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LANGUAGES

Persian (Farsi) is a member of the Indo-Iranian sub-family of the Indo-European languages, and the official language of the government and public instruction and is the mother tongue of more than half of the population. It is used and understood by nearly all Iranians and millions of Persian-speakers in the neighboring countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Turkmenistan, and so on.
Historically, the Persian language has developed through three distinct stages: Old, Middle, and Modern. Old Persian, used exclusively for royal proclamations and announcements, is known chiefly from cuneiform inscriptions dating from the time of the Achaemenian Kings of ancient Persia (6th - 4th centuries BC). Old Persian was highly inflected, as was Avestan, which is regarded by some as a form of Old Persian and by others as separate tongue. Avestan was the language of the sacred texts of Zoroastrianism that are known as the Avesta (probably composed during 7th - 5th centuries BC).
Middle Persian, derived directly from Old Persian, and also known as Pahlavi, prevailed under the Sassanid rulers of Persia (3rd - 8th centuries AD). Grammatically, much simplification of inflection took place in Middle Persian, which was recorded both in an Aramaic alphabet and a script called Huzvaresh. The official language of Zoroastrian Priesthood, it also had a noteworthy literature of Manichaean and Zoroastrian texts.
The Modern form of Persian evolved directly from the Middle Persian (900 AD onward) has not changed much since that date. The grammar of Modern Persian is comparatively simple. The inflection of nouns and verbs has been greatly reduced since the ancient stage of the language. A number of Arabic words were added to the vocabulary as a result of the conquest of the Persia by the Muslim Arabs in the 7th century AD. Modern Persian, written from right to left, is the medium of an old and great literature and is written in a modified version of the Arabic alphabet (it has four letters of its own in addition to those of the Arabic).
As part of the Indo-European family of languages, Persian is distinctly related to Latin, Greek, the Slavic and Teutonic languages and English. This relationship can be seen in such cognates as baradar (brother), madar (mother), and pedar (father). It is a relatively easy language for English-speaking people to learn compared with any other major languages of the Middle East.
Persian (locally called Farsi) is the most important of a group of several related languages that linguists classify as Indo-Iranian. Farsi speakers regard their language as extremely beautiful and they take great pleasure in listening to the verses of poets such as Ferdowsi, Hafez and Sa'di. The language is a living link with the past and has played an important role in binding the nation together.
English is the most widely spoken foreign language in Iran. Millions of Iranians have been studying Basic English at high school and through television.
Hotel and airline employees and others who deal with foreigners have usually learned enough English to cope with everyday problems. Tour guides are trained to specialize in one or more foreign languages, but not all of them have a firm grasp of English. To make yourself understood, you may have to speak very slowly, clearly and simply.

