Iconic souvenirs and gifts to bring home from Iran

April 16, 2021 - 18:51

TEHRAN - Strolling through any bazaar in Iran, you see rich diversity, especially in Persian handicrafts and confectionery, that makes it difficult to choose one. 

Iran is a big and culturally-diverse country. For this reason, preparing a full list of souvenirs of Iran is virtually impossible. Different cities and regions have their own culture and traditions, which means they have their own local handicrafts, products, and pastries to offer to tourists as souvenirs. That said, in major cities in Iran, including the capital Tehran, one can find a wide variety of commodities that are either produced in the city itself or are imported from other parts of the country.  

Handicrafts are vivid windows into each culture, city, village, tradition, ceremony, rite, ethnicity, language, and dialect, each owning different backgrounds and narrating unique stories of their own. If you are into arts and crafts of any kind, the colorful Iranian handicrafts will definitely catch your attention. Here are the top handicrafts of Iran to buy as souvenirs.

If you have a sweet tooth or you have friends back home that get a kick out of testing different sweets, buying some of those mouth-watering Iranian food souvenirs is a must.

Here are few ideas to inspire you what to bring back home from your Iran trip:

Ghalamzani

A Persian version of ‘toreutics’, this metalworking art involves engraving fine pictures and designs on metals like brass, silver, and copper. Ghalamzani is a traditional handicraft in Iran, dating back to thousands of years ago.

Ghalamzani is performed on different objects such as vases, plates, sugar bowls, candlesticks, teaware, tablets, and other ornamental objects. While the hub of this art is Esfahan, you can find shops in Tehran, Tabriz, Mashhad, and other major cities that offer these impressive handmade objects.

 Minakari

This intricate art of Iranian enameling, Minakari is painting and decoration of objects by fusing bright colors over them. This classical art dates back to 1500 BC and has survived up to the present time. It is performed on gold, silver, and copper utensils such as vases, plates, and mugs, as well as pottery.

Today, the hub of Minakari is Isfahan, where the best craftsmen and craftswomen are active in producing quality Minakari handicrafts, which are also sent to other cities including Tehran.

Khatamkari

This Iranian art is a form of ‘marquetry’ in which small pieces of wood, bone (usually camel bone), or metal is inlaid on the surface of different articles. In this traditional craft, beautiful patterns are intricately created, often in geometrical shapes, and then glued together on the surface of the object. Khatamkari products include jewelry cases, candy bowls, chess boards, tissue cases, clocks, photo frames, etc.

 Pottery and ceramics

Iranian pottery is a deep-rooted tradition dating back to more than 7000 years ago. Although pottery doesn’t have the status it had in the past, it has survived in several parts of Iran, including Yazd, Natanz, and Lalejin. Moreover, ornamental painted ceramic articles such as mugs or bowls can be good picks to buy as souvenirs from Iran.

Persian rugs and kilims

Persian rug is perhaps the most famous Iranian souvenir, which is widely known across the world. These handwoven pieces of genuine art are produced by highly-skilled carpet weavers in different parts of the country. Persian rugs come in different sizes and styles, which offers a wide range of choices for tourists who want to buy one for home use or decorative purposes only.

Among the other types of hand-knotted rugs is kilim, which has usually coarse texture and is less expensive than Persian rugs. They have been woven by tribeswomen since ancient times using goat hair and sheep wool. Kilims can be used for covering the floor or being hung on the wall for decoration.

 Turquoise

This semi-precious gemstone is a rare inorganic substance that can only be found in particular places. In Mashhad and Nishapur, turquoise (Persian: firouzeh) is used to make beautiful ornaments and accessories such as necklaces, rings, bracelets and earrings.

This is not the only use of turquoise. Through a process called ‘turquoise inlay’ (Persian: Firouzehkoubi), small pieces of turquoise are finely embedded into the surface of different objects and utensils to produce ornamental objects. The turquoise inlay is like a mosaic work on various metallic dishes such as trays, vases, mirrors, candlesticks, jewelry boxes, plates, etc., which make for great souvenirs to buy in Iran. Souvenir shops at Iranian traditional bazaars offer various turquoise knickknacks at low prices. 

  Gaz

Commonly known as Persian nougat in Western countries, Gaz is one of the most popular souvenirs of Isfahan and is also popular in Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari, Kerman, Yazd, and Hamedan. This white chewy nougat has taken its name from gaz-angebin (one of its ingredients) meaning sap of angebin, a kind of wild tamarisk tree that grows in the Zagros Mountains in Iran. It is usually frilled with pistachios.

Sohan

This traditional saffron brittle toffee is mainly produced in the city of Qom and that’s why it is sometimes called Sohan-e Qom. Made from flour, sugar, wheat sprout, egg yolks, butter, rose water, saffron, cardamom, and slivered pistachios or almonds. Sohan-e Qom comes in different shapes, flavors, and qualities and is distributed across the country, so you can find it in most cities, including Tehran. In large Sohan stores, free samples are offered to visitors so that you can get an idea of how it tastes before picking a box or two as a souvenir to take home from Iran.

Qottab

Yazd is known for various and sundry pastries and sweets. A popular sweet souvenir of Yazd is Qottab, a tasty treat made from flour, powdered sugar, vegetable oil, and cardamom with almond or walnut fillings. It is one of the oldest Iranian pastries and other than Yazd, it is also popular in Kerman.

Saffron

This red jewel of Iran used to be exported to Greece, the Roman empire, China, and Arab countries during ancient times. Iran is currently the biggest producer of this precious spice in the world and 94% of the world’s saffron is cultivated in Iran, mainly in the eastern region of Khorasan. However, due to poor marketing and packaging, Iranian saffron is exported to other countries like Spain in bulk, where it is packaged and re-exported to other countries under those countries’ own brands.

Saffron is a dominant food seasoning ingredient in Persian cuisine and it’s a very famous Iranian souvenir among foreign tourists. Mashhad is the best place to buy saffron in Iran as a souvenir because, as said above, saffron is mainly cultivated in the Khorasan region, of which Mashhad is the largest city.

Dried nuts 

Iran is also known for pistachios and is the biggest producer of them in the world. These toothsome nuts are very popular among tourists. The super-long ‘Akbari’ pistachio is the most popular variety of pistachio in Iran. Pistachios can be eaten roasted and salted or raw. In Iran, pistachios are also used in different pastries, including Gaz and Sohan. 

Of the different kinds of nuts, pistachios are not the only thing you can buy in Iran. Almonds, walnuts, and peanuts are also widely produced and sold in Iran. 

Aside from souvenirs, you may bring home unforgettable memories from the Iranian people, who are world-famous for being courteous, warm, friendly, welcoming and eager to show off their country to foreigners. The nation generally treat strangers as their dear guests, since “honoring a guest” is one of the pillars of the Persian culture. 

AFM/

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