The Western Asian country of Iran has one of the oldest and richest cultures in the world. Iranian culture has influenced cultures and peoples in different parts of the world including Europe, East Asia, and South Asia.
6. Ethnicity, Language, and Religion in Iran
Today, Iran is home to a population of around 83,024,745 individuals. Persian, Kurd, Balochi, Arab, Turkmen, Azeri, and Turkic tribes are the major ethnic groups residing in the country. Persian is Iran’s official language. Other ethnic groups usually speak their respective languages at home. The vast majority of Iran’s population (99.4%) practice Islam. Of this population, 90-95% are Sunni Muslims and the rest are Shia Muslims.
5. Iranian Cuisine
The cuisine of Iran is influenced by the cuisines of its indigenous ethnic groups as well as that of its neighbors. The Persian, Turkish, Levantine, Greek, Central Asian, and other cuisines have all contributed to the development and evolution of Iranian cuisine. Bread in different forms (like nan and hamir) and rice are the staples of the cuisine. These are consumed with a variety of foods like meats and vegetables. Flavorings of saffron, dried lime, cinnamon, parsley, and turmeric are often added to Iranian dishes. Fruits like apricots, raisins, prunes, pomegranates, and plums are widely consumed in the country. Yogurt and other dairy products are also often used. Baklava is one of the most popular sweet dishes. It is made of almonds, cardamom, and egg yolks, etc. A drink made from orange peel, rose water, and orange juice boiled in sugar syrup is a non-alcoholic dessert drink of Iran. Tea is the most popular beverage consumed in the country.
4. Literature and the Arts in Iran
The region that is now Iran was the seat of Persian culture. Literature in the Persian language comprises of both oral compositions and written texts and dominates the literary scene in modern-day Iran. The other ethnic groups residing in the country like the Kurds and Azerbaijanis have their distinct literary traditions. Iranian literature is thus a collection of the oral and literary works of all people. Poetry has been one of the most important forms of expression of emotions and thoughts in Iranian society since ages. Iranian poets are internationally renowned for moving poetry which has been used to express love and resentment, anger and frustration, and other emotions related to matters of personal or national interests. The art of storytelling has also been prevalent in Iran since ancient times. Novels, essays, stories, etc., are part of modern day literature produced in the country.
Iran has one of the world’s richest art heritages that encompass numerous disciplines like weaving, painting, calligraphy, metalworking, pottery, architecture, etc. Iran is renowned for its Persian carpets. It is the second most important export product in the country after oil. The finest of these hand knotted carpets take years to complete. Miniature Iranian paintings illustrate epics and classic stories that are highly treasured across the world.
3. Performing Arts in Iran
Iranian music has influenced and shaped Turkish and Arabic music to a great extent. It includes various genres ranging from folk to classical and contemporary music. The country’s music scene dates back thousands of years. Some of the earliest complex musical instruments trace their origin to what is now Iranian territory. Gold, copper, and silver trumpets were used to play music in the region sometime between 2200 and 1750 BCE. Folk songs in Iran are based on a variety of themes like religious, social, or historical. There are folk songs that are performed on only special occasions like harvests and weddings. Today, the Iranian youth, especially those living in the urban area, also listen to pop, jazz, rock, and hip hop. Dances in Iran vary regionally and the different ethnic groups inhabiting the country have their own dance styles. The dances range from energetic folk dances to refined court dances.
2. Sports in Iran
The Irani people play a wide range of both traditional and popular sports. Freestyle wrestling has traditionally been regarded as the national sport of the nation. Some of the other traditional sports of Iran are bodybuilding, polo, and board games like chess. Football (soccer) is the most popular game in Iran and has the highest number of followers and spectators. The national football team of Iran has qualified five times for the FIFA World Cup. It has also been a three-time champion at the AFC Asian Cup and a four-time champion at the Asian Games. Some Iranian players now play in European leagues. Basketball, weightlifting, skiing, hiking and climbing, martial arts, volleyball, tennis, and futsal are the other games in which Iranians excel.
1. Life in the Iranian Society
Iranian society is guided by the teachings of Islam. Although women play a prominent role in Iranian households, their public presence is limited. However, over the years, Iranian women have received education at par with men. They do lag behind in the field of employment but the scenario is gradually improving. Public interaction of non-related members of the opposite sex is frowned upon in Iranian society. Members of the same sex can, however, meet and shower emotions and affection on each other. Hand-holding and close interactions among members of the same sex are accepted without any sexual connotation attached to it. Women are expected to dress modestly and cover their head and body with a chador.
Marriages in Iran are usually arranged by the family of the couple. However, love marriages are becoming increasingly common, especially in urban areas. A dowry is generally paid by the bride’s family to the groom. Marriage ceremonies are often preceded by a contract whereby the dowry requirements are specified. Marriages are lavish affairs with the ceremonies lasting for several days and involving many people. The bride moves in with the groom’s family and is expected to obey and honor her husband at all times. Polygamy is allowed as Iran is an Islamic country but is rare in the country. Marriages between cousins are common in Iran. Divorces are rare as social ties often keep the couple together despite differences. Upon divorce, children of marriage stay with the father after a certain age. Remarriage after divorce is allowed for both men and women.
Households in Iran tend to be of the extended nature although smaller family units may have their separate kitchens. Rearing children is the primary responsibility of the mother while the father is expected to discipline them. The eldest male member is usually the most respected member of the family. The male members are responsible for protecting the family honor by ensuring that the female members behave in an expected manner. Male children inherit twice that of female children.
About the Author
Oishimaya is an Indian native, currently residing in Kolkata. She has earned her Ph.D. degree and is presently engaged in full-time freelance writing and editing. She is an avid reader and travel enthusiast and is sensitively aware of her surroundings, both locally and globally. She loves mingling with people of eclectic cultures and also participates in activities concerning wildlife conservation.
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