Iran was officially named the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979 after the monarchy was replaced by religious clerics and leader Ayatollah Khomeini. While it is recognized as the second largest nation in the Middle East, the country is also considered part of the Western Asian region. This unique location gives Iran some geographical strategic advantage particularly since it is situated near the Strait of Hormuz.
1. It was previously known as Persia
Heavily influenced by his Nazi friends, the Iranian ambassador to Germany in 1935 convinced the government to change the name Persia to Iran. This is to help them develop better relations with other nations sharing the same “Aryan” race. To further assert their freedom from the British and Russia’s influence, the government decided to use “Iran” as its country’s name. It means “Land of the Aryans.”
2. Iran prohibits the use of alcohol
When Iran became an Islamic Republic in 1979, it banned the production, trade, and use of alcoholic beverages. Iranians and tourists alike are not allowed to drink alcohol, and when caught, is punishable by flogging. No restaurant or bar will offer any form of liquor to its customers, an interesting fact about Iran.
3. A major producer of petroleum in the world
The countries situated in the Persian Gulf have around 60% of the oil reserves in the world and Iran holds the 10% of the total reserves. It makes them one of the world’s largest oil producers. Back in 2005, the country was able to produce almost 4 million barrels a day, but due to economic sanctions, only about 2,086,000 million barrels per day are now being produced.
4. Iranians are forbidden to use popular social media sites and major search engines
Internet censorship is huge in Iran. The government’s fear of protesters using the sites to organize rallies is real. A fun fact about Iran is that popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are banned. However, a huge percent of the Iranians managed to stay online and be connected through VPN use. Oddly, Instagram is still accessible to its citizens.
5. It is one of the oldest civilizations in the world
Ancient Iran dates back to 4000 BC. It is considered by historians as one of the oldest continuous civilizations. There were Neanderthal tools and settlement found in archeological sites that were believed to be from the Paleolithic, Neolithic, and Chalcolithic Ages.
6. Most common misconception is that Iranians are Arabs
Being a Muslim country, most foreigners thought that Iranians are Arabs. They are not. They are Persians with different lineage and ancestry. In fact, before Islam became a dominant religious practice in Iran, Ancient Persians are Zoroastrian believers. The official language is different. Iran uses Farsi, an Indo-European based language, while Arab nations use Arabic which is Semitic-based.
7. It is home to very few remaining Asiatic cheetahs
In 2017, animal conservation experts believed that around 50 Iranian or Asiatic Cheetahs exist today and can only be found in this country, an interesting fact about Iran. These are regarded as critically endangered species. It is quite unfortunate that due to politics, a conservation group trying to help the species was arrested January of 2018 and accused of spying due to the camera traps that were installed. Their future as well as the endangered Cheetahs hangs in the balance.
8. All Iranian women are obligated to wear hijab or head scarves
The wearing of hijab was first suggested by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini after the revolution in 1979. He said that Iranian women should follow the Islamic dress code. Women were alarmed in Iran and protested. The government did not pursue the idea until 1983 when it became mandatory not only for its female citizens but to female visitors as well.
9. VISA, Mastercard, and other major credit cards are denied in Iran
In this plastic card driven world, it is a major inconvenience not to have access to credit or debit cards. The ongoing economic embargo issued against Iran by the United States has limited the purchasing powers of card users. All international credit cards along with VISA and Mastercard do not work in this country, a fun Iran fact. Before traveling to the country, it is better to purchase a local prepaid card known as the Mah Card. Make sure to learn Iran currency particularly the difference between Tomans and Rials.
10. Persian rugs are the Iranians’ second largest export products
Aside from oil, Iranians have been known to produce the most beautiful and expensive Persian rugs. These rugs or carpets are being exported to different markets in the world. Due to its popularity, the Iran hand-woven rug industry provides for the 30% of the world market. However, due to the sanctions imposed by the United States over Iran’s nuclear program, it is expected to decline.
11. The well-loved glamorous Persian cats are one of the world’s oldest breeds
Long before Persian cats became a status symbol in most European and American societies, it has been roaming in the high plateaus of Iran. It is locally known as “Shiraz Cat.” The oldest documented ancestors of this breed were in 1620 when an Italian musician and author, Petro della Valle, imported them from Khorasan, Iran.
12. Iran is home to 24 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Being one of the oldest continuous civilizations, it is not surprising that it has 24 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, an interesting fact about Iran. Here are some of the most notable from the impressive list: the city of Persepolis built by Darius the Great, 17th century’s Meidan Emam, the ancient city of Bam and its Cultural Landscape, and the 2,000-year-old city of Yadz.
Iran is one of the most powerful nations in the Middle East. It also has one of the largest economies in the world. However, the continuing rift with the United States and sanctions that President Donald Trump imposed on them will have a negative impact on Iran’s global trade. Only time can tell if the nation’s huge oil reserves and large natural gas supply will be enough for them to be able to continue exerting their influence not only regionally but also globally.
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