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Four-season land of hospitality

Iran lies between the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea in the south and north, the Alborz and Zagros Mountain ranges in the north and west and has two deserts,Markazi and Lut, at its heart. The hottest spot on earth has been identified in Lut Desert where temperatures reach 70.7 °C.

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Blossoms mark the start of spring in Iran

This geographical situation has made Iran dry and warm in its central parts, hot and humid near the Caspian Sea and Persian Gulf, and cold in the northwest and areas close to the mountains. This geographical variety has resulted in the country experiencing four seasons often at the same time.

 

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Summer – Chabahar , Tis Beach (Photo by Shahin Kamali)

This has also contributed to the unique landscape of the country, bestowing upon it long winding rivers, captivating waterfalls, aquatic caves, snow-topped mountains, lush valleys, golden deserts and green forests which are thousands and sometimes millions of years old. One of the many natural treasures of Iran is the Caspian Hyrcanian Mixed Forests, which have survived from the Tertiary. The lush landscape of these ancient forests captivates all with their relic and endemic plant species. These forests were once the habitant of the now extinct Caspian Tiger and are considered a living museum that showcases the evolution of plant and animal lives over 40 million years.

There is a Persian saying that guests bring with them bread and blessing to the Sofreh (table spread where food is set) of the host. The importance of the Sofreh and its blessing to Iranians highlights the significance of the culture of hospitality among them.

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Autumn in Tehran,Iran. (Niavaran Park)

Accounts given by adventurers, explorers of the ancient world and modern travelers about their journey to Persia/Iran each detail the graciousness, warmth and hospitality of Iranians and often urge others to visit this mysterious land. In Persian literature there are numerous examples encouraging the importance of hospitality to familiars and strangers alike. These values have been passed down through the words of Persian bards from one generation to the next and are instilled in Iranian children from a young age.

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Winter. Dizin,Iran.

This is perhaps one of the reasons behind thousands of years of peaceful coexistence among different nations and ethnicities in the Iranian plateau. What is known today as the Persian culture is the result of the amalgamation of Kurdish, Azeri, Baluch, Lur, Arab, Turkmen and… subcultures. This unique model of peaceful diversity is definitely one of the many reasons that makes Iran great.

 

Distillation of Rosewater ‘Golabgiri’

The city of Kashan, which lies in a desert at the eastern foot of the Central Iranian Plateau, 220 kilometers south of Tehran, was once a popular vacation spot for Safavid Kings.

The city has found fame for its many traditional mansions including the Tabatabaei House,Boroujerdi HouseAmeri House and Abbasi House.  The most delicate of Persian arts and crafts have been employed in the design and decoration of these mansions. The 10th century Kashan Bazaar with its magnificent lightwells, the heavenly Fin Garden with its Safavid and Qajar bathhouses and the Jame Mosque of Kashan are some of the city’s major attractions.

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Kashan is also popular for its rosewater, In Ordibehesht (Mid May to early June), an annual festival of Rose and Rose Water is being held in this city , which is the product of Qamsar, Niyasar and Barzak, smaller towns of Kashan province, and the three main producers of rosewater (Golab) for over 800 years.

Golab (rosewater) is a fragrant distillate of rose which in Iran is used in different traditional dishes to flavor them or consumed as a religious perfume as well. Although there are many modern manufactories constructed to produce rosewater but it is still made traditionally in kashan and around kashan with distillation equipment containing large copper pots with special pipes to obtain herb hydrosol and special oven made by bricks.

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In spring, The Ceremony of Rosewater Distillation, flower picking (Mohammadi roses) and extraction of rosewater (Golabgiri), starts when rose buds begin to open. In this season, the whole town is filled with the aroma of roses and rosewater. Before distillation people starts collecting Mohammadi roses and collect their petals to put into the copper pots. Then the pots are put on the oven made from bricks or stones and mud.

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Almost every 30 Kg of rose petals are poured into the pot containing 80 liters of water. The pot is then covered to steam the water and rose. The pots include iron or aluminum pipes for the steam moving through to obtain hydrosol.

In the evenings music is played and people sing till midnight, to entertain the visitors and tourists, and to sooth the weary gardeners and their families. The festival is truly worth visiting.

