when visiting Iran, one of the lasting impressions on you will be the enormous diversity of ethnic types. These are not to be found in one spot but will be seen during your tour of Iran.
The majority of Iranian ethnic types are descendants of the Aryan tribes whose origins are lost in the antiquity. The Kurds, previously a fierce nomadic people, dwell in the western mountainous regions of Iran. Also inhabiting the western mountainous regions are the semi nomadic Lurs, thought to be aboriginal Iranians. Closely related and known as the Great Lurs until the 15th century, are the Bakhtiari tribes who live in the Zagros mountains, west of Iran.Ways of life are changing However, tribal dress,domestic tools, music, dances and handicrafts,are only some of the points of interest of the nomadicway of life for the foreigner. In addition to ethnic diversity there is a variety of religions.
The uninitiated tourist may be astonished by the spirit of tolerance prevailing in this Islamic country where more than 90% of the population are practically Shiah. The non-Muslim visitor is among the first to benefit from this tolerant outlook: churches and temples belonging to the worlds major religions function freely. Mosques can usually be visited except on Fridays and at certain hours of the day devoted to prayers. Only cities of Qum, Mashhad, and Ray are out of bounds to non-Muslim visitors. The latter are never subjected to any kind of ostracism. In the same officially- sponsored spirit of tolerance, minorities are completely free to practice their religions: around Esthers tomb at Hamadan, a Jewish colony which settled in Babylonian times steel lives there in full freedom.
The Zoroastrians who represent the astonishing survival of the early Aryans faith, still perpetuate the teachings of Ahura Mazda and of great philosopher Zoroaster. Several "Towers of Silence" are set on the peaks of mountains between Yazd and Kerman, a region unfortunately remote and difficult to reach.The Armenians, with a different ethnic heritage, have maintained their Indo-European linguistic identity. They are concentrated in Tehran, Isfahan and Azarbaijan, and are engaged primarily in commercial and technical pursuits.
The Armenian church and fortified monastery of St. Thaddeous in northern Azarbaijan are not only excellent places for excursions but also a rallying-point for the thousands of Christian pilgrims (in July). There are more than two hundred thousand Armenians in Iran. Their biggest community is in the Jolfa district of Isfahan which has thirteen parishes, a cathedral and an "Asian Catholic Museum". Sunday Mass at St. Savior Cathedral is an unexpected event in the heart of a Muslim nation. Nearly 25% of the nation speaks Azari, a Turkish-sounding language. These are largest minority of the country. Apart from Azaris, other ethnic groups are the Qashqais in the Shiraz area to the east of the Persian Gulf, Kurds to the south of Azarbaijan in western Iran, the Turkmans occupying much of the east of Mazandaran and Khorasan provinces in the northeast, Lurs and Bakhtiaris in the west, and Baluchis in the southeastern part of the country.
Other ethnic groups such as Semites, including Jews, Assyrians, and Arabs constitute only a small percentage of the population. The Jews, like Armenians, have retained their ethnic, linguistic, and religious identity and have clustered in the largest cities. The Assyrians are concentrated in the northwest; and the Arabs live primarily in the Persian Gulf islands and Khuzestan.You will also find that the harsh, but often equally cheerful practicalities of daily life overlay the fantasies and mysteries that the Western imagination has attached to the idea of Iran. On the whole, ethnic strife isnt too much of a problem in Iran, the government being a lot more tolerant of minorities than many in the region. Iran is a land of different nationalities, peoples, tribes, and religions, with a multi millennial history. But there is one Iran. Here you will not come across two feuding brothers, rather, you will see a deep relationship between brothers and sisters. That is why, after an eight-year heroic resistance against Iraqi aggression of Iran in 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, Iranians are doing their best to modernize their country, and it is with this in mind that the foreign visitor boards a plane for Tehran. The fact is that when one looks at Irans 7,000-year old history -or its modern newspapers- one will find that such diversities have always acted as a unifying factor and created an attractive national landscape as beautiful as the Iranian carpet designs. Extraordinary changes are being carried out at an increasingly fast rate.