 
CLIMATE


Broadly speaking, the further south you go the warmer it becomes. With the exception of the Caspian watershed, both sides of the Zagros range, and that of the Orumieh Lake basin, the country has probably in no part a yearly rainfall exceeding 33 to 36 centimeters and throughout the greater part of central and southeastern Iran the yearly rainfall is probably under 15 centimeters.
Along the shores of the Caspian the average precipitation is from 1,200 to 2,000 mm. Along the Persian Gulf regions, in spite of meager precipitation, in certain seasons, the climate is very humid.
The regions along the mountainous parts of the country have milder summers and colder winters. In Tehran, in the central and southern Tehran in summer are hot, dry and stuffy, but you only have to make a short bus ride up to the foothills of Domavand to cool down by several degrees. But it is not humid, and the evenings are cool and refreshing. Winters in the capital can be very chilly, extremely so at night, although any snow usually disappears by early march. Showers are frequent between November and mid May, but rare in summer.
The central plateau of Iran is marked by hot and dry summers and sporadic rainy winters. The Desht-e Kavir, southeast of the capital, is harsh, inhospitable, and very, very hot in summer. Winters are not much better, and at night the temperature can fall well below zero. If any time of year can be called pleasant in this salty wasteland, it would have to be between October and December. The Desht-e Lut to the south is, if anything, even worse; almost completely devoid of water from any direction and the last word in extreme aridity.
In the far southeast of Iran, away from the Persian Gulf proper, temperatures are a little lower.
Summers are hot and dry, winters mild and dry. Up in Sistan conditions are harsh: the hot season lasts from April to November with an average temperature of 50 degrees centigrade; winter is equally unpleasant with extreme cold until March. Down in the south of Baluchestan, along the coast of the sea of Oman, the climate is similar to that of the Persian Gulf region, or even hotter, with strong winds in summer. There is very little rain throughout southeastern Iran and frost would be a great novelty.
Spring and autumn are the ideal times to tour Iran, but summer or winter can be OK, so long as you do a little planning and take a few precautions. The northwest of the country is generally the coldest and among the rainiest parts of the country. The winters in Azarbaijan and Kurdestan can be severe: temperatures well rule between December and February and sometimes fall as low as -20 degrees centigrade. Snow frequently remains until early spring, or even later in the mountains.
Wind is undoubtedly the most unpleasant element especially from June in the east of the country. In Mashhad there are tales of wind from central Asia lasting for one hundred and twenty days, which in the middle of summer blow at up to 200 km/h. In all seasons, sudden gusts cause whirlwinds and sandstorms. But the coastal regions have quite a different climate. The Caspian coast is damp all year round and provides a pleasant contrast with the dryness of plateaus which are only a few hours away by road. But the temperatures are rarely excessive. Rain is frequent, vegetation is exuberant, as described elsewhere in this book, and the prevailing wind comes from the sea. The visitor should plan his/her wardrobe accordingly.
In all seasons, always have handy two indispensable items: a woolen pull-over and a pair of sun-glasses.
Altogether, the Iranian climate varies considerably from the rainy north and snowy northwest and west to the southern sunbelt, so take this into account as you pack your suitcase. In summer take lightweight and easily washed clothes of natural fabrics, a cardigan or pullover for the cooler nights, a pair of sunglasses and (only if you are male) a hat which will protect your face from the sun.
In spring and autumn take a sensible compromise, according to the conditions in the places you are going to visit. For men, a suit will only be necessary if you are travelling on business or planning to mix in the higher reaches of Iranian society; a smart jacket is useful but rarely essential. An umbrella may be useful in the Caspian provinces in the rainy season.

 
PUBLIC & RELIGIOUS HOLIDAYS


1. NOWROOZ
March 21st New Year's Day Businesses are on holiday for 5 days. The
school holidays continue until:
1. Sizdah be-dar April 2nd, 13th day of now Ruz. On this day everyone stays
out of doors thus repulsing evil according to an ancient tradition

12th Farvardin Islamic Republic Day
April 1st
14th Khordad Death of Imam Khomeini
June 4th
15th Khordad National Uprising, 1963
June 5th
22nd Bahman Victory of Islamic Revolution
11th February
29th Esfand Oil Industry Nationalized,
19th March 1950

 
RELIGIOUS HOLIDAYS


13th Rajab Imam Ali's Birthday.
27th Rajab Mission of Holy Prophet.
15th Sha'ban Bithday of Twelfth Imam.
21st Ramazan Imam Ali's Martyrdom.
1st Shavval End of Fasting Month.
25th Shavval Martyrdom of Imam Saadeq
11th Zi-Qa'deh Birthday of Imam Reza
10th Zi-Hajeh The Festival of Sacrifices (Qadir)
9th Moharram Taasou'a
10th Moharram Ashura
20th Safar Arba'in-e Hosseini
28th Safar Death of Prophet, Martyrdom of Imam Hassan.
17th Rabi ol-Avval Birth of Prophet and Imam Saadeq.
The last Friday of the fasting month is observed as Quods Day. Christian, Jewish, and Zoroastrian minorities have their own holidays.

