Map of Iran
Map of Iran

Introduction to Iran

Iran (Persian: ايران) is a Middle Eastern country located in Southwest Asia. It borders Armenia, Azerbaijan (including its Nakhichevan exclave), and Turkmenistan to the north, Pakistan and Afghanistan to the east, and Turkey and Iraq to the west. In addition, it shares the Persian Gulf waters with Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

From 600 BC until 1935, the country was referred to in the West as Persia. On March 21, 1935, Reza Shah Pahlavi issued a decree asking foreign delegates to use the native term Iran in formal correspondence. A dispute exists about the country's current official name. After Persian scholars' protested, Mohammad Reza Shah in 1959 announced both "Persia" and "Iran" could be used interchangeably. In 1979, the Iranian Revolution eventually led by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini established a theocratic Islamic Republic. Iran retained its name and its political title was changed to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Iran borders Azerbaijan (length of border: 432 km / 268 mi ) and Armenia (35 km / 22mi) to the northwest, the Caspian Sea to the north, Turkmenistan (992 km / 616 mi) to the northeast, Pakistan (909 km / 565 mi) and Afghanistan (936 km / 582 mi) to the east, Turkey (499 km / 310 mi) and Iraq (1,458 km / 906 mi) to the west, and finally the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman to the south. Iran's total land mass is 1,648,000 km˛ / ≈636,300 mi˛ (Land: 1,636,000 km˛ / ≈631,663 mi˛, Water: 12,000 km˛ / ≈4,633 mi˛).

Iran's landscape is dominated by rugged mountain ranges that separate various basins or plateaus from one another. The populous western part is the most mountainous, with ranges such as the Zagros and Alborz Mountains, the latter of which also contains Iran's highest point, the Damavand at 5,671 m (18,606 ft). The eastern half consists mostly of uninhabited desert basins with the occasional salt lake.
Flag of Iran
Flag of Iran

Cultural notes about Iran

Like all ancient civilizations, culture constitutes the focal point and heart of Iranian civilization. The art, music, architecture, poetry, philosophy, traditions, and ideology of Iran have made it a continuously important nation in the global community. In fact, many Iranians believe their culture to be the one and only reason why their civilization has continuously survived thousands of years of plethoric calamities.

Another major topic in the culture of Iran is Persian literature. The Persian language being used for over 2500 years has left distinct marks in the history of the written word. With world famous poets, such as Hafez and Ferdowsi, Iranian poetry has received world wide attention in regards to the beatiful poems and songs written by Iranians.

Official Canadian government advisories for travelling to, in and around Iran

You are advised against all travel to the regions bordering Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. If you are contemplating travel to regions near the Afghan border, contact the Embassy of Canada in Tehran (see below) for the latest security information. Access to Mashad, the closest major city to the Turkmen border does not pose a problem. However, you are reminded against all travel to Iraq under any circumstances. There have been a number of kidnappings involving foreign tourists in Sistan-Baluchistan province in southeastern Iran. You are advised against all travel to this area.

The security situation in Iran remains stable, although civil disobedience appears to be on the rise. Personal safety risks have not increased. Travel is safe in most areas.

Violent crime has increased but it is not necessarily targeted at Westerners. Travelers have occasionally been victims of petty theft. Avoid displays of affluence and ensure personal belongings, passports, and other travel documents are secure at all times. Travelers should watch for fraudulent plainclothes police officers who may ask to see foreign currency and passports. If approached, politely decline to cooperate, but offer to go to the nearest police station. Foreigners have been abducted in the vicinity of Bam and in the Sistan-Baluchistan region.

Physical and verbal harassment of women can be a problem.
Country Data
Population 69,018,924
Capital City Tehran (Tehran)
Major Cities(s) Tehran, Mashhad, Esfahan, Tabriz, Shiraz, Ahvaz, Qom, Bakhtaran, Karaj, Zahedan
Major Religion(s) Shi'a Muslim 89%, Sunni Muslim 9%, Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, and Baha'i 2%
Language Persian (58%), Turkic (26%), Kurdish (9%), Luri (2%), Turkish (1%), Balochi (1%), Arabic (1%)
Physical Size 1,648,000 km²
Land Area 1,636,000 km²
Water Area 12,000 km²