The least well-informed visitor is able to notice this for himself. Increasingly eloquent testimony of a new renaissance now supplement traditional tourist values: antique vestiges, monuments representing the great periods of artistic development and well-preserved crafts.Tourism in Iran has always centered on its towns. And the attraction of these towns is enhanced by the interest provoked by the discovery of a nation in full progress, building its own future. Naturally it is in the cities that the movement is most noticeable. It is reflected by a proliferation of new buildings: factories, schools, universities, government offices, hospitals, hotels, etc. . Open spaces are being cleared by municipalities and town planners to improve the flow of modern traffic, to facilitate access to monuments, mosques and palaces. Flower-beds and fountains appear at cross-roads, gardens and parks are open to the public. at night, bridges, squares, palaces and minarets are floodlit. Roads are being improved: boulevards, avenues and diversion roads are being built; new street lighting is being installed and existing lighting improved. As a sign of the times, paid parking lots are now being made available in most towns.
Tehran, the capital since 1795 AD, takes the lead, but all provincial towns are also participating in the movement towards modernization. Although most buildings are utilitarian, this does not exclude esthetic research.Nomad Tribes of Iran.There are about one million nomads in modern Iran, extending from the border of Turkistan to the warm waters of the Persian Gulf. Most of these tribes, the Kurds, the Lurs, the Bakhtiaris, the Guilaks (on the Caspian Coast), the Baluchis, are the original invaders who, in the first millennium BC, swept down from central Asia and settled in various parts of the Iranian plateau. Most of the tribes of central Iran are from pure Aryan stock, while other tribes such as the Arabs of Khuzestan and Khorasan, the Turkish tribes of Quchan, the Qashqai tribes, the Shahsavan and Afshar tribes of Azarbaijan and the Turkmans are remnants of races that have passed through Iran at various periods of history.
Today there are over a hundred different tribes, each with its own dialect, picturesque dress, dwelling-place and chief. The most important tribes are as follows Afshars and Shahsavans: They have their summer quarters on the slopes of the Sabalan mountain at 4,821 meters and their winter quarters are in the hot plains of Moghan, near the Caspian coast. Baluchi Tribes: Their language is pure Persian and they are scattered in a vast area from the Pakistan border to the Iranian deserts. The Baluchis consist of many different smaller tribes, making their living out of camel herding and agriculture. Kurds: The Kurdish people of Iran occupy a vast area from the northern most borderline of Azarbaijan to the hot plain of Khuzestan. They speak an old Persian dialect and consist of many tribes of which the chief branches are: The northern Kurds of Maku and northwestern Azarbaijan; The Mahabad Kurds, dwelling in the area between Lake Orumieh and the mountains of Kurdestan proper; The Kurds of Sanandaj with subdivisions in Paveh, Saqqez, and the Iraqi border; The Kurds of Kermanshah, from the Zagross mountains to the Khuzestan plain. Bakhtiaris: They dwell in the high grounds of Zard Kuh mountain extending to the south of Isfahan, with winter quarters on the Khuzestan plain. Their clothing, with trousers extraordinarily wide, round hat and short tunic, is reminiscent of the Arsasid (Parhtian) period, 200 BC-280 AD. Guilaks: These tribes are among the most original tribes of Iran, speaking a pure Persian dialect and dwelling in the maritime provinces of Iran. Their number is dwindling, but one can still see the remnants of these stoic tribes in Talish. Turkmans: They descend from the Mongols and are powerfully built, with high cheek bones and slanting eyes. They dwell on the vast flat lands of Turkmansahra, which is situated between the Caspian Coast and Khorasan mountains. Qashqais: These Turkish-speaking tribesmen dwell among the high mountains of Fars. Their dress is almost the same as that of the Bakhtiaris, except for the hat which is a form of tribord resembling Napoleonic headgear. Arab Tribes: These tribes are scattered along the Persian Gulf coast and the hot plain of Khuzestan. Their most important clans are Kaab, Tamim and Khamis.
A small population of Arab tribes, descendants of early emigrants, live in eastern Khorasan near Bojnurd and in some places in Fars. Lur Tribes: They are probably the most intact tribes of Iran, retaining their robustness, virility, and tall stature. They are mostly cultivators and shepherds and occupy the high grounds of Lurestan. The Lurs are thought to be a division of the ancient Kurds, both tribes being considered true descendants of the Medes. The Mamasani Lurs dwelling in western mountains of Fars are one of the most important clans.