informers around every corner. We are told the city is home to many of the baseej militiamen who have beaten and killed demonstrators in Tehran.

Unlicensed television satellite dishes have been confiscated. Codes banning unmarried couples from consorting in public are rigorously upheld. The discontent is aired quietly, behind closed doors this is where you detect splits between the generations and those have access to the Western media. It appears to us that Qum has been infiltrated by the same forces of modernisation that have transformed other big cities of Iran. Locals tell us that not that long ago it was illegal to sell even T-shirts. Qum even has its own well-known red-light district, where mullahs can get licences to be married just for a few hours or a day to a pretty woman. (This way it is not prostitution!!!)

TEHRAN to TURKEY BORDER

Tehran traffic has been described by many as very hectic and dangerous. Arriving from Europe this maybe so but arriving from India it appears well organized and with perfect roads so our experience was quite relaxed. Except the many signs NO TRUCKS forcing us into many detours, the metropolis of Tehran enjoys a huge network of nearly 400 kilometres of freeways interchanges, ramps, and loops. Tehran is situated in the north-central part of Iran, on the slope of the Alborz Mountain.

As the national capital it is the most populated city in Iran covering area of 1500 sq. kilometres at an altitude of 1200 meters. Tehran has a population 14 million in the wider metropolitan area, and is the largest city in Western Asia. Tehran has the most modernized infrastructure in the country. The Azadi Tower has been the longstanding symbol of Tehran. It was constructed to commemorate the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire, and was originally named “Shahyad Tower”; after the Iranian revolution, its name changed to “Azadi Tower,” meaning “Freedom Tower.” We are not real big city people plus Europe was calling so we did not spend a lot of time in Tehran. Next was Tabriz located about 600 KM North West of Tehran and is surrounded by Iraq to the west, Turkey to the North West and Azarbaijan to the north. Tabriz is the capital of Azerbaijan province and one of the major trade centres in Iran. Tabriz is the fifth most populous city in Iran after Tehran, Mashhad, Isfahan, and Karaj. With a population of around 3 million,

Tabriz is a major hub for heavy industries including automobile, machine tools, oil and petrochemical and cement production. It was here that we filled up both diesel tanks (6-euro cents a litre or 9 AUD per litre) 35 km before the Turkish border. At Sero our last Iran Rials were spend on more diesel. The border crossing was fast and efficient . Only 40 minutes and it was bye bye Iran after we had our last chai with the Iran border guards.

PART 3, VIDEO CLIPS

(Video Clip Iran is under construction)

COMPILATION VIDEO THAILAND TO EUROPE includes Iran 

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Round the world video compilation