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Flag of IranThe Islamic Republic of Iran is in southwestern Asia. It is bordered by Iraq, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan-Naxcivan exclave, Azerbaijan-proper, the Caspian Sea, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf. The Straits of Hormuz is a strategic waterway linking the Persian Gulf with the Gulf of Oman. Tehran is the capital city.

Other cities include Isfahan, Mashhad, Qom, Shiraz and Tabriz. Main ports are Abadan, Bandar Abbas, Bandar-e Lengeh, Bandar-e Emam Khomeyni, Bushehr and Khorramshahr.

The terrain is rugged and mountainous with a central plateau. Much of the Iran is desert; the main deserts are the Dasht-i-Lut and the Dasht-i-Kavir.

Iran is mostly arid or semi-arid with subtropical weather along the coast of the Caspian Sea.

Environment
A large part of the Iranian plateau is desert. The country has few lakes (the largest is Lake Urmia – 4,700 square km) and the main navigable river is the Karun.

Solving the problem of inadequate water supply dates back over two thousand years when subterranean canals, or qanats, were built to access underground water. An example of early irrigation is preserved in Bam, added to the World Heritage List in 2004. Today a dam on the Karun provides electricity for the country as well as water for irrigation.

Only a small percentage of the land is forest and woodland. Trees include maple, oak, plane, poplar and walnut. Date palms, mulberry trees and vines are among the flora of the oases.

The Golestan Forest National Park, on the UNESCO Mountains of the World list, was the first National reserve in Iran. Kavir National Park is a desert region park. Other protected areas include Gano Protected Region and Lar Protected Area.

Architecture
Iranian historical architecture is well known for its use of domes, arches and beautiful decoration.

A number of monuments are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. These include the holy city of the Kingdom of Elam in Tchogha Zanbil founded around 1250 BC; Pasargadae, the first capital of the Achaemenid Empire, founded by Cyrus II; Darius the Great’s palace at Persepolis (518 BC), and Esfahan with its famous Royal Mosque, Mosque of Sheyx Lotfollah, and Timurid Palace.

Takht-e Suleyman, a principal Zoroastrian sanctuary, in north-western Iran became a World Heritage site in 2003. The buildings of Takht-e Suleyman were an important influence on the development of Islamic architecture

Iran is also keen to preserve buildings of national interest and aims to restore historic buildings for local communities. This task is undertaken by the Urban Development and Revitalization program in co-operation with the Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization. In 2001 Iran won an Aga Khan Award for this project “Architecture: New Life for Old Structures”.

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