Tourist & Resident Guide to Iran

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Alam in Ashura

An "alam" is a heavy ritual cross which is carried during the Ashura festival. The word "alam" means "flag" or "sign" in Arabic.

Ashura is a Muslim festival and commemorates the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad, killed at the Battle of Karbala in Iraq in 680 CE. The festival is of particular significance to Shias.

Alam carried during the Ashura Festival

Above you can see a teenage boy carrying the heavy alam in an act of self-mortification for the festival of Ashura in Tehran. Ashura is marked by such acts of mourning and grief with participants often beating themselves on the chest or using chains to flagellate themselves to express their sorrow and loss.

Alam a heavy ritual cross

Iranian Music CDs Books on Iran Guide to Tehran

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Monday, May 21, 2012

Kormeh Sabzi & Aash Reshteh Recipes

Kormeh Sabzi

If you love your greens and meat together then this simple Persian preparation is just the thing you need. Gently spiced and flavorful it goes well with rice or bread.


1 cup chopped parsley
1 cup fenugreek leaves (chopped)
1 cup spinach (chopped)
1 cup chives (chopped)

Rest of the Ingredients
250 grams mutton (minced)
250 grams lima beans (soaked overnight or soak two hours before on the day if you don’t like them very soft)
1 onion (grated/finely diced)
2 tbsps oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1 tsp dried mango powder
12 tsp turmeric


Usually Iranians fry their greens in oil and keep aside but a healthier way of making the dish is to cook them without frying them.

Add salt, pepper and onion to the mince and mix well. Make small balls and fry in the oils until golden brown. Don’t make the balls very big as cooking them is easier when kept medium (lemon sized).
Remove and keep aside.

In the same oil add the greens, beans, turmeric and dried mango powder with salt to taste. After two minutes add the meat balls and allow to cook, covered and on medium heat until the water dries up and a gravy like consistency is obtained.

Aash Restaurant, Enghelab Square

Aash Reshteh

This is a lovely soupy concoction which is great on a rainy day or a cold wintry day. Wholesome and tasy it is a meal in itself!


1 can nokhod (chickpeas) or 1 cup dry nokhod (chickpeas/garbanzo)
1 cup adas (lentils)
1 cup lobiya ghermez (red beans or red kidney beans)
1/4 cup navy beans (optional)
1 pack of Reshteh (noodle)
1 medium Onion - chopped
chopped garlic
dry mint
turmeric (optional)
2 table spoons flour (optional as a thickening agent)
Sabzi (greens) for the Aash (soup) include: parsley, cilantro, spinach, green onions, shevid (dill) Combine in the ratio (3 parsley: 2cilantro: 2 green onions: 1 spinach)
Shevid (dry dill) - approximately 4 spoonfuls


Most people soak their red beans and lentils the night before but soaking them on the day of cooking, instead of overnight works best as they don’t overcook and soften. While your beans are soaking, clean and chop parsley, cilantro, spinach, and green onions. Do not over chop the greens.

Cook the aash in a very large pot. Place some water in the pot and bring it to a boil. Drain the beans (the nokhod, red beans, navy beans, and lentils) and boil in the water for about 10 - 15 minutes. Once again drain the beans and add a small amount of chopped onions (with some oil) in the pot. Add the beans back into the pot after the onions are sautéed a bit.

At this point add some turmeric powder to the beans. Next add all the fresh greens and dried shevid (dill) and some more water. Stir constantly to ensure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pot and everything cooks evenly. Next add some sautéed mint with lightly browned onions and garlic to the aash reshteh. Add a little cold water to the flour and mix it into a paste. This is an optional step. Then add some kashk into the pot and stir. Now let this pot cook for 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally.

The last thing to add is the reshteh. When you serve the aash, decorate with sautéed mint, onions, and garlic and some kashk.

Mariam Noronha

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Shopping in Tehran

Tehran, Iran's capital and biggest city is choc a bloc with the colors and flavors of Persia.

Tehran's fashion conscious people, blend of the modern and traditional make it a great place to shop, eat and mingle with people. Here is a look at some shopping options you can explore on your visit to Tehran.

The Grand Bazaar

You can begin your shopping sojourn in Tehran with a visit to the Grand Bazaar, a must-see tourist attraction located in southern Tehran. Traditionally, this bazaar was split into several corridors, each of which was a hub for sellers specializing in different types of goods. The corridors here are over 10 kilometers in length teeming with a variety of goods such as carpets, copper, spices, and precious metals, gems, jewellery as well as small traders selling a range of goods.