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Nomads OF Persia

 

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Iranian civilization dates back to thousands of years ago. While Iran is known for fascinating historic architecture as well as fabulous city and garden designs, the non-settled nomadic way of life is another intriguing aspect of Iranian culture. The mobile civilization or the nomadic lifestyle is the oldest way of life of human beings that still exists in Iran despite all the difficulties.

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One exceptional opportunity that traveling in Iran offers is visiting and getting a taste of the nomadic way a life with certain tribes. The nomadic lifestyle in Iran has been lived for thousands of years and it still exists. Even though the nomadic life is becoming more and more difficult, the nomads of Persia are holding on tight not wanting to change their life style. Today there are 1.5 Million registered nomads still living in Iran.

Nomadic culture usually means that people move around through out the year with their tribe, tents, animals and belongings. Most of the nomadic tribes Migrate in fall and spring. However, some tribe of Iran who live in tents do not move around any more and therefore it is advised that they be called clans instead of tribes. The tribes of Iran are divided to two groups of full migrating nomads and semi nomads.

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There are several nomadic tribes in Iran from different ethnic origins such as Turks, Turkmans, Kurds, Lurs, Baluchis, Arabs and Persians. The nomads of Persia each speak a different language, have different biological make-ups and keep a distinct culture. Quashkis, Bakhtiari’s, and Baseri’s are amongst the most famous tribes of Iran.

The nomadic lifestyle of Iran is based on the pastoral livestock. They distinctively use the wool and the dairy products of their animals for different productions, trades and their own use. The diet of the nomads usually consists of dairy products and local vegetable and rice. Nomads consume very little meat and meat is usually considered a food of special occasions such as weddings.

The tribes of Iran in large scales do the production of beautiful Iranian carpets, rugs and qulims. Women and girls solely do the making of the rugs and they know the designs by heart and do not use cartoons. The patterned textiles of the nomads each tell a tale of an era.

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The tribal culture is very music oriented and their music is usually inspired by nature. They have their own distinct instruments and use music in celebrations as well as in mourning ceremonies. Music is also a way to cope with life and day to day difficulties for the nomads. The wedding celebrations are usually very festive and take a few days. Family creation is a necessity to nomadic culture and divorce is prohibited in many tribes and considered a shame in others. The wedding customs outfits of the nomads are very colorful and tastefully designed. Qashqi’s tribal designs and outfits are amongst the most beautiful Iranian designs.

 

 

Spring Season In Iran

 

Astara in Spring

Astara in Spring

While traveling in a four-season country extends the advantage of new experiences, varied sceneries and different activities associated with each season, yet spring remains the prime time to travel in Iran for many people. The Pleasant climate and the green terrains in the diverse geographical locals of Iran enhance the festive mood of celebrating spring season throughout the country. Spring in Iran offers the most moderate weather with delicate, fresh landscapes complimenting voyage in Iran.

Spring Mood in Tehran

Spring Mood in Tehran

Despite the fact that many people imagine Iran to be a mostly deserted region, the geography of the country is rather uniquely diverse. Mountains bordering large deserts cover half of Iran while the country lies in between two sea-sides, the Caspian Sea up north and the Persian Gulf down south. While the hottest spot on the earth has been identified in Lut desert in the center of Iran, half of the country located in the mountains or the areas nearby can be extremely cold. Iran could be extremely hot or cold in many parts due to the combination of the dry mountain and desert climate. The coastal parts near the Caspian Sea and the Persian Golf are exceptionally humid and could get extremely hot and humid during summer. Spring season in Iran, on the other hand, bestows the most pleasant and moderate weather in all region.

Spring in Iran starts with a festive celebration of Nowruz or New Year on March 21st. Persian calendar just like the western calendar consists of four seasons. Each season has three Months of thirty days each and Farvardin, Ordibehesht and Khordad are consecutively the names of the three months of spring. The Persian New Year commences on the first day of spring. Therefore, Farvardin the 1st, that usually falls on March 21st is the first day of Spring and the new-year. Ordibehesht is the second month of spring that usually begins on April 21st and ends on May 20th. Khordad is the last month of the spring season, which coincides May 21st till June 20th.

Spring starts with two weeks of Nowruz celebration that is the longest holiday in Iran. Nowruz takes place from 1st to 13th of Farvardin (usually coinciding March 21st till April 2nd). People go back to work and school on the 14th day of spring with high spirits to have a fresh start of the year. As the temperature rises people’s mood enhances with the sight of the green landscapes of the mountains, forests, and coast sides.

