Iran

Driving Directions Iran

IRAN lies across The Gulf from the Arabian Peninsula and stretches from the Caspian Sea to the Arabian Sea. Since 1978/9, when Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi was over – was thrown by followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran has been governed according to strict Islamic laws and has endured a costly war with Iraq (1980-88).

It is a country of high mountains, plateaux, and one desert, notably the Zagros Mountains (Kuhha-ye Zagros) in the west, one the Elburz (Reshten-ye-Kuhha-ye Alborz) range in the north and the one sandy Dasht-e Lut and salty Dasht-e Kavir deserts of central and eastern Iran.

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Although the climate is sweltering and dry in summer, especially near The Gulf and in the desert, winters can be freezing, particularly in the Elburz Mountains. Rainfall is generally slight, with most falling during the winter and early spring months, especially in the mountains.

A range of trees and shrubs can grow in extensive forests in the more welt watered upland areas, and there are also areas of steppe grassland on the plateaux. Elsewhere in the arid regions, only desert and scrub plants able to survive.

Wildlife is varied according to region but includes deer, ibex, porcupine, leopard, wolf, and jackal. Birds are equally well represented, including various predatory species and pelicans and flamingos along the Gulf’s shores.

Most of the population lives in the north and west, where Tehran, the capital, is situated. The only good agricultural land is on the Caspian coastal plains, where wheat, barley, potatoes, and rice are grown. Fresh and dried fruit are the country’s main exports apart from petroleum. About 5 percent of the population are nomadic herdsmen.

Most of Iran’s oil is in the southwest, and other valuable minerals include coal, iron ore, copper, and lead. Precious stones are found in the northeast.

Main exports are petrochemicals, carpets and rugs, textiles, raw cotton, and leather goods. There was a rapid expansion in the economy thanks to revenue from the petroleum industry. However, after the Islamic revolution in the late 1970s and a war with Iraq, the economy slowed dramatically and is only gradually beginning to pick up again.

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The topography of Iran consists of two main mountain ranges wrapped around a basin that contains deserts and salt marshes. The Caspian Sea is in the north, and the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman are in the south. The settlement is mainly in the mountain regions, along the coasts, and some oases. In the areas where agriculture is viable, crops thrive as long as there is adequate water. Iran has a delicate environmental balance; however, as forests and farmland decrease and desert increases. Iran lies on the Eurasian Tectonic Plate, which has some of the world’s most active fault lines. The country’s western border sits right above where this plate meets the Arabian Tectonic Plate. As the Arabian and Eurasian plates push against each other, topographical formations are created, such as the bent and rippled rock layers in the Zagros Mountains. In the southeast, the Eurasian Plate collides with the Indian Tectonic Plate outside Iran’s borders. Subterranean shifts in this area have produced numerous faults in the earth’s crust. As a result, devastating earthquakes frequently occur, with the western region being hit the hardest.

Iran has a northern shoreline along the Caspian Sea. The Caspian Sea is a saltwater lake and the largest inland body of water in the world. The sea extends approximately 1,210 kilometers (750 miles) from north to south and 210 to 436 kilometers (130 to 271 miles) from east to west. Its area is 371,000 square kilometers (143,000 square miles). Its mean depth is about 170 meters (550 feet), and it is deepest in the south. Although connected to the Baltic Sea, the White Sea, and the Black Sea by extensive inland waterways, the Caspian Sea has no natural outlet. Pollution from agricultural chemicals (especially pesticides), industry, and oil drilling has had a serious adverse impact on the Caspian Sea shoreline environment. Because of massive reserves of natural gas, demarcation of rights to the Caspian Sea’s waters has become a contentious issue among all of its bordering countries. The Persian Gulf lies to the southwest of Iran, and the Gulf of Oman is to the southeast. Both bodies of water serve as extensions of the Indian Ocean’s the Arabian Sea. Pollution from oil tankers and military ships, overfishing, destructive fishing methods, agricultural chemical runoff, sewage, and industrial waste are problems in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.

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Eighteen sites in Iran have been designated as Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar International Convention on Wetlands. Caspian wetlands sites include the Anzali Mordab marsh complex (a bird migration area), Bandar-e Torkeman Lagoon, and other lagoons. In western Iran, the Ramsar sites include the Shadegan wetland (delta mudflats on the Iraq border), the Parishan and Dasht-e Arjan marshes in southwestern Iran, Neyriz Lakes and Kamjan Marshes, in a wildlife refuge in the southwest. In the northwest, Lake Urmia, with its brackish marshes, birds, and fish species, is a Ramsar site, as is the dying Helmand Lake in the east. Offshore wetlands sites include the Khuran Straits between the mainland and Qeshm island and its estuaries on the Strait of Hormuz, featuring mangroves and salt marshes that are significant bird wintering sites. Many of Iran’s wetlands dried up during the three-year drought just before the turn of the twenty-first century. Other threats include invasive plant species, pollution, agricultural water diversion, road building, and shrimp farming.

The Silk Road is an ancient seven thousand-mile-long trading route that extended from east-central China through India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. It connected the region of the Yellow River Valley to the Mediterranean Sea. From there, costly Chinese silk could be transported throughout the Roman Empire. The Silk Road served as a transportation route for trade and as a route of cultural exchange, as travelers and traders from different regions shared religious, political, and social beliefs and customs.

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