Nestled between the Caspian Sea and Indian Ocean, Iran is one of a kind. Located in western Asia, Iran and its neighbours: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Oman and Iraq are just a few of the countries within the Middle East. With its rugged mountainous ranges of the west, Shomal rainforests of the north and searing desert basins of the east, the Islamic Republic of Iran is a lot more than meets the eye. With a wealth of both naturally formed spectacle and ancient spiritual sites, it’s easy to see why Iran has been labelled 2014’s surprise tourism hotspot.
The second largest nation in the Middle East, Iran’s five regions are home to 77 million residents. Possessing one of the oldest civilisations, modern Iranian culture has been developed from centuries of tradition, conquest, infiltration and trade. Persian traditions are alive within the artistry and architecture of Iran, with examples everywhere of a time when Persia was an impressive empire.
The Islamic revolution in 1979 and political relations with the west were key factors in Iran, with complex visa requirements influencing their commerce in tourism. However, when Hassan Rouhani was sworn in as President last august, the Iranian people saw a change to their home nation. Rounhani’s work on providing a gentler, more positive image of Iran and easing visa requirements is being considered the main cause for Iran’s growth in tourism and trade. For the spring of 2014 tourism has risen by 215%. People have their curiosity peaked, it seems they want to see for themselves what Iran has to offer.
Several miles north east of the city of Shiraz in the Fars province, lies the ruins of Persepolis. A ceremonial site from 515 BC that translates as ‘city of Persians’. Colossal grey marble pillars remain from a city forged for an ancient and unrelenting people. The city of Isfahan in Isfahan province is home to the Naqsh-e Jahan square. Also known as Imam square, it has become one of many UNESCO protected sites for its historical value as being part of a former formidable Persian capital.
With Zoroastrianism being the first monotheistic religion in the world, it has become the oldest Iranian faith even if there is now a new prominent belief. The majority of Iran falls under the Twelver Shia branch of Islamic religion. As such, Mosques are in abundance throughout the country and hold a complex beauty. The Nasir al-Mulk or pink mosque in Shiraz has become renowned for its beautifully adorned glass windows and pink tiles. The Imam mosque located in the heart of Isfahan city, is a celebrated and protected example of Islamic architecture. Both gather worshippers and visitors alike for their heritage and artistic skill.
Iran’s culture is most visible within its people. Their flair and craftsmenship holds a heritage that dates back to the Bronze Age. Carpet-weaving being a prominent example of ancient Persian culture, with Iran currently being the largest exporter and producer of handmade carpets. The Bazaar of Tabriz within the Tabriz province is the largest covered bazaar in the world. A market place of culture, trade and political importance it is a clear demonstration of traditional Iranian civilisation.
Iran hosts beautiful architecture, rich spiritual history and a generous and welcoming people. With the addition of the UK announcement last month that the British embassy is to reopen within Tehran, the Iranian horizon is looking bright with the prospect of future commerce and tourism. Iran has proven one thing; that new adventures can be found in the most unlikely of places.
What sights has Iran’s tourism transformation interest you to discover?