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Seventy million people inhabit this country which is nearly the size of Queensland (Australia) or a fifth of the United States. It is dominated by three mountain ranges – the fertile and volcanic Sabalan and Talesh ranges, the Zagros range which the runs along the western border and the Alborz range, to the North of Tehran and home to the highest mountain – Damavand (5670m).The Alborz range also has the largest area of vegetation in Iran and the northern slopes are densely covered with deciduous trees.These ranges are also home to many mammals including wolf, jackal, wild boar, hyena, black bear and lynx.The lowlands are inhabited by Persian squirrels, mongoose, Persian gazelle, porcupine, badger and Iranian wild ass. However perhaps the most famous of creatures is the Alborz red sheep with its long black beard and spiralling horns.
Ninety percent of the population practice Iran’s brand of fundamentalist Shi’ite Islam and this will be noticed by travellers by the modest dress code and the behaviour at mosques. All Iranian and foreign females appearing in public should cover their head and wear a dress that covers the body except the face, toes and hands. Men are advised not to wear short sleeves and short pants are strictly forbidden – refer pre-departure notes for full details on dress requirements.
Iran has a long history of almost 7000 years since the Aryans emigrated here and gave their name to the land and called it “land of Aryans” or Iran. Achaemenid appeared in 550BC and was the first unified dynasty and until it was conquered by Alexander of Macedonia in 330BC, Iran prospered as the “Great Persian Empire” for more than 2 centuries. There are many landmarks left from the Achaemenian period, most notably in Persepolis. Many other dynasties and monarchies succeeded the country until the Pahlavi, which was demolished in 1979 by the Islamic Revolution, changing Iran from a constitutional monarchy to a republic. There is an enormous diversity of ethnic types in Iran, the majority are descendants of the Aryan tribes.
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