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In many countries Iranians are often mistakenly referred to as Persians. It is true that Persians are the largest ethnic group living in Iran, yet there are many other ethnicities as well who live together in one country called Iran. So calling the whole nation by the name of only one of its ethnicities is a gross mistake. The ethnicities living side by side are different from each other in their language, behavior, culture and clothes. So if you are traveling to their areas, it is better to know about them, respecting their culture which will guarantee you a more enjoyable trip.

Differences can exist not only between the ethnicities, but also between the inhabitants of different cities who belong to the same ethnic group.

Here we will try to provide short explanations about each ethnic group of Iran focusing on more touristic areas.


Iranian Ethnicities

Notable ethnic groups in Iran are: Persians, Azerbaijani Turks, Kurds, Lurs, Turkmens, Arabs, Balochs, Talyshs, Armenians, Georgians, etc…

For hundreds of years these ethnic groups have been living together. Sometimes in the course of the history they attacked, in other times helped and supported each other. Nowadays they are living and working together peacefully. There have been times, in which enemies or the central government tried to create a divide and spark hatred between them, because history have showed that It is much harder to defeat Iranians as a united country. So the enemies often spread offensive jokes on behalf of one group in order to provoke the anger of the other. We will talk about these jokes and try to explain them later.

Persians (Fars people)

Persians (called Fars people in Iran) are largest ethnic group in Iran. They are spread all over the country, sometimes even on the territories of other groups but are mostly concentrated in the central and eastern parts of Iran.

Persians even have several different subgroups inside the ethnic group that vary from city to city. We will explain each city culture and differences in each city page.

Azeri (Turks)

Azerbaijanis are the second largest ethnic group in Iran. Their language is Azerbaijani Turkish and in western areas near the Turkish border some people also know Turkish. These languages are similar but there are some minor differences in vocabulary and grammar. They are very good businessmen and their cities are mostly clean. You will hardly see beggars there. The biggest Azerbaijani city in Iran is Tabriz and the other 3 big cities are Ardabil, Urmia and Zanjan.

Azeris usually live in big families. Family values play a major role in their culture. Family members usually work together which is the key to their thriving businesses.

Most supermarkets in Tehran are run by Azeri people.

They are somewhat conservative about making relations with new people so if you go to their area you may feel eyes on you but their cities are mostly secure. As we mentioned before there are some racist jokes about some Iranian nations. So the Turks are often depicted as silly people but considering their talent and success in making business, one can see that this is only a stereotype which may have been labeled to them because of being different.


Kurds are one of the oldest ethnic groups in the Middle East. Nowadays they live in parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Some groups inside them are willing to get separated from these countries and create a Kurdish state on the territory between the above-mentioned countries. For that reason some Kurdish groups, the most famous of them being the P.K.K (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê, Kurdistan Workers' Party), have been fighting against Iranian and Turkish governments for many years but Iranian Kurdistan have been safe for nearly 10 years now. Independence seekers are not living on the territory of Iran anymore, so Kurdish areas are very safe and many tourists visit the beautiful mountains to admire the breathtaking landscapes of the Kurdish parts of Iran.

Kurds are famous for being very brave and sometimes too proud of being Kurdish.

Many fruit shops are run by Kurds in Tehran.


Lurs are the neighbors of Kurds. They are another old ethnicity living in Iran and are famous for being good warriors. Lurs are mostly tall and robust. They are famous for making friends and behaving like old friends just a few seconds after meeting someone for the first time. This might seem a little strange to a foreigner but it is sure to guarantee you a lot of fun.

Lurs are very hospitable and are always eager to have foreigners in their homes.

Several years ago many Lurs used to work on construction in Tehran.

Unfortunately Lurs like Turks have been subjected to silly jokes for years. The reason for this may be their naïve and honest character.

Large groups of Lurs are living in Ahwaz city and Khuzestan province, whereas the map only shows Arab populations in those areas.


The South-western and southern parts of Iran border Arab countries, consequently there are many Arab ethnic groups in these areas. Mostly they live together and in many areas they have separated themselves from other ethnicities. They preserve purely Arab culture and it is not so easy to get inside their communities as in case of other groups in Iran. Still these are very friendly and warm people, especially those living in Khuzestan province.

Many Arabs are working and living in Iran. They are mostly very warm and helpful but as they tend to be quite conservative, a foreigner might not always be welcome to their circles.

Baloch (Sistani)


They are very kind, calm and warm people, but because they live near Pakistan and Afghanistan, most of these areas are not safe and we don not recommend tourists to go there especially without a local or a guide. Of course the security is higher inside big cities but the roads can be quite dangerous, especially the ones near Pakistani and Afghan border.

Caspian Ethnicities

To the south of Caspian Sea, where the famous Albors mountain range is located, is rich in amazing green nature which is rare for Iran. Iranians call this area Shomal, which means “north” in Farsi, because it is located in the north of Iran.

Many Tehranis bought lands and villas in Shomal. So you can be stuck in a terrible traffic jam if you happen to be on the Tehran-Shomal highway during holidays because everyone is travelling to the north to relax from the bustling city.

There are two major sub-ethnicities in the south of the Caspian Sea. On the right side are the Mazani (Tabari) people living in Mazandaran province. Most of them are selling their lands to Tehranians and because of that the nature in these areas is being badly damaged. You can see big shops, huge shopping malls and restaurants there.

Mazani people are mostly farmers, builders and merchants.

The other ethnic group in Northern Iran is Guilani people; they are open minded and modern, especially in Rasht, which is the capital of Guilan province. Most of them are rich and refuse to sell their lands to others. They are preserving the nature better than in Mazandaran Roads in Guilan are wider and not so jammed.

Northern Iranian cuisine is exquisite. It is good to know that in Guilan the side dishes are more important than the main dish and there is a large variety of them.

Sadly there are some sexual jokes about Caspian locals, especially Guilanians and the reason is that they are very open minded people, and because Guilani people always were against the cruelty of the central governments, those officials were trying to humiliate them, so this was a typical way of humiliation inside an Islamic country.