The culture of Iran, also known as culture of Persia, is one of the oldest in the world. Owing to its dominant geo-political position and culture in the world, Iran has directly influenced cultures and peoples as far away as Italy, Macedonia, and Greece to the West, Russia to the North, the Arabian Peninsula to the South, and South and East Asia to the East. 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 historical longevity. Furthermore, Iran’s culture has manifested itself in several facets throughout the history of Iran as well as the Caucasus, Central Asia, Anatolia, and Mesopotamia. .
Iran has one of the richest art heritages in world history and encompasses many disciplines including architecture, painting, weaving, pottery, calligraphy, metalworking and stonemasonry. There is also a very vibrant Iranian modern and contemporary art scene.
Iranian art has gone through numerous phases. The unique aesthetics of Iran is evident from the Achaemenid reliefs in Persepolis to the mosaic paintings of Bishapur. The Islamic era brought drastic 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
Several languages are spoken in different regions of Iran. The predominant language and national language is Persian, which is spoken across the country. Azerbaijani is spoken primarily and widely in the northwest, Kurdish primarily in the west as well as Luri, Mazandarani and Gilaki at the Caspian Sea coastal regions, Arabic primarily in the Persian Gulf coastal regions, Balochi primarily in the desolate and remote far southeast, and Turkmen primarily in northern border regions. Smaller languages spread in other regions notably include Talysh, Georgian, Armenian, Assyrian, and Circassian, amongst others.
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 sporadically spoken throughout the region from China to Syria to Russia, though mainly in the Iranian Plateau.
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.
There are two stages in a typical wedding ritual in Iran. Usually both phases take place in one day. The first stage is known as “Aghd”, which is basically the legal component of marriage in Iran. In this process, the Bride and Groom as well as their respective guardians sign a marriage contract. This phase usually takes place in the bride’s home. After this legal process is over, the second phase, “Jashn-e Aroosi” takes place. In this step, which is basically the wedding reception, where actual feasts and celebrations are held, typically lasts from about 3–7 days. The ceremony takes place in a decorated room with flowers and a beautifully decorated spread on the floor. This spread is typically passed down from mother to daughter and is composed of very nice fabric such as “Termeh” (cashmere), “Atlas” (gold embroidered satin), or “Abrisham” (silk).
Iranian Wedding Ceremony
Items are placed on this spread: a Mirror (of fate), two Candelabras (representing the bride and groom and their bright future), a tray of seven multi-colored herbs and spices (including poppy seeds, wild rice, angelica, salt, nigella seeds, black tea, and frankincense). These herbs and spices play specific roles ranging from breaking spells and witchcraft, to blinding the evil eye, to burning evil spirits. In addition to these herbs/spices, a special baked and decorated flatbread, a basket of decorated eggs, decorated almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts (in their shell to represent fertility), a basket of pomegranates/apples (for a joyous future as these fruits are considered divine), a cup of rose water (from special Persian roses)—which helps perfume the air, a bowl made out of sugar (apparently to sweeten life for the newlywed couple), and a brazier holding burning coals and sprinkled with wild rue (as a way to keep the evil eye away and to purify the wedding ritual) are placed on the spread as well. Finally, there are additional items that must be placed on the spread, including a bowl of gold coins (to represent wealth and prosperity), a scarf/shawl made of silk/fine fabric (to be held over the bride and groom’s head at certain points in the ceremony), two sugar cones—which are ground above the bride and groom’s head, thus symbolizing sweetness/happiness, a cup of honey (to sweeten life), a needle and seven strands of colored thread (the shawl that is held above the bride and groom’s head is sewn together with the string throughout the ceremony), and a copy of the couple’s Holy Book (other religions require different texts); but all of these books symbolize God’s blessing for the couple An early age in marriage—especially for brides—is a long documented feature of marriage in Iran. While the people of Iran have been trying to legally change this practice by implementing a higher minimum in marriage, there have been countless blocks to such an attempt. Although the average age of women being married has increased by about five years in the past couple decades, young girls being married is still common feature of marriage in Iran—even though there is an article in the Iranian Civil Code that forbid the marriage of women younger than 15 years of age and males younger than 18 years of age.
Cuisine in Iran is considered to be one of the most ancient forms of cuisine around the world. Bread is arguably the most important food in Iran, with a large variety of different bread, some of the most popular of which include: nan and hamir, which are baked in large clay ovens (also called “tenurs”). In Iranian cuisine, there are many dishes that are made from dairy products. One of the most popular of which includes yoghurt (“mast”)—which has a specific fermentation process that is widely put to use amongst most Iranians. In addition, mast is used to make soup and is vital in the production of oil. In addition to these dairy products, Iranian cuisine involves a lot of dishes cooked from rice. Some popular rice dishes include boiled rice with a variety of ingredients such as meats, vegetables, and seasonings (“plov”) including dishes like chelo-horesh, shish kebab with rice, chelo-kebab, rice with lamb, meatballs with rice, and kofte (plain boiled rice). In addition, Iranian cuisine is famous for its sweets. One of the most famous of which includes “baklava” with almonds, cardamom, and egg yolks. Iranian sweets typically involve the use of honey, cinnamon, lime juice, and sprouted wheat grain. One very popular dessert drink in Iran, “sherbet sharbat-portagal”, is made from a mixture of orange peel and orange juice boiled in thin sugar syrup and diluted with rose water. Just like the people of many Middle Eastern countries the most preferred drink of the people of Iran is tea (without milk) or “kakhve-khana”.
Women in Persian Culture
Since the 1979 Revolution, Iranian women have had more opportunities in some areas and more restrictions in others. One of the striking features of the Revolution was the large scale participation of women from traditional backgrounds in demonstrations leading up to the overthrow of the monarchy. The Iranian women who had gained confidence and higher education during the Pahlavi era participated in demonstrations against the Shah to topple the monarchy. The culture of education for women was established by the time of revolution so that even after the revolution, large numbers of women entered civil service and higher education, and in 1996 fourteen women were elected to the Islamic Consultative Assembly.