There are several entrances to the Grand Bazaar some of which are locked and guarded at night. It is difficult to say exactly when the "bazaar" first appeared, but in the centuries following the introduction and spread of Islam in Persia, historians believe that trade and commerce spawned in this very location way back in time. The Grand Bazaar is a continuation of the legacy of this growth.

Tehran Bazaar

Tandis Center

If you are looking for good quality products in Tehran then head to Tandis Center where you will find the best brands in almost every type of product. Home to brands like Levis, Dior, Espirit, Zolo and Zara among others this shopping center is a great place to buy textile products like the termeh, garments, scarves, trench coats, shoes, furniture and home décor products, basically whatever you need.

Tandis Center is great place to grab a bite with its many restaurants, fast food centers and coffee shops too.

Tajrish Bazaar
A charming place where you can window shop, soak in the atmosphere and buy everything that's colorful and interesting from fresh fruits and vegetables to home décor products and textiles.

Prices here are relative and you can bargain to strike a good deal. Everything has its own relative price, and even you can discuss the prices.

Currency and Other Related Information for Shoppers

The official currency of Iran is the Riyal. However the currency commonly used for everyday life is called 'Toman'. 10 Riyals make 1 Toman. Be sure to check the units used for the prices.

It is important to note that Credit Cards such as Visa, MasterCard and American Express are not widely used in Iran. Iran has its own local debit/credit system. Consult with your travel agent before travelling to Iran. Even though some hotels and traditional handicraft shops accept credit cards you cannot rely on credit cards for most transactions.

A shopping trip in Tehran as is anywhere else in Iran is an experience in itself. The bazaars are colorful and bustling with families eager to buy or simply window shop. You are sure to spot tea sellers in their colorful attire as juggle tea cups in one hand while they pour the aromatic beverage with the other. The aroma of freshly baked bread is in the air as people line up at bakeries to get a freshly baked loaf of bread while others stop for a glass of sherbet or juice. A shopping trip is a great opportunity to go bazaar hopping while mingling with the local people.

Mariam Noronha

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Persian Berry Rice

Zereshk Pulo Murgh or Persian Berry Rice is a main course item that one can rustle up with ease while adding that traditional Persian touch to a meal. Here is how simple this dish really is.

Ingredients (To Serve 4-5)

3 cups rice - washed and soaked in water
2-3 chicken breasts (cut in to large chunks)
1 medium onion finely chopped
Saffron strands soaked in warm milk
sugar (3-4 spoonfuls)
1 cup zereshk (berberris)
Salt/pepper to taste
Half teaspoon turmeric

Cooking Directions

Sauté onions in a pan until tender and translucent, add in the chicken pieces. Stir the pieces around for a minute or so and then add salt, pepper and turmeric powder. Add one cup of water and cover the pan to let the chicken cook. Set the temperature on medium to low and allow it cook for 30-45 minutes.

Once the chicken is cooked you can retain 1/2 cup of the chicken stock (after straining it) in case you would like to pour it over the rice later.

In a large pot bring water to a boil, and then add rice. Be sure to drain the water in which you have soaked the rice before you add the rice to the boiling water. Once the rice boils drain it and set it aside. Add about half a cup to one cup water to the pot with oil or butter. Put the pot back on the stove and leave it on high temperature. Pour the rice into the pot.

At this point it is a matter of personal choice whether you want to add the chicken pieces in the pot between two layers of the rice. You can also make the chicken separate from the rice for Zereshk Polo. In case you chose to save chicken stock earlier you can pour it over the rice now. However, if you want to keep your Zereshk Polo closer to a white color and not a yellow then don’t pour saffron into your chicken stock.
Once this is done cover the lid of the pot with a towel and place it over the pot. When steam starts escaping from the sides of the pot you can lower the temperature and allow the rice to cook for 40 minutes to 1 hour.

Clean the zereshk (barberries) and wash them. Place them in a small pot and set the temperature to medium. Add some oil to the zereshk (barberries) and add a little liquid saffron and some sugar into the pot and mix. Do not overcook the berries.

