By Afshin Majlesi

Tribe tourism gaining momentum in Iran

November 4, 2020 - 18:5

Tribe tourism, also known as ethno-tourism or ethnic tourism, lays the ground for you to feel indigenous people by living with a nomad or rural family or enjoying an independent stay.

However, as the name implies, it’s a trip for recreational purposes rather than being an expedition for anthropological research.

Over the past couple of years, this branch of tourism has gained a lot of support and attention in the country by both the government and the private sector, as well as sightseers and local communities.

Each month, several tribal festivals are held across the country. Moreover, tens of collective tours bring visitors to experience life among the tribespeople.

Many tour operators believe that tribal regions could be deemed as the legacy of human authenticity in its novel cultural and human aspects. In Iranian culture, literature, and public opinion, nomads have always been a proud part of the nation.

Iranian nomads surprise visitors with the dignity in their rough and overworked hands, and integrity in their compassionate eyes at first sight.

You can see real satisfaction in their children’s sunburned but happy faces and pride in their unshackled spirits. The glowing colors of nomads’ sparkling clothing are in contrast to the dull mode of our modern fashion.

Nomad tours

According to Let’s Visit Persia, there are several nomad tours in Iran offering different types of activities. Living in the tent beside the nomads starts from one night to a week, trekking and following them during their migration. During your stay with the family, you will experience their daily life, sleeping, eating, and living as they live. You can trek in the beautiful Zagros Mountain and experience the nomadic culture. Milk the goats, bake bread, learn how to make handicrafts, and play with the kids.

The tours’ prices vary according to the type of program you choose. They normally include all the food, accommodation, transport, local guide, and translator. Some of the money you pay goes to the nomad family that hosts you, so they continue doing this lifestyle.

Inhabitants decline

According to data compiled by the Nomads Affairs Organization of Iran, the nomadic inhabitants of the country have been decreased from 38.6 percent of the whole Iranian population in the Iranian year 1245 (1866) to 9.6 percent in the year 1345 (1966) and around one percent currently. And nomads and tribes are be found in all Iranian provinces except Kordestan.

The data suggests that Iran’s nomads are fading away in the course of time. But why? A brief answer might be that modern life lures the newest generations to big cities for a more relaxed lifestyle and even higher education. Many younger people have left behind struggles with backbreaking works of the nomadic life which is sometimes mingled with drought and dust storms.

However, some Iranian nomads had long resisted modernity through isolation, which was the result of their lifestyle, deep traditions, and patriarchy. However, nowadays traces of modern life is undeniable in the lives of the remaining ones across the ancient land.

The majority of the Iranian nomads use mobile internet, cell phones, etc as they still set up their tents on the flanks of the snow-capped mountains. And these days cars and rented trucks, rather than domestic animals, bring them, their flocks to pastures high up on the highlands and vice versa.

Diverse society

Iran has a culturally-diverse society dominated by wide ranges of interethnic relations. Native speakers of Persian (Farsi language) are considered as the predominant ethnic generally of mixed ancestry, and the country has important Turkic, Kurd, Arab elements in addition to the Lurs, Baloch, Bakhtiari, and other smaller minorities such as Armenians, Assyrians, and Jews.

Persians, Kurds, and speakers of other Indo-European languages in Iran are descendants of the Aryan tribes who began migrating from Central Asia into what is now Iran in the second millennium BC.

Migration for millennia

Apart from modern roads, highways, and bridges that are ubiquitous in modern Iran, there are still arduous paths, flattened by the feet of nomads and the hooves of their livestock in the ever-repeating movement of migration for millennia.

Migration is a way of life for nomads because herding cattle is their main source of income. In spring they with their all their belongings head for the cooler pastures usually in mountain hillsides where the grass is abundant for their flocks of sheep and goats. And in autumn they return to previous tropic plains as their well-fed livestock getting stronger to bear the winter. 

Accompanying nomads during their migration, even for a day or two, maybe a lifetime experience. As a traveler, one has the chance to visit, live, eat, and sleep in a nomadic camp with a real nomad family. Colorful dresses, vast black tents, colored-eyed children with rosy cheeks, modest lifestyle, scenic landscape, and local dishes are probably among the delights of such visits. 

Language, music, indigenous cuisine, clothing, songs, anecdotes, crafts, live performances, and local rituals such as celebrations and wedding ceremonies have always spurred many to experience life among the tribes.


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