You can find out a lot about a country by watching the news, but this will only tell you so much about a nation. If you want to find out more about a country and its people, you need to get to grips with its best-known traits and traditions. Iran is often shown on the news, but how much do you really know about the country? Well, let’s start with the very basics before we delve into the more fun stuff. Iran used to be more often referred to as Persia and is a country in Western Asia. The country is famous for being the largest exporter of caviar globally and producing 90% of the world’s saffron. Iran is one of the oldest countries in the world, and even today, a man can have up to four wives at any one time! And that’s not all that’s fascinating, read on to find out more…
Bigamy isn’t Illegal Here
The Islamic Revolution has certainly had a big impact on life in Iran. One thing that has had a big impact on the country is marriage and marriage laws. Men are allowed to have more than one wife under Islamic Law. This means that unlike in many parts of the world, bigamy is not illegal here.
Since Sharia law was introduced into Iran, men can have up to four wives at any one time. Polygamy, which specifically allows men to marry multiple women, is legal in Iran. Although being legally able to marry more than one person is not common in the western world, it is legal in a total of 58 countries!
Iran Has its Own Exclusive Internet
Did you know that not all of the internet is the same worldwide? What we mean is that not all countries in the world use the same universal internet that is used by the majority of countries worldwide. Iran has its own internet.
For security reasons, some countries choose to have their own exclusive internet, and Iran is one of those countries. Since 2012, Iran has had its state-controlled intranet, which the majority of the country uses. This restricts the use of social media sites. So if users do want to access Facebook or Twitter, they will have to do so through a private VPN.
Reality TV Shows are Popular Here Too
Reality TV shows are popular all over the world, and Iran is no different. Reality TV is popular in Iran, too and they even have their own popular show that is enjoyed by the masses. It is called The Rich Kids of Tehran.
Complete with their luxury lifestyles, fancy jewelry, nice cars, and enviable lives, the show’s stars appeared to have got the nation gripped. The reality TV stars do not live a conventional Iranian lifestyle and go against everything traditional to Iran. Perhaps that’s what makes the show so popular?! Either way, as of December 2020, the show has over 340 000 followers.
Iran Produced the Largest Carpet on the Planet
Asia and the Middle East are famous for their carpets. So it might come as no surprise that carpet manufacturing is widespead in Iran too. What you probably didn’t know, however, was that the world’s largest carpet in the world was made in Iran.
Back in 2007, the Iran Carpet Company was responsible for creating a carpet, measuring an astonishing 60, 000.81 square feet in total! The carpet was originally built into nine separate parts before being assembled at the Abu Dhabi mosque. The carpet was so big that some parts eventually had to be cut in order to fit the floor of the mosque.
Nose Job Capital of the World
You might be surprised to learn that Iran is the nose job capital of the world. Usually, cosmetic surgery is a “luxury” that only the rich can afford, yet in Iran, nose jobs are very popular. More people in Iran have work on their noses than anywhere else in the world!
It’s not clear why so many people choose to have nose jobs in Iran. It is believed that it’s due to rebellion and in order to enhance personal appearance. Despite the fact that most Iranian women have to cover their faces in public, altering their nose’s shape is seen as an acceptable form of personal expression.
The Short-term Marriage Option
Would you ever be tempted by a short-term marriage? Despite the fact that a high percentage of marriages do eventually result in divorce, the idea of getting married is about making a lifelong commitment. However, if you’re unsure and would like to test the waters first, then this option could be for you.
Some Shia Muslim schools in Iran allow couples to enter into a short-term practice marriage in order to test out matrimony before committing themselves for life. This practice is known as Sigheh and can last anywhere between a couple of hours up to a few years.
It’s Common to Hide Your TV Satellite
How do you hide a TV satellite, and why on earth would you have to do such a thing?! Well, ever since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has had its own internet, as well as its own exclusive TV programming too. Subsequently, TV satellites were outlawed in Iran by the 1990s.
Although it is actually now illegal to own a TV satellite in your household across Iran, many families still have them. When satellites were outlawed, many people secretly kept theirs but made sure they hid them from the authorities. Authorities tried to clamp down on BBC Persian’s popularity, but it still remained a highly watched channel among Iranian nationals.
Taking Selfies is a Serious Matter
We all love a good selfie, and standards have certainly risen since these mobile self-portraits first came about. Since Instagram and selfies were first founded, we’ve all gradually become more eager to capture the best photos for the ‘gram, and the nationals of Iran are no different.
