Capital | Tehran
Population | 77,891,220 (July 2011 est.)
Area | 1,648,000 SQ KM
Official Language | Persian
Holidays | Republic Day, 1 April (1979)
Currency | Rial (IRR)
Time Zone | UTC +3.5
Best Time to Visit | March to May or September to November
Connecting with the Culture | Sipping tea at sunset in Emam Khomeini Square, Esfahan, watching the shifting colours of mosques. Trying to imagine what Persepolis was like during the time of Darius the Great. Getting lost in the twisting lanes of Yazd, feeling like you’ve stumbled onto a Star Wars set. Goggling at the fantastical exhibits of Tehran’s National Jewel Museum, which have inspired war. Paying your respects to the dead poets of Shiraz by visiting their mausoleums.
Read | Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith by Gina Nahai—magic realism set amongst the Jewish community of Tehran; Persian Pilgrimages by Afshin Molavi, an expat Iranian journalist who explores both history and current issues, by speaking to locals.
Listen | to Night Silence Desert by Kayhab Kalhor and Mohammad Reza Shajarian, a modern-day fusion of Iranian classical and folk music forms.
Watch | The Circle, Jafar Panahi’s story of women who have fallen outside the law.
Eat | ābgúsht, a delicious meat soup stew, or gaz—nougat Esfahan style.
Drink | chāy—tea, taken in conjunction with a puff on the hookah pipe. Dúgh is a popular cold drink made from yoghurt or sour milk and sparkling or still water.
In a Word | Masha’allah (God has willed it)
Characteristics | Chadors, tiled mosques, mullahs, covered bazaars, Persian carpets, controlled borders; Paykan cars (paykan means ‘arrow’).
Surprises | the skiing season lasts through May; women can pursue higher education; Iran is emphatically not Arabic.
NEWS ABOUT IRAN:
Iran-UAE spar over Abu Musa island
(HN, 4/30/12) - Arab foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council which include the nations UAE with Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar & Saudi Arabia will hold a special meeting in the Qatari capital of Doha on Tuesday to discuss an ancient dispute over the Abu Musa islands between Iran & the UAE. The meeting comes after Abu Dhabi recalled its ambassador to Tehran & lodged a protest with the UN in protest after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made a visit to the territory which both countries lay claim to, along with 2 other islands Lesser Tunb & Greater Tunb in the southern Gulf. Tehran insisted historical documents proved "the Persian Gulf is Persian," & said the visit was a purely "domestic issue."
Abu Musa is a 12-km island in the eastern Persian Gulf, part of a 6-island archipelago near the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz. Administered by Iran as part of the Iranian province of Hormozgan, it is also claimed by the UAE. As of 2010 the island had some 2,038 inhabitants. After British occupation, in 1971, UAE & Iran agreed to give sovereignty to the former but allowed the latter to station troops on the island. Abu Musa, the only inhabited island of the 3 was placed under joint administration in de-occupation deal called Sharjah, now administered as part of the UAE. Abu Dhabi says the Iranians have since taken control of the entire island which controls access to the oil-rich Gulf & have installed an airport & military base on Abu Musa. (Read more at GulfNews)
Iraq and Iran Make Friends
(HN, 4/23/12) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that if Iran & Iraq stay “powerful & esteemed” there will be no place for enemies of the world’s nations. He made the remarks in a meeting with Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki in Tehran on Sunday. He called Tehran-Baghdad ties "exemplary" & said that there is no obstacle in the path of "consolidating relations between the 2 countries at regional & international levels". The 2 leaders emphasized the need to accelerate previous agreements between them & said that Iran & Iraq should take measures necessary to promote cooperation based on principles of peace, stability & common interests saying the Tehran-Baghdad political relationship is "close" but they should cement ties in "all areas". Al-Maliki's Shiite-dominated government has received support from Iran, a regional Shiite powerhouse. Iraq will host the next round of nuclear talks between Iran & the 6 world powers in Baghdad May 23. (Read more at Al-Arabiya)
Iran Holds Parliamentary Elections
(UPDATE: 3/5/12) - Khamenei loyalists sweep Iran elections. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has tightened his grip on Iran's faction-ridden politics after loyalists won more than 75% of seats in parliamentary elections at the expense of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a near-complete count showed. The widespread defeat of Ahmadinejad supporters - including his sister, Parvin Ahmadinejad - is expected to reduce the president to a lame duck after he sowed divisions by challenging the utmost authority of Khamenei in the governing hierarchy. With 90% of ballot boxes counted, Khamenei acolytes were expected to occupy more than three-quarters of the 290 seats in the majlis (parliament), according to a list published by the interior ministry yesterday. (Read More at GulfNews)
Iranians began voting Friday in a parliamentary election pitting the power of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's Supreme Council over rival hardliners led by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The 2 main groups competing for parliament's 290 seats are the United Front of Principalists, which includes Khamenei loyalists, & the Resistance Front that backs Ahmadinejad. Iranian leaders called for voters to turn out in large numbers after Ahmadinejad's re-election in 2009 when widespread accusations of fraud brought thousands of activists to Tehran's streets; plunging the Islamic Republic into the worst rioting of its history.