Also called Persia, Iran is located in Western Asia and has a rich and storied history as one of the world’s oldest civilizations. In the 7th century, Arab Muslims conquered the region, leading to the decline of the Zoroastrian religion, once dominant. The area became a center of Islamic culture and learning whose influence spread across the Muslim world and beyond during the time of the Persian Empire. Iran’s modern history is more troubled with autocratic rule being established via an Islamic theocracy in the late 20th century, along with conflicts with much of the Western world.
Iran’s geography is mountainous, with several ranges crossing into its borders, including the Caucasus, and the Hindu Kush. Its climate ranges from dry to subtropical along the Caspian Sea and its varied wildlife includes Asiatic cheetah, Persian lion, bears, the Eurasian lynx, foxes, gazelles, gray wolves, jackals, panthers, and wild pigs.
Iran is well known for its cuisine, which includes a wide range of main dishes, including various types of kebab, pilaf, stew (khoresh), soup, and omelette. Herbs are often a main ingredient, along with fruits such as plums, pomegranate, quince, prunes, apricots, and raisins.