The Iranians take selfies very seriously. They love to make sure that they look good in their photos and enjoy keeping up with posting uploading selfies to their Instagram grids too. Iran has some well-known photo hotspots that have served as popular selfie spots, such as the Shah-En-Shah monument.
Iran is a Very Mountainous Country
If you don’t know an awful lot about Iran and have never visited the country, it can be difficult to know what to expect. Generally, most people know that Iran is a very mountainous country, but few people know its highest point or the fact that it is home to a volcano!
The highest point of Iran is Mount Damavand, which is situated in the Elburz Mountains. Its highest peak is 18 605 feet tall. Mount Damavand is far higher than any other mountain in the area, and it is also home to a volcano, which is located just 43 miles away from the capital city!
Use Your Right Hand Please!
Each country around the world has its own customs regarding which hand should be used for which activities. For example, in most countries, it is traditional to shake hands with the right hand only, whereas it is acceptable to use either hand for other things.
In Iran, they have a pretty strict rule on using the right hand and the right hand only! According to Iranian customs, you should use your right hand for almost everything – from waving to eating. The left hand can be used for removing dirt and cleaning.
Iran Has the Highest Population of Young People in the World
It’s interesting to see how population sizes and ages differ around the world. Some countries have higher populations of a certain age group, whereas others have higher numbers of a different generation. This is why some countries have what is called an aging population.
Iran has the highest population of young people in the world. The reason being is that after the Islamic Revolution, Iranian families started to have more children. Not only was there a baby boom, but families started also having more children.
Home to the Persian Cat
Persian cats are one of the most wanted cat breeds in the world. As the name suggests, the Persian kitty originated from Iran, also known as Persia. The Persian longhair and the Shiraz are two cat breeds that originate from Iran.
These cat breeds are well known for their fluffy coats and round faces. They developed such thick, woolly coats so that they could survive when living wild in the Iranian mountains. During the 17th century, Italian travelers brought the cat to Europe, and it quickly became a popular exotic cat breed.
And It Has the World’s Most Polluted City
Unfortunately, a lot of cities in the world get criticized for being overly polluted, and Iran often gets scrutinized for its dirty, polluted air. In fact, certain areas of Iran are so bad that it has been reported that the country is home to the most polluted city on the planet!
Ahvaz was listed as the most polluted city in the world by the World Health Organization in 2011. The air conditions in the city are so bad that many people living in Ahvaz often contract diseases due to the pollution in the air. The toxic fumes are known to cause illnesses among people and have even killed off many different plants here.
Iran is Home to the Asiatic Cheetah
Of course, one of the main attractions of Asia is its abundance of wildlife. Iran is no different from many other Asian countries in this respect because it also plays home to some fascinating species, including the Asiatic cheetah.
Unfortunately, the Asiatic cheetah is seriously endangered, partly due to a lack of vegetation and available water in the regions where they reside. The government stepped in, and are now protected. The Asiatic cheetah population has plummeted so much that in 2017 it was reported that there only 50 left.
The Founder of eBay is Iranian
Usually, the founders of famous social media platforms and other websites in the online world are created by Americans. But did you know that the founder of eBay was actually of Iranian origin? His name is Pierre Omidyar, and he was born in Paris to Iranian parents.
Later on, Pierre moved with his family to America and is now an official citizen of the USA. While he is officially an American, he is Iranian through his parents’ heritage. And Pierre Omidyar isn’t the only noteworthy entrepreneur with Iranian roots; there is also Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi and Google’s former SVP – Omid Kordestani.
Iran Produces over Half of the World’s Pistachios
We tend to think that pistachios originate from Turkey due to the fact that they are a popular ingredient in both savory dishes and desserts. However, these green colored nuts are huge in Iran too, as the country produces over half of the world’s pistachios!
Although pistachios are not exclusive to Iran, the nut tree does originate from a couple of Central Asian countries, including Iran and Afghanistan. It is believed that people have been eating pistachios since as far back as 6750 BC.
The Difficult Relationship with the Hijab
You might be used to seeing women in central Asia wearing the hijab to cover up their heads. The hijab is worn by those who follow the Muslim religion, which is the dominant religion in Iran. Women who follow Islam are expected to wear a head covering when out in public.
Yet, the hijab hasn’t always been compulsory in Iran. Iran has had a complicated history with the hijab. In 1936, Reza Shah banned the hijaab in an attempt to westernize Iran. However, later on, after the Revolution, it was once again made compulsory.
