Covering an area of 1,648,000 square kilometres, the Islamic Republic of Iran is a vast country located in southwest of Asia neighbouring the Caspian Sea, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Armenia in the north; Afghanistan and Pakistan in the east and Turkey and Iraq in the west. All southern borders of the country end to the shores of the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman.
The high mountain range of Alborz, sealing off the narrow Caspian strip, Is covered with luxuriant forests and lush vegetation. The high elevation of Iranian plateau from the sea level and the situation of most provinces on the altitudes more than 1000 meters is another important geographic feature of this land. The magnificent and high Alborz mountain range in the north, the Zagross mountain chain in the west surround the plateau. The highest mountain in Iran is Damavand with an altitude of 5671 meters, in the northeast of Tehran. The famous Deserts of Iran, Dahte-e-Lout and Dasht-e-Kavir, cover an area of more than 360,00 square kilometres.
The Iranian Plateau is amongst the oldest ancient civilisation centers in Asia, and has an important place in archaeology. The history of settlements in the plateau from the new tone Age till migration of Aryans is not very clear. The most important centers of this area are: Sialk Hill in Kashan, Tappeh Hasanloo in Azerbaijan, Marlik Tappeh in Roodbar, and susa (Shoosh) in Khuzestan. In archaeological excavations in these civilization centers, some vestiges have been discovered the antiquity of which dates back to the 5th millennium BC.
Iran enjoys a relatively dry climate, in a way that in some areas, the coldness of winter and the warmth of summer can be seen simultaneously, thus the weather in Iran must be judges regionally. Iran is situated in the global arid belt and the Alborz and Zagross mountan chains trap the humidity and air currents from the Caspian Sea and the Meditiranian preventing their penetration to the inner country. As a whole, Iran enjoys a considerable variety of climates.
According to the latest census made in 1996, Iranian population was a little more than 60 million. From this number 37 million are urban dwellers, 23 million villagers and small percentages nomadic tribes. The majority live in big towns like Theran, mashed, Isfahan, Tabriz, Shiraz, Qum, Ahwaz, Rasht, Urumiyeh and Kermanshah. Iran is situated on the way to central Asia and Turkey as well as western countries and is the land of different ethnic groups. Among them is Farsis, Kurds, Baloochis, Bakhtiaris, Azaris, Turks, Taleshs, Turkamans, Ghashghis and Arabs.
One of the characteristics of the Iranian calendar is that the first day of the year or the New Years Day ( Norooz or New Day) coincides with the first day of spring.
Sofreh Hafsteen or the tablecloth with seven S’s, is a custom that is seriously observed by all Iranians. Before the New Year begins a tablecloth is spread on the floor or a table and seven objects are placed on it whose names begin with the letter S. In addition, a volume of Holy Koran ad a few goldfish in a bowl of water are also placed on the cloth. Norooz is the most important Iranian festivity.