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  • 1UpTravel - Geography Info and Facts of Countries : . - Iran

    Iran Geography and Facts

    Location: Middle East, bordering the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, and the Caspian Sea, between Iraq and Pakistan

    Geographic coordinates: 32 00 N, 53 00 E

    Map references: Middle East

    total: 1.648 million sq km
    land: 1.636 million sq km
    water: 12,000 sq km

    Area - comparative: slightly larger than Alaska

    Land boundaries:
    total: 5,440 km
    border countries: Afghanistan 936 km, Armenia 35 km, Azerbaijan-proper 432 km, Azerbaijan-Naxcivan exclave 179 km, Iraq 1,458 km, Pakistan 909 km, Turkey 499 km, Turkmenistan 992 km

    Coastline: 2,440 km
    note: Iran also borders the Caspian Sea (740 km)

    Maritime claims:
    contiguous zone: 24 nm
    continental shelf: natural prolongation
    exclusive economic zone: bilateral agreements, or median lines in the Persian Gulf
    territorial sea: 12 nm

    Climate: mostly arid or semiarid, subtropical along Caspian coast

    Terrain: rugged, mountainous rim; high, central basin with deserts, mountains; small, discontinuous plains along both coasts

    Elevation extremes:
    lowest point: Caspian Sea -28 m
    highest point: Qolleh-ye Damavand 5,671 m

    Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, coal, chromium, copper, iron ore, lead, manganese, zinc, sulfur

    Land use:
    arable land: 10%
    permanent crops: 1%
    permanent pastures: 27%
    forests and woodland: 7%
    other: 55% (1993 est.)

    Irrigated land: 94,000 sq km (1993 est.)

    Natural hazards: periodic droughts, floods; dust storms, sandstorms; earthquakes along western border and in the northeast

    Environment - current issues: air pollution, especially in urban areas, from vehicle emissions, refinery operations, and industrial effluents; deforestation; overgrazing; desertification; oil pollution in the Persian Gulf; inadequate supplies of potable water

    Environment - international agreements:
    party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
    signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation

    Background: Known as Persia until 1935, Iran became an Islamic republic in 1979 after the ruling shah was forced into exile. Conservative clerical forces subsequently crushed westernizing liberal elements.

    Militant Iranian students seized the US Embassy in Tehran on 4 November 1979 and held it until 20 January 1981. During 1980-88, Iran fought a bloody, indecisive war with Iraq over disputed territory.

    The key current issue is how rapidly the country should open up to the modernizing influences of the outside world.



    Size: Land area of about 1,648,000 square kilometers; sovereignty claimed over territorial waters up to 12 nautical miles.

    Topography: Large Central Plateau surrounded on three sides by rugged mountain ranges. Highest peak Mount Damavand, approximately 5,600 meters; Caspian Sea about 27 meters below sea level.


    Population: Preliminary results of October 1986 census listed total population as 48,181,463, including approximately 2.6 million refugees from Afghanistan and Iraq. Population grew at rate of 3.6 percent per annum between 1976 and 1986. Government figures showed 50 percent of population under fifteen years of age in 1986.

    Education: School system consists of five years of primary (begun at seven years of age), three years of middle school, and four years of high school education. High school has three cycles: academic, science and mathematics, and vocational technical. Government announced 11.5 million students in above school system in academic year 1986-87; percentage of school age population in school not published. Postrevolution decrease in university enrollments, particularly percentage of women students, which declined from 40 percent in prerevolutionary period to 10 percent in 1984. Number of students abroad also declined.

    Health: Iranian Medical Association reported 12,300 doctors in 1986; 38,000 additional doctors needed to provide population with minimally adequate health care. Most medical personnel located in large cities. High infant mortality rate. Gastrointestinal, parasitic, and respiratory diseases other chief causes of mortality.

    Languages: Persian official language and native tongue of over half the population. Spoken as a second language by majority of the remainder. Other Indo-European languages, such as Kirmanji (the collective term in Iran for the dialects spoken by Kurds), as well as Turkic languages and Arabic also important.

    Religion: Shia Islam official religion with at least 90 percent adherence. Also approximately 8 percent Sunni Muslims and smaller numbers of Bahais, Armenian and Assyrian Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians.

    Data as of December 1987



    Iran is one of the world's most mountainous countries. Its mountains have helped to shape both the political and the economic history of the country for several centuries. The mountains enclose several broad basins, or plateaus, on which major agricultural and urban settlements are located. Until the twentieth century, when major highways and railroads were constructed through the mountains to connect the population centers, these basins tended to be relatively isolated from one another. Typically, one major town dominated each basin, and there were complex economic relationships between the town and the hundreds of villages that surrounded it. In the higher elevations of the mountains rimming the basins, tribally organized groups practiced transhumance, moving with their herds of sheep and goats between traditionally established summer and winter pastures. There are no major river systems in the country, and historically transportation was by means of caravans that followed routes traversing gaps and passes in the mountains. The mountains also impeded easy access to the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea.