Persian Milk is Not Actually Milk
Admittedly, if you are from Iran or have lived in the country for some time, you are unlikely to mistake Persian milk for the milk that most of us recognize in the western world. Yet, just to warn you, if you ever visit Iran, don’t pick up a carton of Persian milk to add to your coffee!
Although it has the word “milk” in its name, Persian milk isn’t actually milk. It’s more of a runny yogurt drink with a slightly sour taste to it. The Iranians swear by it and they use it for everything from drinking it for its many suggested health benefits, to even using it to cleanse their faces!
It’s a Crime to Play Metal Music
Not everyone enjoys listening to metal music, but no matter whether you love it or loathe it, in most countries, you do have the right to listen to heavy metal as and when you choose. In Iran, this is not the case. It’s actually a crime to play metal music here.
It’s not that heavy metal bands are unpopular among the native Iranian people. Many Iranians do actually enjoy listening to metal bands. However, the Iranian authorities consider this type of music to be disrespectable, and therefore they banned it within Iran.
Couch Surfing is Also Illegal
Couch surfing has become incredibly popular all over the world. It is a cheap and convenient way to travel and get to grips with other cultures. It’s also a fantastic way to network with people too. But couch surfing is actually illegal in Iran.
Surprisingly, despite the fact that couch surfing is illegal in Iran, it is practiced here more than anywhere else in the world. Visitors to the country are keen to crash on the locals’ couches in order to experience real-life Iran, and many Iranian families are more than happy to host guests.
Abundant in Royal Jewels
Not every country has its own royal family, and we can perhaps all agree that the British monarchy is perhaps the most famous of all royals in the world. When we think of royals having fine jewels, we tend to think of Queen Elizabeth II and all of her stunning tiaras and jewels. However, the British monarchy are not the only royals to be rich in jewelry.
Iran is home to The Treasury of National Jewels, which is a museum that opened up in 1992. On display in the museum are many of the Iranian national jewels that once belonged to the Persian royal family. The Financial Tribune famously commented on the estimated worth of the jewelry collection, stating that “putting a price on the collection would be impossible.”
Shia is one of the two main branches or, denominations of Islam. Most Muslims in neighboring countries refer to themselves as Sunni Muslims, the main difference between the two branches came about after a difference of idea about who should have been Mohammed’s successor occurred.
Only about 10% -13% of all Muslims are Shia, and many of those, call Iran home. However, both groups still have certain beliefs in common, despite many other differences between the two, and clashes between the two sides have escalated in recent times.
The Deadliest Blizzard in History
Iran holds many impressive records, but some of their records are not so positive. In 1972, Iran suffered a particularly lethal blizzard. Deadly storms swept the country throughout the duration of a week! It was one of the worst blizzards recorded in history.
Eventually, the storm passed, but the country was covered in snow. Some cities, such as Ardakan, were the worst hit by the storm. Iran did recover pretty quickly after this deadly blizzard hit; however, a total of 4 000 people sadly lost their lives due to the natural disaster.
Numerous Biblical Figures Were Buried in Iran
If you’re familiar with any of the stories in the Bible or know anything about the Christian faith, you will know that a lot of the Biblical stories take place in the Middle East. When these Biblical figures passed away, many of them were buried in what is now known as modern-day Iran.
You can still visit these places today. These Biblical burial sites are popular places of interest among Iranian nationals and international tourists. Some of the Biblical figures believed to have been buried here include: Daniel, Cyrus the Great, Esther, Darius the Great, and St. Thaddaeus.
In terms of the arts, Asia is probably most famous for its Bollywood films, but in addition to this, Iran is also famous for its poetry. In fact, Iranian poets have inspired many well-known international writers over the year, since as far back as 2 500 years ago.
The work of Iranian writers and poets has inspired many of the most notable thinkers, historians, and writers in history, including Friedrich Nietzsche and William Shakespeare. Yes, the great William Shakespeare is said to have been inspired by Iranian literature!
The Toilet is Wait,… Where?
If you’ve never seen a bathroom like this before, then let us inform you that the hole in the ground is actually the toilet. This probably isn’t the type of toilet you’re used to, especially if you live in the western world. However, these kinds of toilets are common across Africa and Asia.
It can actually be very amusing to hear the stories of tourists trying to figure out how these toilets work! Basically, you have to squat over the hole in the floor while standing, rather than sitting on a toilet seat. Before you get used to using them, we’d advise that you have plenty of toilet paper on hand.
The Non-Men Dilemma
While social media and certain TV shows and movies can make you feel under pressure to settle down and marry young, it is nothing compared to Iran. There is huge pressure on young Iranian people to marry young for both men and women.
