GEOGRAPHY AND IRAN ENVIRONMENT
Iran's geography and environment: Iran, a territory of about 1.650.000 square kilometers, over five times larger than Italy, is located in South-Western Asia and borders to the north with the Republic of Armenia, the Azarbaydjian Republic, the Republic of Turkmenistan and the Caspian Sea; to the west with Turkey and Iraq; to the south with the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman; in the east with Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Highland landscape of Iran
A series of massive mountains deeply eroded by centuries of erosion surrounds the inner basin of the Iranian plateau.
Most of Iranian territory is located above the 450 meters above sea level; a sixth of it is located at a height higher than 1950 meters above sea level. The coastal regions outside the mountain range are in sharp contrast. In the north, the strip of land about 650 kilometers wide that extends along the Caspian Sea, never wider than 110 km. And that often shrinks up to 15 km, precipitates abruptly from a height of 3.000 meters above sea level up to 27 meters below sea level. In the south, a plateau about 600 meters high, with steep hillsides covered with vegetation and three times as high, rise up to meet the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.
Iran and its mountains
The Zagros mountain chain extends from the border with the Republic of Armenia, in the north-east, to the Persian Gulf, and then to the east in Baluchistan. In descending to the south, it widens into a wide strip 200 km. Of parallel mountains between the plains of Mesopotamia and the great central plateau of Iran. On the western side there are streams that dig deep and narrow gorges and irrigate fertile valleys. The environment of this area is difficult, difficult to access, and populated by nomadic shepherds.
The Alborz mountain range, narrower than that of the Zagros but equally striking, stretches along the south coast of the Caspian to meet the boundary chains of Khorassan to the east. The highest of its volcanic peaks is the Damavand mountain, with its perennial glacier that touches the 5.580 meters above sea level. At the border with Afghanistan the chain runs out, to be replaced by sand dunes without vegetation.
The arid inner plateau, extending as far as Central Asia, is cut by two smaller mountain ranges. Some parts of this desert region, known as the dasht, gradually turn into fertile soil on the slopes of the hills. Where water sources exist, since time immemorial, there have been oases, which mark the itineraries of the ancient caravans. Characteristic of the plateau is a long expanse of salt over 320 km. and half the width, known as kavir and dug by deep crevasses.
The two great Iranian deserts are the Dasht-e Kavir, southeast of Tehran, and the Dasht-e Lut in the south-eastern part of the country (dasht in Persian means "desert"). They occupy a large part of the central plateau and together form one sixth of the total area of the country. These two deserts are the driest in the world and do not host any kind of life. The Dasht-e Kavir covers an area of 200.000 kmq, while the Dasht-e Lut is vast 166.000 sq km and both, despite their vastness, are still considered as the most unexplored and unknown regions of the country. Dasht-e Kavir and Dasht-e Lut were crossed in the past by the great caravans that traveled the Silk Road bringing goods of all kinds from the East to the West and vice versa.
The oases are extremely rare and distant from each other, but it is interesting to note that many important cities - such as Kashan, Isfahan, Yazd and Kerman - are located right on the edge of these deserts. As real ports, with the only difference that these cities are on the edge of the desert and not the sea, they are connected to each other by ancient caravan routes that cross this piece of uninhabited land.
Iran rivers and lakes
Despite being characterized by the presence of large deserts, the Iranian territory presents a complex hydrography, in which the seas that surround the coasts and the 33 lakes scattered throughout the country play an important role, which are fundamental not only for their obvious water support, but also for their scenic beauty.
The Persian Gulf is that shallow portion (240mila kmq) of the Indian Ocean that stretches between the Arabian Peninsula and southeastern Iran. It is long 990 km, and its width varies between a maximum of 338 km. and a minimum of 55 km. (the Strait of Hormuz). To the north, north-east and east laps Iran, northwest Iraq and Kuwait, west and south-west Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar, and to the south and southeast the United Arab Emirates United and partly Oman. Among the numerous islands that dot it, the best known, for different reasons, are Kish, Qeshm, Abu Mussa, the Great and the Little Tonb. The main ports that face the Persian Gulf are Abadan, Khorramshahr, Bandar Khomeini, Bushehr, Bandar Abbas, but in practice all the port cities of this coast are also very important for international maritime traffic.
The Iranian coast is mostly mountainous, with many cliffs; in other places it is narrow and flat, with beaches and small estuaries. The flat coastline extends north of Bushehr on the eastern side of the gulf and then turns into the wide plains of the Tigris, Euphrates and Karoun deltas. Its profile is very asymmetric: along the coast of Iran the waters are deeper, while along the coast of Arabia do not exceed the 36 meters of depth.
Some seasonal streams flow on the coasts of Iran south of Bushehr, but essentially no real river flows into the gulf on its south-western shore. Large quantities of fine sand are transported to the sea by the north-east winds that blow from the interior desert areas. The deepest parts of the Persian Gulf along the Iranian coast and the area around the Tigris and Euphrates deltas are mostly covered with gray-green mud rich in calcium carbonate.
