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Iran

The centre and east of the country is largely barren desert with mountainous regions in the west. Tehran, the capital, is essentially a modern city, but the best of the old has been preserved. The Shahid Motahari Mosque has eight minarets, from which the city can be viewed. The bazaar is one of the world’s largest. More traditional towns, such as Rey, Varamin, Qazvin and Shemshak, are within easy reach of Tehran. The town of Tabriz is known for its restored blue mosque built in 1465. The covered Qaisariyeh Bazaar dates back to the 15th century.

Practical Information

Area: 1 648 043 km² (636 313 miles²)

Capital: Tehran. Population: 7 million

Population: 68.5 million

Currency: Iranian Rial (IRR) = 100 dinars

Government: Islamic Republic since 1979.

Tipping: In large hotels, a 10 to 15% service charge is added to the bill. In restaurants (chelokababis) it is usual to leave some small change. Tipping is not expected in tea-houses or small hotels.

Time zone: GMT + 35 (GMT + 45 from 20 March to 21 September)

Languages: Persian (Farsi)

Additional descriptions

Iran: Social customs

Feelings about certain countries (such as the USA and the UK) run high, so the visitor should avoid contentious subjects. The Westernisation of the Iranian way of life has been arrested since the fall of the Shah, and Koranic law exercises a much more traditional influence over much of the populace. In general, Western influences are now discouraged. Handshaking is customary, but not with members of the opposite sex. It must be remembered that intimate relations between non-Muslim men and Muslim women is illegal, and may incur imprisonment. Visitors should address hosts by their surname or title. Iranians are very hospitable and like to entertain. It is also customary to be offered tea, and guests are expected to accept such offers of hospitality. Because of Islamic customs, dress should be conservative and discreet, especially women’s. This has been especially enforced of late; women should cover their heads when in the public sphere, wear loose-fitted clothing, and ensure that their arms and legs are also concealed. Businesspeople are expected to wear a suit and more formal attire is also needed in smart dining rooms and for important social functions. During Ramadan, smoking, eating and drinking in public are prohibited between sunrise and sunset; however, facilities are always available in major hotels.Read more of the Shah, and Koranic law exercises a much more traditional influence over much of the populace. In general, Western influences are now discouraged. Handshaking is customary, but not with members of the opposite sex. It must be remembered that intimate relations between non-Muslim men and Muslim women is illegal, and may incur imprisonment. Visitors should address hosts by their surname or title. Iranians are very hospitable and like to entertain. It is also customary to be offered tea, and guests are expected to accept such offers of hospitality. Because of Islamic customs, dress should be conservative and discreet, especially women’s. This has been especially enforced of late; women should cover their heads when in the public sphere, wear loose-fitted clothing, and ensure that their arms and legs are also concealed. Businesspeople are expected to wear a suit and more formal attire is also needed in smart dining rooms and for important social functions. During Ramadan, smoking, eating and drinking in public are prohibited between sunrise and sunset; however, facilities are always available in major hotels.

Iran: Food and local specialties

Rice is the staple food and the Iranians cook it superbly. Things to know: Most Iranian meals are eaten with a spoon and fork, but visitors may choose a Western dish and eat with a knife and fork. The consumption of alcohol is strictly forbidden. The national specialties are: Chelo khoresh (rice topped with vegetables and meat in a nut sauce). Polo chele (pilau rice), polo sabzi (pilau rice cooked with fresh herbs), polo chirin (sweet-sour saffron-coloured rice with raisins, almonds and orange), adas polo (rice, lentils and meat) and morgh polo (chicken and pilau rice). Chelo kababs (rice with skewered meats cooked over charcoal). Kofte (minced meat formed into meatballs) and kofte gusht (meatloaf). Abgusht (thick stew). Fruit and vegetable juices are popular, as are sparkling mineral waters. Tea is also popular and drunk in the many tea-houses (ghahve khane). Read more consumption of alcohol is strictly forbidden. The national specialties are: Chelo khoresh (rice topped with vegetables and meat in a nut sauce). Polo chele (pilau rice), polo sabzi (pilau rice cooked with fresh herbs), polo chirin (sweet-sour saffron-coloured rice with raisins, almonds and orange), adas polo (rice, lentils and meat) and morgh polo (chicken and pilau rice). Chelo kababs (rice with skewered meats cooked over charcoal). Kofte (minced meat formed into meatballs) and kofte gusht (meatloaf). Abgusht (thick stew). Fruit and vegetable juices are popular, as are sparkling mineral waters. Tea is also popular and drunk in the many tea-houses (ghahve khane).

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