    With an area of 1,648,000 square kilometers, Iran ranks sixteenth in size among the countries of the world. Iran is about one-fifth the size of the continental United States, or slightly larger than the combined area of the contiguous states of California, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.

    Located in southwestern Asia, Iran shares its entire northern border with the Soviet Union. This border extends for more then 2,000 kilometers, including nearly 650 kilometers of water along the southern shore of the Caspian Sea. Iran's western borders are with Turkey in the north and Iraq in the south, terminating at the Shatt al Arab (which Iranians call the Arvand Rud). The Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman littorals form the entire 1,770-kilometer southern border. To the east lie Afghanistan on the north and Pakistan on the south. Iran's diagonal distance from Azarbaijan in the northwest to Baluchestan va Sistan in the southeast is approximately 2,333 kilometers.

    Data as of December 1987



    Iran consists of rugged, mountainous rims surrounding high interior basins. The main mountain chain is the Zagros Mountains, a series of parallel ridges interspersed with plains that bisect the country from northwest to southeast. Many peaks in the Zagros exceed 3,000 meters above sea level, and in the south-central region of the country there are at least five peaks that are over 4,000 meters. As the Zagros continue into southeastern Iran, the average elevation of the peaks declines dramatically to under 1,500 meters. Rimming the Caspian Sea littoral is another chain of mountains, the narrow but high Alborz Mountains. Volcanic Mount Damavand (5,600 meters), located in the center of the Alborz, is not only the country's highest peak but also the highest mountain on the Eurasian landmass west of the Hindu Kush .

    The center of Iran consists of several closed basins that collectively are referred to as the Central Plateau. The average elevation of this plateau is about 900 meters, but several of the mountains that tower over the plateau exceed 3,000 meters. The eastern part of the plateau is covered by two salt deserts, the Dasht-e Kavir and the Dasht-e Lut. Except for some scattered oases, these deserts are uninhabited.

    Iran has only two expanses of lowlands: the Khuzestan plain in the southwest and the Caspian Sea coastal plain in the north. The former is a roughly triangular-shaped extension of the Mesopotamia plain and averages about 160 kilometers in width. It extends for about 120 kilometers inland, barely rising a few meters above sea level, then meets abruptly with the first foothills of the Zagros. Much of the Khuzestan plain is covered with marshes. The Caspian plain is both longer and narrower. It extends for some 640 kilometers along the Caspian shore, but its widest point is less than 50 kilometers, while at some places less than 2 kilometers separate the shore from the Alborz foothills. The Persian Gulf coast south of Khuzestan and the Gulf of Oman coast have no real plains because the Zagros in these areas come right down to the shore.

    There are no major rivers in the country. Of the small rivers and streams, the only one that is navigable is the Karun, which shallow- draft boats can negotiate from Khorramshahr to Ahvaz, a distance of about 180 kilometers. Several other permanent rivers and streams also drain into the Persian Gulf, while a number of small rivers that originate in the northwestern Zagros or Alborz drain into the Caspian Sea. On the Central Plateau, numerous rivers, most of which have dry beds for the greater part of the year, form from snow melting in the mountains during the spring and flow through permanent channels, draining eventually into salt lakes that also tend to dry up during the summer months. There is a permanent salt lake, Lake Urmia (the traditional name, also cited as Lake Urmiyeh, to which it has reverted after being called Lake Rezaiyeh under Mohammad Reza Shah), in the northwest, whose brine content is too high to support fish or most other forms of aquatic life. There are also several connected salt lakes along the Iran-Afghanistan border in the province of Baluchestan va Sistan.

    Data as of December 1987



    Iran has a variable climate. In the northwest, winters are cold with heavy snowfall and subfreezing temperatures during December and January. Spring and fall are relatively mild, while summers are dry and hot. In the south, winters are mild and the summers are very hot, having average daily temperatures in July exceeding 38° C. On the Khuzestan plain, summer heat is accompanied by high humidity.

    In general, Iran has an arid climate in which most of the relatively scant annual precipitation falls from October through April. In most of the country, yearly precipitation averages 25 centimeters or less. The major exceptions are the higher mountain valleys of the Zagros and the Caspian coastal plain, where precipitation averages at least 50 centimeters annually. In the western part of the Caspian, rainfall exceeds 100 centimeters annually and is distributed relatively evenly throughout the year. This contrasts with some basins of the Central Plateau that receive ten centimeters or less of precipitation annually.

    Data as of December 1987

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