Imperial Crown Fields

Imperial Crown Fields

Even the plains, deserts and Sahara bloom in spring with fresh vegetation and desert flowers all over. The breathtaking vista of large wild Imperial Crown flower fields of foothills of Zagros mountains and the terrains nearby in Ordibehesht is a must see.

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Ordibehesht (April 20th till May 21st) is known to be the month of traveling amongst Iranians as the pleasant air reaches its peak and the fragrance of orange blossoms are scented in many parts of Iran including the Caspian Sea coast and Shiraz. Ordibehesht of Shiraz is famous for the scent of Orange blossoms and has always been an inspiration to the poetic Persian culture. There are numerous poems by the prominent poets of shiraz regarding the spring.

Golabgiri, Kashan

Golabgiri, Kashan

Amongst many festivals that take place in spring, Golabgiri of Kashan, the festival of collecting rose water in Ordibehesht in Kashan stands out. Sizdahbedar in Farvardin is also a widespread, festive tradition of Iranians in Farvardin. Panjah Bedar (50 Bedar) is another tradition of the spring, that takes place on 19th of Ordibehesht, that is the 50th day of the New Year. The tradition of Panjah Bedar is very similar to that of Sizdah Bedar with the exception that it’s no longer as commonly celebrated in many areas except in Ghazvin Province. Panjah Bedar takes place on Ordibehesht 19th that is the 50th day of the New Year. As spring is the most popular season to travel to Iran, it is advisable to book accommodations and flights in advance.

 

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Sizdah Bedar is the thirteenth day of Norooz celebration, which signifies a transition from the holiday to remerge to one’s day-to-day life.  As Charshanbeh Souri marks the beginning of Norooz Holidays, Sizdah Bedar announces its end. Sizdah bedar is a very festive event and is also known as the nature day of Iranians. It is customary for people to leave their homes and to spend the whole day out in nature. People joyously gather with their friends and families in parks, gardens or mountains and spend the whole day celebrating with a picnic, eating the special food, playing lots of different games and performing their special Sizdah Bedar rituals.

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The word Sizdah means thirteen and Bedar means getting rid of. The name of this holiday literally means getting rid of 13 that was known as an unlucky number in Persian culture as well as in many other cultures. Even though this is an ancient festival of Iranians, it signifies no religious ties and it is solely a festive celebration in Iranian culture today. In the ancient times, the first 12 days of Norooz were associated with order and the thirteenth day symbolized chaos, which explains why people would leave their homes and spend the day out in the abundant, peaceful nature to avoid the omens. In the ancient culture the 13th day of Norooz was also associated with the deity of water that was depicted by a horse symbol. Therefore, people used to do sports that involved horses and made offerings to water that was an element of rain deity and asked for rain, which was essential for agriculture.

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One custom of Sizdah Bedar is that people have to remove Sabzeh from their Haft Sin and throw it out in nature, usually giving it to a running water stream like a river. To grow Sabzeh, that is an integral component of Haft Sin, Iranians soak grains such as wheat and lentils to represent rebirth and growth usually a week before the Norooz. Sabzeh is present on Haft Seen and kept till the Sizdah Bedar while it supposedly absorbs all the pain and illnesses of the coming year. After Sizdah Bedar it is unlucky to keep the Sabzeh in the house, it is also considered unlucky to touch anybody else’s Sabzeh or bring it back home.

Other customs of Sizdah Bedar include eating an Iranian noodle soup called Ash-e-Reshteh accompanied with a variety of food and drinks and knotting blades of grass by unmarried girls to wish marriage the upcoming year.  It is also customary that while socializing and enjoying each other’s company during the picnic, people make a bluff or tell a lie. Much like April Fool’s, one is supposed to make a lasting joke that people would believe.  Once they unveil the truth about the ruse it becomes the joke of Sizdah Bedar or “Doroogh e Sizdah” which literally means the lie of the 13th. The joy, happiness and laughter are known to clean people’s minds to prepare for a fresh start of daily life in New Year. The memorable fun event of Sizdah Bedar is enhanced by joy and laughter with friends and family to welcome the New Year. We wish you all a happy and very jolly Sizdah bedar and a beautiful year to come.

