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Safavid era painting kept at The Grand Shah Abbas Caravanserai Hotel in Isfahan

To best understand Iran and their people, one must first attempt to acquire an understanding of its culture. It is in the study of this area where the Iranian identity optimally expresses itself. Hence the first sentence of prominent Iranologist Richard Nelson Frye's latest book on Iran reads:

"Iran's glory has always been its culture." [1]

Iranians were not only open to other cultures, but freely adapted to all they found useful. Thus an eclectic cultural elasticity has been said to be one of the key defining characteristics of the Persian spirit and a clue to its historic longevity.[2] Furthermore, Iran's culture has manifested itself in several facets throughout the history of Iran, as well as that of many Central Asia.

The article uses the words Persian and Iranian interchangeably, sometimes referring to the language and its speakers, and other times referring to the name of pre-20th century Iran, a nomenclature which survives from western explorers and orientalists. Both are not the same however, and the cultures of the people of Greater Persia is the focus of this article.

Persian art collage.jpg
Persian Arts
Visual Arts
Decorative Arts
Embroidery Motifs
Tileworks Handicrafts
Literature Mythology
Architecture Cuisine
Carpets Gardens
Performance Arts
Dance Music



Iranian art has gone through numerous phases of evolution. The unique aesthetics of Iran is evident from the Achaemenid reliefs in Persepolis to the mosaic paintings of Bishapur. The Islamic era drastically brought changes to the styles and practice of the arts, each dynasty with its own particular foci. The Qajarid era was the last stage of classical Persian art, before modernism was imported and suffused into elements of traditionalist schools of aesthetics.


Language and literature

The Persian language has been in continuous use for over 2500 years. Yet it is a subset of the Iranian languages.

Persian literature inspired Goethe, Ralph Waldo Emerson and many others, and it has been often dubbed as a most worthy language to serve as a conduit for poetry. Dialects of Persian are widely spoken throughout the region sporadically from China to Syria and mainly in Iranian Plateau. Two important dialects of Persian serving as languages are Tajiki and Dari respectively spoken in Tajikistan and Afghanistan as official languages.

Contemporary Iranian literature is influenced by classical Persian poetry, but also reflects the particularities of modern day Iran, through writers such as Houshang Moradi-Kermani, the most translated modern Iranian author, and poet Ahmad Shamlou.[3]


With 300 international awards in the past 25 years, films from Iran continue to be celebrated worldwide. Perhaps the best known director is Abbas Kiarostami.


The music of Persia goes back to before the days of Barbod in the royal Sassanid courts. This is where many music cultures trace back their distant origins to.[4]

Painting of Iranian female musicians from Hasht-Behesht Palace ("Palace of the 8 heavens"), Isfahan, Iran, dated 1669.


Traditional teahouses of Iran

There are nearly countless numbers of traditional teahouses (chai khaneh) throughout Iran, and each province features its own unique cultural presentation of this ancient tradition. However, there are certain traits which are common to all teahouses, especially the most visible aspects, strong chai (tea) and the ever-present ghalyan hookah. Almost all teahouses serve baqleh, steam boiled fava beans (in the pod), served with salt and vinegar, as well as a variety of desserts and pastries. Many teahouses also serve full meals, typically a variety of kababs as well as regional specialities.

Persian gardens

The Persian Garden was designed as a reflection of paradise on earth; the word "garden" itself coming from Persian roots. The special place of the garden in the Iranian heart can be seen in their architecture, in the ruins of Iran, and in their paintings.


Examples of traditional Iranian food include chelo kabaab, khoreshte sabzi, dolmeh, and cotlet. Today in Iran you can find fast food restaurants serving pizza, hamburgers, chicken burgers, etc.


  • The game of Polo originated with Iranian tribes in ancient times and was regularly seen throughout the country until the revolution of 1979 where it became associated with the monarchy. It continues to be played, but only in rural areas and discreetly. Recently, as of 2005, it has been acquiring an increasingly higher profile. In March 2006, there was a highly publicised tournament and all significant matches are now televised.
  • The Iranian Zoor Khaneh

Women in Persian culture

In the tales of the 1001 Nights, it is a woman, Scheherazade, who is the protagonist and heroine of the frame tale.

Traditional important days

Iranians celebrate the following days based on a Solar calendar, in addition to important religious days of Islamic and Shia calendars, which are based on a lunar calendar.