Serving Directions: When you are ready to serve the rice put half the rice on a serving platter and mix 2/3 of the rest of the rice with 2/3 of the barberries and pour on top of the rice. Add saffron to the rest of the rice and the remaining barberries and spread onto the top of the platter. Place the chicken around the platter or keep in a separate platter.

Mariam Noronha

Iranian Music CDs Books on Iran Guide to Tehran

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Separation Movie Review

Iranian films and film makers have always succeeded in making films that vividly depict the complexity of human life and relationships.

A Separation, was Iran's entry and winner of the Best Foreign Language Film award at the 2012 Oscars.

The film is a domestic drama by writer-director Asghar Farhadi, in which a web of personal and social issues play out on the screen in complexity and pain.

A Separation focuses on damaged relationships and the issues relating to gender, class and religion in contemporary Iran.

The protagonists are a modern day, 30-something, working couple in Tehran, Simin (Leila Hatami) and Nader (Peyman Moaadi).

After 14 years of marriage, the wife Simin wants to end their union over differences regarding the education of their talented 11-year-old daughter Termeh (played by Sarina Farhadi, the director's daughter).

Simin wants to leave Iran for another country to expand the opportunities available for her daughter; Nader is determined to stay to care for his elderly father (Ali-Asghar Shahbazi), who has Alzheimer's.

Simin leaves the family home and returns to her mother while Nader, while hoping she will come back, hires a poor, uneducated and deeply religious woman Razieh (Sareh Bayat) to care for his ailing father.

That Razieh is unable to cope with the situation is shown when the father soils himself and she phones an imam to inquire whether it is permissible to change his clothes.

Razieh recommends her husband Hojjat (Shahab Hosseini) take over her duties but he is arrested for debt before he can.

For here on things begin to go terribly wrong and the two couples Simin and Nader and Razieh and Hojjat find themselves before the magistrates.

Nader had returned to find his father tied to the bed and fired Razieh and physically pushed her out of the flat, unjustly accusing her of theft in to the bargain. Later Razieh has a miscarriage and the court is charged with finding out if Nader is responsible.

The movie now revolves around the difficulties of the two couples finding a compromise solution to their various problems, something that proves beyond them and leaves Termeh with a heart-rending decision to make at the end of the film.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Useful Sites on Iran & Iranian Culture

Here is a listing of websites in English we recommend on Iran and Iranian culture. If you think we have missed something please let us know.

Iranian Art & Exhibitions

Iranian Culture


Iran News


Iran Sport

Iran Travel 

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Iranian Embassy In London Closed

Iranian Embassy in London Closed

Following the latest diplomatic spat between the UK and Iran, the Iranian embassy in London and the British embassy in Tehran have both been closed.

Iranian Embassy

Iranian Embassy in the United Kingdom
16 Prince's Gate
London SW7 1PT

Nearest underground station is Knightsbridge on the Piccadilly Line

Iranian Embassy

Iran Visitor on Twitter

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Iran Visitor on Twitter

Follow IranVisitor on Twitter. If you have an Iran-related Twitter account please follow IranVisitor on Twitter and we'll follow right back. We look forward to reading your tweets on Iran.

IranVisitor on Twitter

Monday, November 07, 2011

Calling Iran from abroad

You can easily call Iran from the United States from your mobile phone or by using international phone cards. Here are the codes you need to use:
- 011 – use this code first for all international calls from the US
- 98 – dial the country code for Iran
- Area code – dial the 2-3 digit area code; for example, the area code for Tehran is 21, while for Shiraz is 711
- Phone number – now insert your phone number, made out of 7 or 8 digits.

Telephone Iran

For making international calls to cell phones in Iran, use the following sequence:
- 011 + 98 + 9XX XXX XXXX

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dolat Abad Garden Yazd

Dolat Abad Garden (Bagh-e Dolatabad) in Yazd was built in the early 18th century as a residence of a governor of Yazd.

Dolat Abad Garden Yazd, Iran

The octagonal wind tower is 33m high.

Iranian Music CDs Books on Iran Guide to Tehran

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Vakil Bazaar

Vakil Bazaar in Shiraz is the city's main market and located in the historic heart of the old city.

Child's Dress, Vakil Bazaar, Shiraz

The market is thought to date from the 11th century and is a good place to buy Persian carpets, ethnic clothes (as pictured), copper ornaments and local herbs and spices. nearby are a number of mosques, bathhouses and caravanserais.

Photographs of Iran