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Zoroastrianism and Iranian rituals today

 

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The Proto Indo Iranian people, sometimes called the Arians were a tribe of people who lived together in 3000 BC in Eurasian Steppe in central Asia. Proto Indo Iranian people had formed a distinct culture after so many centuries of living together and had their own legends, myths and believe system long before any historical documentation and prior to them having a written religious book. Many centuries later the tribe split into three groups. One group later settled in the Iranian plateau, one group headed towards India and the other settled somewhere around Jerusalem. Later in about 1200 BC a prophet raised from the Iranian Plateau who organized a religion called Zoroastrianism. Iran today has a modern society with a majority of99.4% Muslim population. However it is astonishing to witness the remnants of Iranian ancestral culture still observed in Iran.

Zoroastrianism is one of the very first formed religions of humanity and in fact the very first organized Monotheistic religion. Therefore it had an enormous impact on the formation of later religions and some consider it to be the mother of all other monotheistic religions. Another significance of Zoroastrianism is also that it pinpoints a religious shift in humanity where polytheism started to give in to monotheism. A key reason that the monotheistic religion of Zoroastrianism was mistaken as a polytheistic one was the element of fire.

Atashkadeh in Yazd

People mistakenly considered Zoroastrians to be fire worshipers since most of their religious rituals evolved around fire. As Zoroaster said in his Gathas or book of poets he preferred the worship of God to take place around fire that is an excellent example of divine’s powerful creation. Fire has a symbolic significance in Zoroastrianism that represents luminosity, warmth and energy, which are attributes of God. Fire also represents wisdom and illuminated mind and spiritual enlightenment.

Once the glorious religion of Islam was brought to Iran, it only took about 200 years for the most of Persian Empire to convert to Islam. While Iranians chose Islam as their faith right away, they preserved many rituals and customs from their ancestral ancient culture. Even though many of these rituals have been fading with the passing of centuries, there are still some that dominantly signify Iranian Culture. The most important elements of Iranians culture that trace back to the ancient times include the Persian Calendar, The New Year or Norooz, Sizadah bedar, Charshanbeh Soori and Yalda.

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Zoroastrian Calendar started in 1738 BCE and it consists of twelve months. It starts on the first day of spring that usually falls around march 20th and it is celebrated as Iranian New year or Norooz. Amongst other rituals that Iranians have kept that directly trace back to the Zoroastrian times, Charshanbeh Souri stands out that takes place on the evening of the last Tuesday of the last month of the year and is a part of preparation for Norooz or new-year. Fire is the center of this dynamic festival where people make bonfires up on their roofs, in the backyards or in the street. Jumping over the bonfire they say: “Zardi e Man az to, Sorkhi e to az man”. Basically it means that they give their yellow color as a sign of sickness of the last year to the fire and exchange it for the red color of fire as a signification of health for the New Year to come.

Haft Seen

As Norooz or the Persian New Year is the most important national holiday of Iran, the preparations and rituals associated with it have also been embedded in Iranian culture for thousands of years. Sofreh Haft Seen, which is an essential part of Norooz celebration, literally means a spread of seven S. A spread gathered from special symbolic items each representing an important aspect of life and seven of them start with the letter S or Seen in Farsi.

Haft Seen Items

Haft Seen Items

Iranians start preparing for their Haft Seen spread with love and excitement a month before the New Year and beautifully assemble and decorate it a few days before. At the count down of the Norooz or the Sal Tahvil moment, families gather and sit together around their Haft Seen spread while quietly contemplating, praying and making resolutions for the New Year to come right before staring the festive celebration of the new year with music, hugs, kisses and gift exchanges.

People Shopping for their Haft seen items at a lively market

People Shopping for their Haft seen items at a lively market

Preparing for their Haft Seen Iranians sprout their Sabzeh. They soak to grow grains like wheat and lentils to represent rebirth and growth. Sabzeh is present on Haft Seen and kept till the 13th day of Norooz. A clove of Garlic or Sir is set on the table to assemble health and medicine. A red apple or Sib sits on the spread to portray health and Beauty. Serkeh or vinegar demonstrates age and patience. Sekkeh or gold coins stand as a symbol of wealth and prosperity. Samanou that is a rich and sweet meal represents affluence and opulence while Sumac romantically depicts the color of sunrise for a new beginning and the light wiping out the evil and darkness. Senjed that is a special berry symbolizes love.

norooz There are some other essential elements placed on the Haft Seen that do not start with the letter S in Farsi. Gold Fish are placed in a fish bowl to represent life and candles are lit to inspire enlightenment. A holly Book, usually Quran or others depending on the family’s faith, is placed on the spread as a sign of God’s presence and protection. Some prefer to replace or complement the holly book with the book of Poetries of Hafez or Shahname. A mirror is placed on the Haft Seen as a symbol of self-reflection and colored eggs symbolize fertility.

