Tehran. Population: 7.2 million (UN estimate 2003).
Islamic Republic since 1979.
Head of state:
Supreme Leader (Rahbar-e Moazam) Grand Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khameni since 1989.
Head of government:
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad since June 2005.
230 volts AC, 50Hz. Plugs are of the round two-pin type.
Iran is a remarkable travel destination in myriad ways, and chief among these is the fact that preconceptions of a stern, inhospitable destination are invariably shattered. No one’s pretending that the country’s current leadership can’t be shockingly hard-fisted in matters of civic law, but the most likely result of a Western visitor making an Iran trip remains an endless stream of tea invites.
Rich Persian heritage is evident throughout the country, both in terms of the historical sights – the ancient ruins of Persepolis and the still-glorious former capital of Esfahan being the two most prominent examples – and the country’s distinct cultural identity, which sets it as almost a nation apart in the Islamic world. It’s somewhere with issues, sure, and flashpoint travel advisories should be heeded, but street-level Iran is largely a separate entity to news-headline Iran, and it makes for a truly soul-stirring place to visit.