Iran country overview

The people of Iran

Geography, People, Culture, and Economic Profile

Iran information index

Demography of Iran

Rural settlement

The suitability of regions for human habitation, the lifestyles of the people, and the types of dwellings are determined by the topography and water supply. The challenging geographical features such as deep gorges, unnavigable rivers, empty deserts, and impenetrable kavīrs have contributed to insularity and tribalism among the Iranian peoples. As a result, the population has concentrated around the periphery of the interior plateau and in the oases. The Turkmen use felt yurts, the Bakhtyārī use black tents, and the Baloch use osier huts as they move between summer and winter pastures. The central and southern plains are scattered with oasis settlements, where rudimentary hemispherical or conical huts can be found. In recent times, migrations have decreased, and nomads have settled in more permanent villages.

On the plains, villages follow an ancient rectangular pattern. The houses have high mud walls with corner towers and flat roofs made of mud and straw supported by wooden rafters. The village center usually includes a mosque that also serves as a school.

Mountain villages are located on rocky slopes above the valley floor and are surrounded by terraced fields, often irrigated, where grain and alfalfa are grown. The houses in these villages are square, made of mud-brick, and have no windows. They have either flat or domed roofs, with a roof hole for ventilation and light. Typically, these houses are two stories high, with the ground floor used as a stable.

Caspian villages differ from both plains and mountain villages. These scattered hamlets consist of two-story wooden houses. Surrounding an open courtyard, there are separate outbuildings such as barns, henhouses, and silkworm houses.

Urban settlement

Tehrān, the capital and largest city, is separated from the Caspian Sea by the Elburz MountainsEṣfahān, about 250 miles (400 km) south of Tehrān, is the second most important city and is famed for its architecture. There are few cities in central and eastern Iran, where water is scarce, although lines of oases penetrate the desert. Most towns are supplied with water by qanāt, an irrigation system by which an underground mountain water source is tapped and the water channeled down through a series of tunnels, sometimes 50 miles (80 km) in length, to the town level. Towns are, therefore, often located a short distance from the foot of a mountain. The essential feature of a traditional Iranian street is a small canal.

City layout is typical of Islamic communities. The various sectors of society—governmental, residential, and business—are often divided into separate quarters. The business quarter, or bazaar, fronting on a central square, is a maze of narrow arcades lined with small individual shops grouped according to the type of product sold. Modern business centres, however, have grown up outside the bazaars. Dwellings in the traditional style—consisting of domed-roof structures constructed of mud brick or stone—are built around closed courtyards, with a garden and a pool. Public baths are found in all sections of the cities.

Construction of broad avenues and ring roads to accommodate modern traffic has changed the appearance of the large cities. Their basic plan, however, is still that of a labyrinth of narrow, crooked streets and culs-de-sac.

Demographic trends

The urban population in Iran has experienced significant growth over the years. In the 1950s, only one-third of the population lived in urban areas, but by the first decade of the 2000s, this number had increased to about three-fourths. This shift can be attributed to various factors such as industrialization, social and political changes, and the Iran-Iraq War.

Starting from the 1960s, there was a notable trend of internal migration from rural areas to cities. However, the most significant demographic change occurred after the revolution in 1979, with a large portion of the educated and secularized population leaving the country for Western nations, particularly the United States. By the end of the 20th century, several hundred thousand Iranians had settled in southern California alone.

Additionally, due to unfavorable political conditions, a considerable number of religious minorities, including Jews and Bahāʾīs, have also chosen to leave Iran either as emigrants or asylum seekers. Meanwhile, internal migration to urban areas has continued, and Iran has welcomed a significant number of refugees from neighboring Afghanistan (mostly Persian [Dari]-speaking Afghans) and Iraq (both Arabs and Kurds).

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