Right before the moment of Tahvil all Persians joyously wear their new beautiful clothes, groom themselves to look their best and happily sit around the Haft Seen with their family for a very emotionally charged moment of ending one year and starting a new one.

Zanjan Another Unexplored Jewel

Dome, Gonbad, Soltanieh, World heritage, UNESCO, Zanjan, Mongol, Mongol Architecture, Mausoleum

Gonbad Soltaniye is the oldest double-shell dome in the world and the second largest mausoleum in the Islamic world

The mystical land of Persia is the homeland of so many wonders of the universe. Iran has countless unique natural attractions and a lengthy history dating back to the beginning of the mankind’s civilization. Iran is not a developed tourist destination yet since it has been rather secluded from the rest of the world due to the political and sanction related reasons during the past few decades. Only getting a small fracture of the its tourist potential the spotlight has been solely focused on a few well known cities of Iran, leaving numerous fabulous gems laying unnoticed, scattered all over Iran.

Gonbad Soltaniye Interior

The opulent city of Zanjan is another unexplored jewel of Iran. Located on top of the mountains, this mystical city is formed from numerous wonders of Persia such as amazing natural attractions, significant extensive history dating back to the Ice age, breathtaking ruins and prominent archaeological remains. The nature lovers have so much to explore in Zanjan from the Ferry Chimneys to the Mahnesan Colored Mountains and Sharshar waterfalls to Garmab hot springs to the Katalkhore Cave. There is also a small Ski resort located nearby the city.

Katale Khor Cave

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Jinn Chimneys

Mahneshan village in Zanjan province that is also known as the town of castles has about twenty historical rock castles curved into the mountains dating thousands of years back to the Achemanid era. What makes these castles really exceptional is that they are built into the jinn chimneys or the ferry chimneys of Zanjan, forming masterpieces of nature and human architecture combined together. Mahestan Castle is one the most famous ones amongst these castles that is known for a unique integration of brick and rock architecture. The first building of Mahestan castle was built in Sassanid era and it’s located on the southern banks of the Ghezel Ozan River.

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Mir baha-ol-Bridge on Zanjan River

The archeologists have found traces suggesting the settlements in Zanjan area going back to the Ice-age era. The scattered ruins of the Sassanid Fire Temples around the city suggests that Zanjan was founded by Sassanid king Ardashir I around 180-242 CE. The six mummified salt men of Iran from the Achaemenid (550-330 BC) have also been discovered in salt mines of Zanjan province and five of them are exhibited in the archeological museum of Zanjan in Zolfaghari Mansion and one of them is exhibited in Iran national museum.

 

Historical Wash-house Museum

Historical Wash-house Museum

 

While the city has a modern look, Zanjan still beholds some fabulous traditional facades such as brick vaulted bazar built in the Safavid era, many historical mosques, a caravanserai and much more to explore.

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Chalapi Oghli Garden

 

ToIran.com Short-Video Competition

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How would you like the world to see Iran? If you were to give the world a tale about your land, what story would you tell? If you were to reveal an unexposed part of the culture, nature or the history of Iran, what would you show?

Toiran.com has created a collaborative project inviting all the Iranian creative individuals who are interested in filmmaking to take part and give us a short film about Iran. Please give it your best passionate shot and submit a short film by March 3rd.

This is a competition where the first winner would win one GoPro Hero 4 camera and all the filmmakers would get credit for their clips used on our international website. We’ll announce the winner by March 6th. To obtain further information please visit toiran.com. We are looking forward to see Iran through your eyes and share it with the world.

SKI WITH US :)

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Abundant snow, high slopes, adventure and fun await you! You will never experience skiing in the Middle East like this again!

Four marvelous ski resorts within a half hour drive from one another and between 45 minutes to 2 hours from Tehran, the heartbeat of Iran. You can ski down the Alborz Mountain with a view of a bustling metropolis like Tehran so grab your ski gear and prepare yourself for our crisp mountain air and beautiful slopes.

For your comfort and convenience, Toiran.com offers you different ski packages in order to make your ski trip an unforgettable one ! 

Read more www.toiran.com/ski 


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