It is known that the Persian Gulf enjoys a bad climate: high temperatures, but also strong winds that can become rather cold at the north-western extremities. The rains are sporadic, especially downpours between November and April, more intense in the north-east. Humidity is very relevant; cloud cover, not abundant, is more frequent in winter than in summer. Thunderstorms and fog are rare, but sand and fog storms often occur in the summer.
Until the discovery of oil in Iran (1908), the Persian Gulf area was especially important for fishing, pearl gathering, sails packaging, date cultivation and other minor activities. Today, however, the oil industry prevails in the region's economy.
To the north, the country borders the Caspian Sea, which despite its name may be misleading, is in fact a lake, the largest in the world. It covers an area of 370.000 sq km and measures well 1210 km from north to south and between 210 km and 439 km from east to west. The Caspian Sea is five times larger than the second of the world lakes (Lake Superior, on the border between the United States and Canada) and contains the 44% of all lake waters in the world. It has very important tributaries like the Volga, the Zhem and the Ural, but it has no outlet on the Ocean. The Caspian Sea has a salinity that is a third compared to sea water; its surface is 30 meters below sea level, but its level increases alarmingly from year to year (from 15 to 20 cm per year).
On average it has a depth of 170 m, almost twice that of the Persian Gulf. Its fish population is abundant; its coasts, however, offer very few natural ports, and the violent and sudden storms that characterize it make it dangerous for small boats. The main ports on the Caspian are Bandar Anzali, Nowshahr and Bandar Turkman.
In addition to the Caspian Sea, the most important of the Iranian lakes is Lake Orumieh, in western Azerbaijan, along 130 km and 50 wide, and there are numerous ports that give on its salt water.
There are numerous salt lakes in Iran and among these we should mention the Lake Howz-Sultan between Teheran and Qom, along 20 km and 15 km wide, which is entirely covered with salt; Lake Hamoun, in eastern Sistan, which serves as a border between Iran and Afghanistan; Lake Bakhtegan, the largest in the province of Fars.
Along the border between Iran and Afghanistan there are numerous swampy lakes that widen and narrow depending on the seasons of the year. The largest, Sistan (or Hamoun-Sabari), in the north of the Sistan-Baluchistan region, is teeming with birds.
The few watercourses that reach the arid central plateau are dispersed in brackish bogs. There are some great rivers, of which the only navigable is the Karoun (890 km.). The main ones include the SefidRud (765 km), the Karkheh (755 km), the Mand (685 km), the Qara-Chay (540 km.) The Atrak (535 km.), The Dez (515 km.), the Hendijan (488 km.), the Jovein (440 km.), the Jarahi (438 km.) and the ZayandehRud (405 km.). All streams are seasonal; spring flooding causes enormous damage, while in summer many watercourses are completely dry. However, there are underground natural springs, which flow into the qanat.
Iran is an extremely diverse country from every point of view, and even geographically this diversity can not fail to catch the eye. First of all, it is a vast country, which with its 1.648.195 sq km is the fourth in Asia in terms of size. The numbers may not be able to express its real breadth, but perhaps we have a more precise idea of the vastness of the country saying that it covers a territory equal to about three times that of France or, in other words, a fifth of the territory North American. Iran is bigger than France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Holland and Denmark put together.
To the north the country borders with the steppes of Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan and with the Caspian Sea; to the east with Afghanistan and Pakistan; to the south with the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf; to the west with Iraq (ancient Mesopotamia) and with Turkey. In simpler terms, Iran forms a great land bridge that unites Asia to Europe. The Iranian borders are developed for a total of well 8731 km.
Iran is a mountainous country, as more than half of its total area, namely 54,9%, is covered by mountains. About 20,7%, almost a quarter of the country, consists of deserts. 7,6% are woods and 16,8% is arable land.
The climate of Iran
Iran enjoys a complex climate, which varies from sub-tropical to sub-polar.
In winter, a high-pressure zone, which has its center in Siberia, torments the interior of the Iranian plateau westwards and southwards, while low pressure systems develop on the warm waters of the Caspian, the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean. . In summer, one of the lowest pressure centers on the planet prevails in southern areas.
Pakistan's low pressure systems generate two systems of regular winds: the Shamal, which blows from February to October through the Tigris and Euphrates valley, and the summer wind of the 120 days, which sometimes reaches the speed of 190 km , the time in the Sistan region near the border with Pakistan. The warm winds of Arabia carry a dense humidity from the Persian Gulf.
The area of the gulf, where heat and humidity are almost intolerable, differs diametrically from the Caspian coastal region, where the humid air coming from the basin merges with the dry air currents blowing from the Alborz creating a slight night breeze.
In summer, temperatures range from a maximum of 50 degrees Celsius, in Khuzestan, to the end of the Persian Gulf, to a minimum of one degree Celsius in the Western Azarbaydjian region (northwest of Iran).
Also the rains vary greatly, on a range that goes from less than 5 centimeters in the southeast to nearly two meters in the Caspian region. The average, in summer, is around the 35 centimeters. Winter is the rainiest season for the entire country. Spring showers and thunderstorms often occur, especially in the mountains, where destructive hailstorms also fall. The coastal region is in stark contrast to the rest of the territory.