Traditional cultural inheritors of the old Persia

Prince Muhammad-Beik of Georgia, 1620. Artist is Reza Abbasi. Painting is located at Berlin's Museum Für Islamische Kunst.

Like the Persian carpet that exhibits numerous colors and forms in a dazzling display of warmth and creativity, Persian culture is the glue that bonds the peoples of western and central Asia. The Caucasus and Central Asia "occupy an important place in the historical geography of Persian civilization. Much of the region was included in the Pre-Islamic Persian empires, and many of its ancient peoples either belonged to the Iranian branch of the Indo-European peoples (e.g. Medes and Soghdians), or were in close cultural contact with them (e.g. the Armenians).[5] In the words of Iranologist Richard Nelson Frye:

"Many times I have emphasized that the present peoples of central Asia, whether Iranian or Turkic speaking, have one culture, one religion, one set of social values and traditions with only language separating them."

The Culture of Persia has thus developed over several thousand years. But historically, the peoples of Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan originate from the same or similar stock, and are related to one another as part of the larger group of peoples of Greater Iran. Armenia, Georgia,[6] and Daghestan were also well within the sphere of influence of Persian culture as well, as can be seen from the many remaining relics, ruins, and works of literature from that region.(e.g. 1) (e.g. 2)

In particular, Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan have been able to almost fully retain their Persian identity, while the other aforementioned entities still exhibit considerable traces of their Iranian past.

Contributions to humanity in ancient history

From the humble brick, to the windmill, Persians have mixed creativity with art and offered the world numerous contributions.[7][8] What follows is a list of just a few examples of the cultural contributions of Greater Persia.

See also


  1. ^ Greater Iran, Mazda Publishers, 2005. ISBN 1568591772 xi
  2. ^ Milani, A. Lost Wisdom. 2004.ISBN 0934211906 p.15
  3. ^ HOUSHMAND, Zara, "Iran", in Literature from the "Axis of Evil" (a Words Without Borders anthology), ISBN 978-1-59558-205-8, 2006, pp.1-3
  4. ^ See article on located at:
  5. ^ Edmund Herzing, Iran and the former Soviet South, The Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1995, ISBN 1899658041 p.48
  6. ^ - GEORGIA
  7. ^ Iran's contribution to the world civilization. A.H. Nayer-Nouri. 1969. Tehran, General Dept. of Publications, Ministry of Culture and Arts. OCLC number: 29858074 Perry-Castañeda Library Reprinted in 1996 under the title: سهم ارزشمند ایران در فرهنگ جهان
  8. ^ "The effect of Persia's culture and civilization on the world" (Taʼ̲sīr-i farhang va tamaddun-i Īrān dar jahān). Abbās Qadiyānī (عباس قدياني). Tehran. 2005. Intishārāt-i Farhang-i Maktūb. ISBN 9649422447 OCLC 70237532
  9. ^ Link:
  10. ^ Arthur Upham Pope, Persian Architecture, 1965, New York, p.15
  11. ^ Link: University of Pennsylvania
  12. ^ Link:
  13. ^ Link:
  14. ^ Links:
  15. ^ Abbas Milani. Lost Wisdom. 2004. Mage Publishers. p.12. ISBN 0934211906
  16. ^ Mary Boyce, "Zoroastrians", London, 1979, 1.
  17. ^ Notes:
  18. ^ Link: BBC
  19. ^ Links:
  20. ^ Links:
  21. ^ Links:
  22. ^ Links:
  23. ^ Link:
  24. ^ Link:
  25. ^ Refer to article by the Christian Science Monitor -
  26. ^ See:
    • Hill, Donald. Islamic Science and Engineering. May 1994. Edinburgh University Press. p.10
    • Sardar, Ziauddin. Introducing Mathematics. Totem Books. 1999.
  27. ^ The Golden Age of the Moor. By Ivan van Sertima. 1992. Transaction Publishers. ISBN 1560005815. p.17

Further reading

  • Michael C. Hillman. Iranian Culture. 1990. University Press of America. ISBN 081917694X
  • George Ghevarghese Joseph.The Crest of the Peacock: The Non-European Roots of Mathematics. July 2000. Princeton U Press.

External links

Simple English

Iran portal

The culture of Iran includes the art, language, cinema and music of the country. The culture of Iran has been influenced by many different things, by religion and by its ancient history. The nation has different ethnic groups including Persians, Arabs and Kurds.


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