 
WORK HOURS


BANKS: open 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Saturday to Wednesday and 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. Thursday (close on Friday).
BUS COMPANY OFFICES: at the terminals in larger cities open daily from early morning until the evening more or less without a bread. However, in smaller towns they keep shorter, less regular hours, and may or may not be open on Friday or public holidays; in some cases they are active just before a bus is due to leave, and perhaps and extra hour or two a day.
FOREIGN EMBASSIES: consulates and business follow the Iranian working week, closing on Friday and often on one other day of the week, usually Saturday, as well as on their own national holidays. However, to make sure on all cases, it is sensible to call first before visiting.
GOVERNMENT OFFICES: are generally open from 8 am to 2 p.m., Saturday to Wednesday. Some offices, especially Ministries in Tehran, are closed completely on Thursday and others open only from 8 to 11:30 am or noon. In general Thursday is not a good day for conducting official business.
HAIRDRESSERS: Open 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. weekdays (closed on Fridays).
Museums: Open 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. weekdays (except Mondays), and closed of Fridays.
PRINCIPAL BUSINESSES: Open from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. weekdays and closed on Fridays (the bazaar and some shops close on Thursday afternoon, too).
 
MONEY MATTERS


CURRENCY:
For currency restrictions, see CUSTOMS AND ENTRY REGULATIONS. The monetary unit in Iran is the Iranian Rial, internationally abbreviated into RI or Ris. There are 100 "dinars" to the Rial. 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, and 250-Rial silver alloy coins are in circulation as well as bank notes for a value of 100, 200, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, and 10 000 Rials. The value of the coins is indicated in Persian figures, the bank notes have the figures printed on one side in Persian and on the other in Latin numerals. In their daily dealings, Iranians use and old currency unit called tuman, worth 10 Rials.
In compliance with new currency policies and for the convenience of the foreigners, hotel and travel tour rates and the price of carpets are expressed in US dollars.

BANK AND CURRENCY-EXCHANGE OFFICES:
Banks are plentiful and are to be found everywhere, even in very small towns. They are easily recognizable because of their large facades. But only a certain number change foreign currency. Exchange counters are usually open between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. and at the airport for the arrival of international flights. You can also change your money, at the free-market rate, in large hotels which may even accept travellers; cheques. Beware of fly-by-night changers in bazaars although they may offer you a more advantageous rate than the official rate.
Some currency exchange offices operate on Fridays as well. The fairest exchange rates are offered by the banking system. Always take your passport along when you go to change money. Note that small towns do not always have foreign currency exchange offices or banks.
 
TOURIST INFORMATION OFFICES


Each sizable town or tourist goal has its own Tourist Information Office on the spot. These are invaluable sources of information, from maps to local hotel lists and other miscellaneous items. The personnel (often English speaking) are extremely helpful. They don't recommend restaurants or make hotel reservations (unless it is requested by you). Tourist information Offices are usually found at the airports and the main railway stations. The main Tourist Office in Tehran is at: 11 Dameshq St, Vali-e Asr Ave, tel 892212-5.
Most probably you will see aspects of Iranian hospitality during your travel in Iran, but the first impression has got its own place and role to play here. The following is a listing of the main Tourist Information Offices and their telephone numbers:

CITY CODE TEL
Ahwaz 061 33094-5
Arak 02531 26010,23031
Bandar-e 0671 23863,23012
Abbas
Bushehr 0771 3848,2828
Esfahan 031 21555
Hamadan 081 5065,2277
Kashan 02521 5252
Kerman 0341 22588,28040
Kermanshah 0431 25472-3
Khorramabad 0661 6054,6032
Mashhad 051 44041,44322
Orumieh 0441 22620,24020
Qazvin 0281 3363,2434
Qom 0251 26818
Rasht 0231 28119,20039
Sanandaj 0471 2700,2699
Sari 02431 2008,5025
Semnan 02231 2252,4437
Shahr-e Kord 0381 4254,4888
Shiraz 071 38032-4
Tabriz 041 55621,6116
Tehran 021 892212-5
Yasuj 0741 2555,2444
Yazd 0351 38064-9
Zahedan 0541 90001-4
Zanjan 02821 3060,8025
 
Reference Links


 


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