The high mountains of the Alborz, which close the plain Caspian plain, absorb moisture from the clouds and create a semi-tropical, densely populated and fertile area, covered with forests, marshes and rice fields. Here the temperatures can touch the 38 degrees Celsius, and the humidity the 98 percent; the periods of frost are rare.
In Iran, the transition from one season to the next is rather abrupt.
For the 21 March (Nowruz, the Iranian New Year) fruit trees are in full sprout and the fields are covered with young and green wheat seedlings. Later, when the orchards are lush, the wild flowers cover the stone hills. Therefore, the summer sun dries up the flowers, and the autumn is not characterized by bright colors; instead, the transition to winter is rapid.
Iran; Flora and fauna
The color of the Iranian landscapes that are discovered traveling on the plateau is one of the best attractions of the country: one never gets used to the subtle changes of nuances.
From one slope to the other, from one valley to the other, the ocher, reds, greens follow one another or mingle, while suddenly very black peaks or pyramids of white stone stand out against the intense blue sky.
But the predominant color is light fawn, similar to that of a fawn's skin
Of the total area of the country, more than 180.000 sq. Km are covered by forests, some of which are impenetrable, and in particular those in the Mazandaran region which, together with the Gilan, acts as a frame to the Caspian Sea. Lovers of greenery and trees can not but walk the beautiful road that links Ardebil to Astara, in the north of Iran. And speaking of the north and of Caspian Sea it must be said that in the waters of this lake the mythical sturgeon that makes Iran the largest exporter of caviar to the world thrives. The Persian Gulf, however, is populated by fish of all sorts, including fishermen, swordfish, as well as tropical fish of rare beauty.
Iran is also famous, among the rare bird watchers, for its incredible variety of little known species, and in this regard it is particularly noteworthy, in addition to the already mentioned area of the Caspian Sea, the Lake of Orumieh, designated by the UNESCO as an "area of global interest" especially for the astonishing multitude of water migratory birds that come here every year.
The mythical Persian lion, symbol of imperial Iran, is on the verge of extinction. Until the fall of the last Shah of Persia, it was even adopted as a symbol of the international humanitarian organization known in Christian countries as the Red Cross and that in Iran, as in all Muslim countries, it later adopted the symbol of the Red Crescent .
There are still many wolves, hyenas, lynxes, Persian gazelles, rabbits, wild donkeys and black bears in the Mazandaran woods. And, even if rarely, you can see specimens of the infamous tiger of the Caspian that, as the name indicates, lives mainly in the Caspian Sea area, as well as leopards, concentrated in the south-east of the country.
Quite unique and typical of the country is the red goat of the Alborz, with its black beard and its spiral horns. In desert areas there is obviously no shortage of reptiles, even if mortally venomous snakes are very rare. Varanos a couple of meters long can be found in the most desolate areas of Iran, as well as the very funny Greek turtles.
The nature of the land, and especially the scarcity of water, have given rise to the Iranian passion for gardens and gardening. Throughout the history of the country, gardens, flowers, trees and ponds have been inexhaustible sources for the artistic creativity of the population. Iran's rose and jasmine have become famous all over the world for their scent, not only sung by national poets but also often cited with amazement by travelers and foreign tourists.
Of the roses, for example, Chardin writes that in addition to those of pink color has found five other different colors: white, yellow, scarlet, light red and two-colored, ie red veined white or yellow. He also claims to have seen rose bushes with flowers of three different colors (yellow, yellow and white, yellow and red) on the same branch, and roses of all these types can still be found today in the country. Another two flowers often associated with Persia are the tulip and the lily. The first was imported into Europe from Persia at the time of Abbas I Safavide, and before then, for centuries, for both the Medes and the Persians, the tulip had always been a symbol of royal majesty.
But Iran has always been famous for its fruit, so much so that from the Persian language, that is from the Farsi, come the names used in Europe for lemon, orange and peach. The Caspian region produces cedars, while dates and bananas grow along the Persian Gulf. On the central plateau, apple, pear, peach, apricot, watermelon, vine and cherry trees grow in abundance, while almost every region has its own characteristic melon.
The country also abounds in spices and medicinal herbs: the quality of its cumin seeds and its saffron is recognized all over the world.
Iran's wildlife includes wolves, foxes, leopards and lynxes (the mythical Persian lion is almost completely extinct, some tiger still live in the Caspian area), wild goats (typical of the Alborz red goat, with the beard) black and spiral horns), deer and gazelle in large numbers, sheep and wild boar. In Caspio, world famous for sturgeon, which makes Iran the largest exporter of caviar in the world, they also live several species of seals; instead the lake of Urumiyeh has been classified by UNESCO as a "world-wide area" for the great variety of migratory waterfowl that come to it every year. The rodents allignano everywhere, and include 98 variety of lizards. Domestic fauna includes horses, donkeys, cattle, water buffaloes, sheep-goats, dromedaries and camels, as well as dogs and cats.