Iran (Persian: ایران) is a large country between the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, and the Caspian Sea. It was renamed Iran in the early 20th century; before that it was known as Persia. It is bordered by Iraq to the west, Turkey, Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan enclave, Armenia, and Azerbaijan to the northwest, Turkmenistan to the northeast, and Afghanistan and Pakistan to the east.
Iran can be considered part of the Middle East, and thus it is included as part of that region here. However, it is also very much a part of Central Asia; indeed the Persian Empire was the dominant power in that region for many centuries.
Nine of the most notable cities are:
- 1 Tehran (Persian: تهران) – the vibrant capital, a beautiful city that suffers horrendous traffic and air pollution
- 1 Hamedan (Persian: همدان) – one of the oldest cities in Iran
- 1 Isfahan (Persian: اصفهان) – a former capital with stunning architecture, great bazaar, and tree-lined boulevards. Most popular tourist destination in the country. There’s a Persian saying that “Isfahan is half the world.”
- 1 Kerman (Persian: کرمان) – this south-eastern city is one of the five historical cities of Iran.
- 1 Mashad (Persian: مشهد) – the greatest city of eastern Iran, with an important mosque, the shrine of the Imam Reza
- 1 Qom (Persian: قم) – one of the holiest cities in the Middle East, considered the Jewel of Iran
- 1 Shiraz (Persian: شیراز) – a former capital, home of famous Persian poets such as Hafiz and Sa’di; known for gardens, especially roses. Very close to the famous ruins of Persepolis.
- 1 Tabriz (Persian: تبریز) – a former capital with a great historical bazaar, now a provincial capital in western Iran; it’s been suggested that this is the site of the Biblical “Garden of Eden”
- 1 Yazd (Persian: یزد) – a remote desert city – circumstance influenced special architectural themes where water streams run in underground rooms in houses and wind-towers to keep them cool.