Iran country overview

The land of Iran

Geography, People, Culture, and Economic Profile

Iran information index

The land of Iran

Iran, with an area of 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi), is the fourth-largest country in Asia and the second-largest in West Asia. It is situated between latitudes 24° and 40° N, and longitudes 44° and 64° E. Iran shares borders with Armenia (35 km or 22 mi), the Azeri exclave of Nakhchivan (179 km or 111 mi), and the Republic of Azerbaijan (611 km or 380 mi) to the northwest; the Caspian Sea to the north; Turkmenistan (992 km or 616 mi) to the northeast; Afghanistan (936 km or 582 mi) and Pakistan (909 km or 565 mi) to the east; the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman to the south; and Iraq (1,458 km or 906 mi) and Turkey (499 km or 310 mi) to the west.

Iran is situated along several major fault lines, making it particularly prone to earthquakes. The country’s complex tectonic plate boundaries, including the collision of the Arabian Plate with the Eurasian Plate, create a significant amount of seismic activity. The frequency and intensity of earthquakes in Iran have had devastating consequences for the country and its people. The 2003 Bam earthquake, with a magnitude of 6.6, resulted in the destruction of much of the city and the deaths of over 26,000 people. The shallow-focus nature of these earthquakes means that they can cause widespread damage even at lower magnitudes, due to their proximity to the Earth’s surface. In response to the constant threat of earthquakes, Iran has implemented building codes and seismic retrofitting measures to try and mitigate the impact of future events. However, the country’s high population density and urbanization near fault lines continue to pose a significant risk. As Iran continues to grapple with the challenges of living in a seismically active region, it is clear that the threat of earthquakes will remain a constant concern for the country and its residents.

The landscape of Iran is characterized by the Iranian Plateau, excluding the coasts of the Caspian Sea and Khuzestan. It is a mountainous country, with rugged mountain ranges dividing various basins and plateaus. The western part of Iran is particularly mountainous, featuring ranges such as the Caucasus, Zagros, and Alborz. Mount Damavand, standing at 5,610 m (18,406 ft), is Iran’s highest point and the highest mountain in Asia west of the Hindu Kush.

The northern region of Iran is covered by the lush lowland Caspian Hyrcanian mixed forests, located near the southern shores of the Caspian Sea. The eastern part of the country is predominantly desert basins, including the Kavir Desert, the largest desert in Iran, and the Lut Desert, known as the hottest spot on Earth’s surface with a recorded temperature of 70.7 °C in 2005, according to NASA. Along the coast of the Caspian Sea and the northern end of the Persian Gulf, there are larger plains, while smaller, fragmented plains can be found along the remaining coast of the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz, and the Gulf of Oman.

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