Population and Ethnic Groups
According to the latest census in 1996, the population of Iran was estimated to be a little more than 60 millions of which about 37 million were urban dwellers, 23 million villagers and a small percentage nomad tribes. The most populated cities are Tehran, Mashhad, Esfahan, Tabriz, Shiraz, Qom, Ahwaz, Rasht, Orumieh, and Kermanshah.
A View of Tehran
More than half the population of the country is active. Total employed population of the country is reported at about 14.5 million, and about 39.5% of the total population are below 14 years of age. Thus, the population of Iran is one of the youngest in the world. From an employment point of view, the age distribution of the employed population, 10 years of age and above, in different economic sectors is 23.04% in agriculture, 44.5% in services, and 30.7% in industry.
Out of the total population of the country, 6 years of age and above, 79.51% are literate. The rate of literacy in urban areas is 96.88%, and in rural areas is 91.37%. This ratio is 84.66% for men and 74.21% for women with a greater difference between sexes in rural areas. In urban areas this ratio is 89.56% and 81.7% and in rural areas is 76.74% and 62.41% for men and women, respectively.
In general, tourists are very interested in seeing the decampment of nomad tribes. The main reason for that is the fact that these nomad tribes have well safeguarded their old traditions and culture. The present life style of nomads in Iran is not so different from that of our predecessors. Therefore, visiting the nomad tribes and
recognition of their life style, specially decampment between winter and summer settlements is very interesting and will help them to get acquainted with the life and culture of ancient Iranians.
Qezelbash Girls, West Azarbayjan
Iran is situated on the way of Central and the East Asia to western countries. As a result different ethnic groups live in Iran. Among them are Farsis, Kurds, Lors, Baluchis, Bakhtiyaris, Azari Turks, Taleshs, Turkamans, Qashqais, and Arabs. Other smaller ethnic groups who live in Iran are Turkaman,
who live in Turkaman Sahra and north of Khorassan. They are different from other Iranian ethnic groups in appearance, language, and culture. Qashqais are of Turkish origin and live in the central part of Iran. Arab clans, on the other hand, mostly live in Khuzestan and are scattered along the coastline of the Persian Gulf. Today, the geographic distribution and composition of ethnic groups is more or less mixed due to development and interaction between different ethnic groups.
Lezgi, Traditional Dance of Azarbayjan
Some groups of colored people scattered in the southern provinces of Iran are the descendants of slave trade with Zanzibar in the past. The existing Indian minority in the south of Iran are also descendants of Indian merchants of the past.
Language, Handwriting, Calendar and Flag
According to the Constitution of the I.R.Iran, the common official language and handwriting (alphabet) is Farsi (Persian) language. The starting point for official Iranian calendar is the flight of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) in 622 AD which marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar. The first of Farvardin (March 21st) is the beginning of the New Year in Iran according to the solar calendar. Iranian official flag is green, white, and red with the sign of I.R.Iran and also with 22 Allah-o-Akbar (God is Great) in its margins. More than half of the people in Iran speak Farsi (Persian) language and various Persian dialects.
The Persian language has its own eloquence and versatility. Consequently, some of the most outstanding literature in oriental countries, specially in the realm of Iranian culture, from Transoxiana to Asia Minor, has been written in Farsi. The rich Iranian culture and the Persian language impressed many tribes of Central Asia, in spite of their domination over geographical realm of Iran, for a short time.
The official Iranian calendar solar. The Iranian New Year begins 1st of Farvardin which coincides with the 21st of March. The lunar calendar is also formally used in Iran. Each lunar year is 10 days less than the solar year. Religious events and ceremonies are calculated according to the lunar calendar, which varies each year. It is recommended that tourists regulate their travel time in order to prevent coincidence of their travel with the fasting month of Ramadan or the mourning month of Moharram. During these months religious ceremonies and rituals influence normal daily activities, with extra holidays.
Every region of Iran has its own architectural style, usually in harmony with the natural environment of that region. The architecture and style of houses in different parts of Iran are briefly pointed out below:
• In the coastal regions of the Caspian Sea (Gilan and Mazandaran provinces), traditional wooden houses are built on wooden pillars with roofs made of straw or earthenware.
A View of Masooleh Houses, Fuman
• In the peripheries of the great Iranian desert (Kavir), the most distinct kinds of houses have dome-shaped roofs, which are traditionally built according to the geographical and climatic conditions of these regions in order to minimize heat
The Old Texture of Yazd
• In Azarbayjan, which is more or less mountainous, the foundations of houses are built of mud and stone with flat roofs.
Borujerdiha House, Kashan
• In higher altitudes of the Alborz Mountains most houses are made of wooden structures with mud walls and flat roofs. Recently, houses with bricks and iron beams have been built in this region
• In Sistan & Baluchistan Province, houses are quadrangular with dome-shaped roofs. Sometimes there is a simple reticular structure on the roofs for the purpose of ventilation.
These diverse and valuable styles of architecture, which are represented in the construction of houses and buildings in different parts of the country, attract many foreign tourists fascinated by them. Also, domestic tourists get acquaintance with the extent, greatness, and cultural wealth of their homeland.
As it was mentioned before, ethnic and cultural diversity can be observed all around Iran. Qashqais in Fars; Lurs in Esfahan, Ahwaz, Khoram Abad and Shahr-e-Kord; Kurds in Khorassan, Kurdestan and Kermanshah; Qezelbashs in Orumieh; Shahsavans in Ardebil; Taleshis and Gils in Gilan; Turkamans in Golestan and Baluchs in Baluchestan are samples of distribution of Iranian tribes. Each of these tribes have their own colorful clothing with diversity of design. The variety of colors in the clothing of tribal people has been defined as "Festival of Colors". It is a great chance for a tourist to be able to take part in a tribal wedding ceremonies. Moreover, visiting tribal residence areas, summer and winter quarters, is also memorable. Purchasing of tribal clothing as souvenir is recommended.
Traditional and National Food
The Iranian "sofreh" (cloth which is spread on the floor, on which food is served) is a colorful one, and the gastronomic culture of this country is very rich. This richness is due to the diversity of natural products and cultures. In different areas of the country, based on existing possibilities, various types of local foods are cooked. But there are some dishes which are common to all around the country, so they are considered as traditional and national foods. The most famous one of this kind are: "Chelokabab" (steamed rice with grilled lamb or beef) ; "Abgoosht" (a soup of lamb, cereals, spices, and potatoes); "Khoresht" (a kind of sauce which is commonly cooked with different ingredients and served with rice); "Fesenjan" (poultry, specially goose or duck, ground walnut, pomegranate syrup, sugar and spice); and "Dolmeh" (a mixture of meat, vegetables and other materials wrapped in the fresh leaves of grapevine).
In northern and western regions of Iran, several kinds of local foods are cooked with wild plants or vegetables and cereals, served with or without meat and are very tasty. Caviar of Iran, which is obtained from sturgeon fish in the Caspian Sea, has a worldwide reputation and is tonic. Different kinds of food are cooked in northern and southern parts of Iran with fish. The shrimp of the Persian Gulf is amongst the best in the world and due to its quality, varieties of foods are cooked with it.
Caviar, Caspian Sea
Bread baking in Iran is done in different ways. Basically, Iranian breads are thin baked in the hearth, so they are very soft. In Iran bread is commonly purchased fresh out of the hearth. Different kinds of Iranian breads are "Sangak", "Lavash", "Tafton", and "Barbary". One of the common traditional Iranian beverages is "Doogh" (yogurt drink), which is used with fragrant vegetables in all parts of Iran, especially in the summer.