Iran officially the Islamic Republic of Iran and formerly known internationally as Persia until 1935, is a country in Western Asia, located on the northeastern shore of the Persian Gulf, northwestern shore of the Gulf of Oman, and the southern shore of the Caspian Sea. Both "Persia" and "Iran" are used interchangeably in cultural context; however, Iran is the name used officially in political context. The name Iran is a cognate of Aryan, and means "Land of the Aryans".
The 18th largest country in the world in terms of area at 1,648,195 km², Iran has a population of over seventy million. It is a country of special geostrategic significance due to its central location in Eurasia. Iran is bordered on the north by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. As Iran is a littoral state of the Caspian Sea, which is an inland sea and condominium, Kazakhstan and Russia are also Iran's direct neighbors to the north. Iran is bordered on the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan, on the south by the Persian Gulf and the Oman Sea, and on the west by Turkey and Iraq. Tehran is the capital, the country's largest city and the political, cultural, commercial, and industrial center of the nation. Iran is a regional power, and holds an important position in international energy security and world economy as a result of its large reserves of petroleum and natural gas.
Iran is home to one of the world's oldest continuous major civilizations, with historical and urban settlements dating back to 7000 BC. The first Iranian dynasty formed during the Elamite kingdom in 2800 BC. The Iranian Medes unified Iran into an empire in 625 BC. They were succeeded by three Iranian Empires, the Achaemenids, Parthians and Sassanids,, which governed Iran for more than 1000 years.
The language and official script of Iran is Persian and the second language spoken by its people is English.
Persian an Indo-European language is Iran's national and official language. Although Persian is written with a modified Arabic alphabet, the two languages are not related but Persian does contain a very large number of Arabic loanwords, many of which form part of basic Persian vocabulary.
Many young Iranians in major cities, and almost certainly those working in international travel agents and high-end hotels will speak conversational English.
Iranians are not Arabs and their primary language is Farsi (Persian). Referring to them as "Arabs" in general conversation may irritate them. Iranians are very proud of their history, nationality and country and are highly sensitive to it.
Iran has over 4,000 years of written history and organized civilization. It was conquered 3 times; by the Greeks, Arabs and Mongols. "Persia" is a name of Greek origin attributed to Iran. "Persian" cannot be equated with "Iranian," as Iran has several different ethnic groups, including Persian, Azeri, Kurd, Arab, Baluchi and Mazandarani. After the Arab conquest, public and official use of Farsi was banned for about two centuries, and its alphabet was changed to an Arabic-based one. Indeed the word "Farsi" itself is of Arabic origin. The ban was intended to eliminate the Persian language and culture, however it was unsuccessful. Today, the Persian language has many loan words taken from the Arabic language. The Arabic language has also adopted many words from Farsi. There are several widely-spoken Iranian languages; Kurdish, Persian, and Balochi are all Western Iranian languages, while Pashto is an Eastern Iranian language. Farsi is the official language of 3 nations Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, and is spoken within 13 nations of the region.
Hegmatane(or Ecbatana) - The capital of the ancient Meds. In modern-day Hamadan.
Persepolis- Probably the most important historical site in Iran. The capital of the Achaemenid (Persian) Empire built by Darius. Near Shiraz.
Pasargad(or Pasargadae) - The initial capital of the Persian Empire built by Cyrus the Great. Near Shiraz.
Susa- Built by Elamites and then adopted by Achaemenid (Persian) and Sassanid empires, it has three layers of civilization in it. Located in the modern-day town of Shushin the Khuzestanprovince.
Chogha Zanbil- A ziggurat built by Elamites. Near Susa.
Sialk Hill (Tappeh Sialk) - More than 7,000 years old, this is world's oldest ziggurat. In suburbs of Kashan.
The official religion of Iran is Islam with more than 97 percent of the population being Muslims. The religions of Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Judaism are also officially recognized in Iran and their followers are privileged with the same civil rights as Muslims. Each of the official religious groups has a selected representative at the parliament.
Iran has a variable climate. In the northwest, winters are cold with heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures during December and January. Spring and Fall are relatively mild, while summers are dry and hot. In the south, winters are mild and the summers are very hot, have average daily temperatures in July exceeding 38° C. On the Khuzestan plain, summer is accompanied by high humidity.
In general, Iran has an arid climate in which most of the relatively scant annual precipitation falls from October through April. In most of the country, yearly precipitation averages 25 centimeters or less. The major exceptions are the higher mountain valleys of the Zagros and the Caspian coastal plain, where precipitation averages at least 50 centimeters annually. In the western part of the Caspian, rainfall exceeds 100 centimeters annually and is distributed relatively evenly throughout the year.