The pressure to marry young is so bad that if you’re still not married by the time you’re 30 years old, people class you as strange. What’s even worse is that if you’re a man who is still living at home with his parents by the time he is 30, he is nicknamed a “na-mard” – which means “non-man!”
Iran’s First Olympian
In case you were wondering, Iran has enjoyed many successes and triumphs in the Olympic games over the years. Although the country has much to celebrate, it can be agreed that their best year so far had to be back in 1948.
The year 1948 was a winning year for Iran. It was the first year that the country had participated in the Olympic competitions and the first year that one of their competing nationals won a medal for his country. Jafar Salmasi won a Bronze medal in the featherweight division of the weightlifting competition.
One of the Oldest Countries in the World
Iran is a country with a long, long history. In fact, the country is one of the oldest settlements in the world. Although it is uncertain how old Iran actually is, it has been reported that there have been consistent residents living here since as far back as 7000BC.
At one time, Iran was also far greater in size than it is now. The borders of Iran used to span across Egypt, Anatolia, and Bosphorus. Throughout its existence, Iran has played home to the Kassites, the Gutians, and the Mannaeans.
Saffron Goes in Pretty Much Everything
Saffron is usually very expensive, and therefore most professional chefs and people cooking at home tend to use it sparingly. Iran produces its own saffron, and this crimson herb is very popular here. Many herbs and spices are associated with certain countries, and saffron is the spice best associated with Iran.
Over 90% of the world’s saffron is produced in Central Asia, with Iran producing a high proportion of this percentage. It has been said that saffron originates from Iran, but some people debate this, despite it being highly likely. The Iranians put saffron on almost everything. They even put it on their famous ice-cream dish – Bastani Sonnati, which is full of saffron!
A UNESCO Site Paradise
Iran has a long and wealthy diverse history that dates back thousands of years. On top of all of the history and many places of interest, Iran is also a UNESCO site paradise. It is home to over 23 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, so it’s the perfect destination for anybody who loves history!
Some of the famous sites to look out for include the ancient city of Persepolis, which Darius the Great built during the 5th century BC. There is also the Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System, among many others. There is so much to see and explore.
The Highest Population of Refugees
When we think about which country in the world has the highest population of refugees, we’d have to guess that it would be a western country, as we tend to hear about these places taking in high numbers of refugees.
However, it might actually come as a surprise to learn that Iran has the highest number of refugees in the world. The reason for this is quite simple. Because most of the major wars that have taken place in recent years have happened in countries close to Iran, over 1 million refugees have taken up home in their neighboring country – Iran!
They Love Caviar Here
In 2009, Iran was featured in the Guinness World Records for being the largest caviar producer in the world. Caviar is not exclusively from or made in Iran; however, the delicacy is definitely a big deal here. Iran is big on producing many luxury foods, as well as caviar.
Iran’s associations with producing and enjoying this world-renowned delicacy may have come as a bit of a surprise. You might also be interested in knowing that the word “caviar” actually originates from Persian and means “egg-bearing.” Iranian caviar is collected from sturgeons close to the Bandar-e Anzali.
The Highest Ratio of Female Students
Life in Iran hasn’t always been easy for women over the years. That said, women are excelling more than men in one area, particularly education. Iran has the highest ratio of female students enrolling in a university in the world!
Iran appeared in the Guinness World Records in 2005 as the country with a higher ratio of women to men enrolling in both schools and universities. The statistics are noticeable, with an average ratio of 1.22 females to males applying for schools and universities in order to further their education.
Ties are Not Allowed
There are very few places in the world that have outlawed men’s ties. In fact, usually, it is required that men do wear ties, especially in formal or business environments. It is deemed a mark of respect and shows a willingness to follow dressing etiquette.
However, after the Islamic Revolution, the Iranians decided to ditch their ties in order to differentiate themselves from the western world. Although wearing a tie is not technically illegal, shop owners can be fined for stocking ties in their stores in some parts of Iran. Interestingly, on Iranian TV programs, it is only the villains who wear ties!
If you plan on visiting Iran, then you will need to get up to speed with Taarof. Taarof symbolizes traditional Iranian customs and etiquette. What might be acceptable in your country might not be deemed polite or appropriate according to Iranian social behavior.
Some of the Taarof customs include: apologizing when a guest to your home presents you with a gift, as well as helping your host set the table before dinner and with cleaning up afterwards. And if you’re offered seconds at dinner, you may only accept if your host offers you second helpings three times! Don’t accept before then!
