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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.

 

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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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