Iran with a population of over 80 million, is a country in the Middle East in Western Asia. You might hear Iran’s name a lot if you watch the news regularly, but mainstream media won’t tell you much about Iran’s history and culture.

In this post, I am going to share some fun facts you probably never heard of about my home country: Iran.

1. Iran is not an Arab country and Iranians are Persians

Most countries in the Middle East speak Arabic but we, Iranians, don’t speak Arabic, we speak Persian, our language is also known as Farsi.

North of Iran

61% of Iranians are Persians while the rest of the population in the country consists of Azeris, Kurds, Lors, Arabs, Baluchs and other ethnic groups.

2. In Iran has its own calendar

One of the interesting facts about Iran is that Iranians use their own calendar which is a solar calendar, meaning that its time reckoning is based on the Earth's movements around the Sun.

Springtime in Iran

The first day of the year is the first day of spring and it is called Nowrouz. The first 6 months have 31 days, the following 5 months have 30 days and the last month normally has 29 days but 30 days in leap years.

3. Iran or Persia

Persia is Iran’s old name. In 1935, Reza Shah, king of Iran, changed the name of the country from Persia to Iran. Iran means the land of Aryans.

Golestan Palace in Iran

4. Iranian food is delicious

Iranian dishes usually come with rice or a variety of flatbread. Slow-cooked stews with rice are the most popular dishes in Iran but there are a variety of kebab dishes too. Iranians love to have side dishes like salad or fresh herbs for every meal. 

Iranian food

5. The weekend in Iran is Friday

The weekend in Iran is Thursday and Friday. Thursday is like Saturday, banks and shops are open but some offices are closed, while Friday is like Sunday.

Nature in Iran

6. A thumbs-up is bad, really bad, in Iran

When you are in Iran don’t give the thumbs-up sign to anyone. Basically giving a thumbs-up is like holding up your middle finger.

7. Iran is home to Zoroastrianism, one of the oldest religions in the world

Yazd city in Iran 

The religion was founded by the prophet Zoroaster in the 6th century BC. There are still Zoroastrians living in Iran today. Even though the majority of Iranians are Muslims, some of the main Zoroastrian’s feasts are still celebrated by all Iranians. Some of these festivities are Nowruz, Yalda, Charshanbe Souri.

8. Iranians say things they don’t mean

When we talk to friends or family members we normally say phrases like “Ghorbunet Beram” or “Fadat”, which mean ”I will sacrifice myself for you”, but we don’t really mean it. Sometimes we want to show our love but some other time we just use it to end a conversation in a polite way.

Tehran - Iran

9. The unique culture of Taarof

This is another example of the previous fact, but this one is a little more complicated. Taarof is a social principle where people tend to be really, really polite. For example, when you are a guest your host might offer you something, you should always reply with “Nah, merci”, which means “no thanks”. Don’t worry, they will make the offer again and you can then accept it.

Tajrish Bazaar in Tehran

Another example is when you are saying bye to your host, the host might ask you to stay longer (keep in mind he might not mean it), you should say “no thanks, it’s getting late”. This might go on for a while, if you really want to know if your host means it, ask if this is Taarof or not.

10. Blowing your nose in public is rude

Blowing your nose might sound natural but don’t do it when you are in public in Iran. If you do it, you will get some very ugly looks.

Blowing your nose in public is considered gross and rude in the Iranian culture, so if you have to do it you should use the washroom or any other private space.

Iranian food 

11. Iranians love tea

Iranians love drinking tea. Iranian tea is brewed black tea without milk. Tea is served at every gathering in Iran and most Iranians drink tea after each meal.

12. Pahlevani and Zoorkhanei rituals

Pahlevani and Zoorkhanei rituals are one of the ancient traditional sports in Iran which is listed on the UNESCO Intangible Heritage. This sport was a traditional system to train warriors in the past.

Pahlevani and Zoorkhanei rituals

13. The majority of students in universities are females

Despite considerable restrictions for females which prevents them from joining some university courses, more than 65 per cents of university students in Iran are women. Getting a degree in higher education is very common for Iranian women.

14. The Iranian drink Aragh Sagi is strong

Alcohol has been illegal in Iran since 40 years ago, but this doesn’t mean Iranians forgot their tradition, some still drink secretly. Aragh Sagi, also known as “Persian vodka” usually contains 50% alcohol but it can be even higher than that. The high-quality one tastes like grappa.

And one last thing, Iran is a beautiful country with stunning mountains, lush forests and amazing landscapes and deserts. Iranians are famous for their hospitality.

A historical site in Iran

As Iranians say: “Be omide didar”, which means: “I hope to see you again”.