Iranians love their football, and it is a sport they take very seriously. Their love of football might have something to do with the fact that one of their own national football players is one of the highest goal scorers in the world!
Retired striker, Ali Daei, holds the record for being one of the highest gold scorers for a national team. He was the highest goal scorer in the world until Christiano Ronaldo overtook him. Ali Daei scored a total of 109 goals in a total of 149 games.
They’re Obsessed with Alcohol-Free Beer
It’s a well-known fact that the Muslim religion does not permit its followers to drink alcohol. That said, it appears that many Iranian nationals do happen to enjoy the taste of beer. So instead, they choose to make the most of alcohol-free beer.
Iranians love alcohol-free beer, which is why you will find a range of 0% beers available in shops and restaurants. Common beverages include: Bavaria 0.0%, Amstel Malt, and Oettinger alcohol-free. Even though alcohol is prohibited, some people do smuggle alcohol into the country, and not all weddings remain alcohol-free either!
An Earthquake-Prone Zone
Situated between the Eurasian, Indian, and Arabian plates put Iran in an unstable position geographically. This means that Iran is a particularly earthquake-prone zone and has suffered many earthquakes throughout the years, and when this happens, they have devastating effects.
When an earthquake hits, they are extremely damaging and often injure and seriously harm people and flatten buildings and homes. Studies have shown that in the last 100 years, Iran has suffered at least a dozen earthquakes measuring 7.0 or higher on the Richter scale!
A Country with Many Different Names
Due to religion, ruling empires, and general history, certain countries have found themselves accumulating several different names. France, for example, is simply known as France. Yet, Iran has ended up with many different names for the same country.
It is now officially called the Islamic Republic of Iran; however, it was known in the western world as Persia up until the year 1935. Although many foreigners still use the name Persia, they have been asked to refer to the country as Iran. On top of this, Iran has also had the names: Arya, Aryanam, Iranzamin, and Iranshahr.
Home to 10% of the World’s Oil
So, admittedly, this doesn’t sound like an incredibly high percentage. However, when you think about how much oil is on the planet, you will be able to gain a better idea of just how much Iran possesses. Iran is home to 10% of the world’s oil!
If Iran is home to 10% of the world’s total oil reserves, how much are we talking exactly, and what does that look like?! Well if you’re struggling to imagine the quantity we’re looking at, then picture this. If all of Iran’s oil supplies were put into one space, it would equate to 125 billion barrels of oil!
Nearly Perfect Carpets
At first glance, these rugs and carpets, which are often referred to as “Persian rugs,” are beautifully made and of perfect quality. But what you are probably unaware of is that it is impossible to find a Persian rug that is 100% perfect!
Iranians have been making these rugs and carpets for thousands of years, and they are the country’s most exported item, second only to Iran’s oil. The Iranians have held a rug-making tradition for the last 2 500 years. All rugs must be made with one small mistake, making them “nearly perfect,” to reiterate the belief that only God is perfect!
Men and Women Are Not Always Allowed to Mix
Religion often causes men and women to be segregated. For example, it is often compulsory at many catholic schools for girls and boys to enter through different entrances. However, in Iranian society, religion prevents men and women from mixing in many more situations.
This separation is largely to do with their Muslim beliefs. Men and women are rarely allowed to mix, and in everyday life, they are expected to stay apart for the majority of the time. Some parks are especially for either men or women, and on trains and busses, there is separate seating for women.
Parkour is Very Popular
It’s not just the Iranians who love parkour or free-running; it is a pastime that many worldwide enjoy. For those of you who don’t know, parkour is an activity that involves running, jumping, and climbing over obstacles, usually in an urban environment.
Although parkour was first invented in France, it has become a much-loved activity in Iran over the last twenty years. Iranians love to jump, climb and run all over the country, and it’s not just men who enjoy this sport either; parkour is just as popular among women in Iran too.
The National Dish is White Rice and Plain Bred
When we think of the type of food that is eaten here in this region of central Asia, we imagine the rich, flavorsome dishes that both tourists and locals love! Yet, amidst all of the tasty food you’re probably thinking of right now, is another national dish that doesn’t seem so appetizing.
Believe it or not, but white rice and bread is actually a national dish in Iran. This dish is simply plain rice with Iranian bread placed on top. Some of the bread used for this include sangak, taftoon, and lavash, to name a few. Although this dish can be eaten alone, it is often served with protein too, such as chicken or pulses.