Tourist & Resident Guide to Iran

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


The Ghaliyan - or hookah as it is more widely known - is a water pipe used for smoking tobacco. Ghaliyan is still very much a part of popular culture in Iran – in fact you see more young people smoking it than old. You can smoke ghaliyan at working-class teahouses and at traditional restaurants where it is served to your table or rug with dates, sweets and of course tea. Places like these quickly fill with the sweet aroma of scented tobacco. Many Iranians – especially young men – bring their own on mountain walks and picnics, take coals from the barbecue and share a smoke after lunching on chicken kababs.

Hookah pipe in Iran
The pipe consists of several parts; a glass jug part-filled with water, a wooden, earthenware or metal stem fitted tightly to the jug, a brazier at the top of the stem for coals and tobacco and a hose with a mouthpiece attached to the jug above water level.

When you suck the mouthpiece, air is drawn past the coals in the brazier and this heats the tobacco. Smoke from the burning tobacco is then pulled down into the water jug where it is cooled and partly filtered of tar and other impurities. After bubbling up through the water (the sound it makes gives ghaliyan its other popular western name – hubbly-bubbly) it passes through the hose.

Traditionally the ghaliyun is used for smoking plain tobacco that you can still see in bazaars in the form of dry, brown folded leaves. These leaves have to be soaked before smoking. Now though, the most popular form of tobacco is the scented, flavoured variety which comes in a sticky paste wrapped in plastic and packed into small boxes. Some popular flavours are na’ana (mint), do-sib (two apples) and portogal (orange).

Friends smoking a hookah pipe

Books on Iran - Fiction, Politics, History, Islam

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Persian Carpets

Persian Carpets

The seven main centers for production of Persian carpets in Iran are: Tabriz, Mashhad, Qom, Kashan, Nain, Esfahan and Kerman.

Persian Carpet

In Iranian culture carpets signify much, much more than just a floor covering.

Carpets in Iran symbolize wealth, investment and religious devotion. The earliest surviving Persian rugs date back to the Safavid Period.

Persian carpets are traditionally woven from wool or silk and have a long history of production and international trade on the ancient Silk Road, which passed through Persia between China and the West. Persian carpets have long been treasured by the rich in both the Far East and Europe.

Persian Carpet

Carpet motifs are classically symmetrical and often floral, symbolizing the design of classical Persian gardens.

Persian carpets are produced in three main sizes:

- mian farsh: 3m x 2.5m
- kellegi: 3.5m x 2m
- kenareh: 3m x 1m


Gabbeh rugs - a colorful carpet often produced by nomadic tribes
Kilim - flat, geometrically patterned and woven rugs

Most Persian carpets are hand-woven on vertical looms by mainly female artisans from sheep or goat wool and occasionally from camel wool.

Persian carpets contain on average up to 30 knots per square centimeter.

Persian carpets are available for sale in their centers of production in Iran and from the bazaars of Tehran, Esfahan and Shiraz.

The Carpet Museum in Tehran provides the visitor with an excellent insight into the history of Persian carpet production, styles and techiniques.

The world's largest Persian carpet is the Ardebil Carpet.

Persian Carpet

Further information see Kimiya International

Travel Guide to Tehran

Travel Guide to Esfahan

Books on Iran - Fiction, Politics, History, Islam

Books on Iran

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Bridal SUV

Iranian weddings are floral feasts and the car that gets the bride and groom to the ceremony is always elaborately festooned.

Travel Guide to Tehran

Travel Guide to Esfahan

Masuleh Gilan Province Iran

Masuleh, Gilan Province
Though Masuleh is one of Iran’s most valued architectural treasures it is also one of its humblest. Here it is not the sweeping vision of a master architect or the glory of a great king that tourists flock to appreciate, but the simplicity of a traditional village in a spectacular location untouched by the modern age.

Masuleh is located about a one and a half hour drive away from the city of Rasht, less than an hour away from Fumn, in the foothills of Mount Talesh. In fact, the village literally grips the mountainside, hanging on as if it were in danger of plunging into the river at its foot.

The architectural style that makes Masuleh special can be seen elsewhere in Iran but not so perfectly preserved. In order to accommodate houses, a bazaar, 18 mosques and all the facilities of a village of just under 2,000 inhabitants, the roofs of many buildings double up as the streets of the level above.

The height difference between the lowest and the highest points of this stepped village is about 100 metres. The car park at river level is as far up as motor vehicles can go – this being the only village in Iran in which automobiles are completely banned.

Much is being done in Masuleh to maintain buildings in the old ways. Every year walls get a fresh coating of mud, giving the whole village an organic feel – as if the buildings have grown out of the earth of the streets.

At the heart of the town is the bazaar which is a lively nest of alleys and stairways with cubby-hole shops selling a wide variety of handicrafts, freshly-baked sweets, a worrying preponderance of knives and all weaves and colours of silk scarves. One level above the bazaar are a number of restaurants and teahouses where you can lunch on kabab followed by tea and gheliyoon.

Masuleh, Gilan Province
Stray up further and your chances increase of having a grumpy local chide you for not sticking to the "tourist areas". Not everybody here is glad of the attention that their picturesque little town brings. However, most of Masuleh’s inhabitants welcome the interest in their village and some even open their homes to guests for meals or overnight stays.

Travel Guide to Tehran

Travel Guide to Esfahan

Books on Iran - Fiction, Politics, History, Islam

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Iran News 1/14/07

Iran News

The BBC has three stories on Iran this week.

The first details the effects of traffic and new construction on the historic city of Isfahan

The cheap price of oil and the effects of pollution from cars leads to thousands of deaths in Tehran from smog every year.

Lack of job opportunities is leading to an estimated brain drain of 150,000 people each year leaving Iran.

The Iran Daily highlights "Clean Air Week in Tehran" to combat the threat of car pollution.

The Fars News Agency reports that the Iranian government has passed into law a regulation raising the voting age in local elections from 15 to 18.

Travel Guide to Tehran

Travel Guide to Esfahan

Books on Iran