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Map showing Khuzestan in Iran
Map showing Khuzestan in Iran


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Domes like this are quite common in Khuzestan province. The shape is an architectural trademark of craftsmen of this province. Daniel's shrine, located in Khuzestan, has such a shape. The shrine pictured here, belongs to Imamzadeh Hamzeh, located between Mah-shahr and Hendijan.

Khuzestan is one of the 30 provinces of Iran. It is in the south-west of the country, bordering Iraq and the Persian Gulf. Its center is Ahvaz and covers an area of 63,238 sq. km. Other major cities include Behbahan, Abadan, Andimeshk, Khorramshahr, Bandar Imam, Dezful, Shushtar, Omidiyeh, Izeh, Baq-e-Malek, Mah Shahr, Dasht-e-Azadegan, Ramhormoz, Shadegan, Susa, Masjed Soleiman, Minoo Island and Hoveizeh.

Historically Khuzestan is what historians refer to as ancient Elam, whose capital was in Susa, and in previous ages, Iranians referred to this province as Elam. The Old Persian term for Elam was Hujiyā, which is present in the modern name. Khuzestan is the most ancient Iranian province and is often referred to in Iran as the "birthplace of the nation," as this is the area where Aryan tribes first settled, assimilating the native Elamite population, and thus laying the foundation for the future empires of Persia, Media, and Parthia.

Khuzestan is also where Jondishapour was located.

Khuzestan has 18 representatives in Iran's parliament, The Majles, and 6 representatives in the Assembly of Experts.

Geography and Climate

According to the 1996 census, the province had an estimated population of 3.7 million people, of which approximately 62.5% were in the urban centres, 36.5% were rural dwellers and the remaining 1% were non-residents.

The province of Khuzestan can be basically divided into two regions, i.e. the plains and mountainous regions. The former being in the south and west of the province. This area is irrigated by the Karun, Karkheh and Jarahi rivers. The mountainous regions are situated to the north and east of the province, and are considered to be a part of southern regions of the Zagros mountain ranges.

With regard to natural conditions, Khuzestan has unrivaled potentials unmatched by any other province in the country. Large permanent rivers flow over the entire territory contributing to the fertility of the land. Karun, Iran's largest river, 850 kilometers long, flows into the Persian Gulf through this province.

The climate of Khuzestan is generally hot and humid, particularly in the south, while winters are much more pleasant and dry.

People and Culture

Khuzestan, unlike other provinces in Iran, is inhabited by a number of ethnic minorities and peoples. Arabic-speakers and Iranian Arab tribes, Bakhtiaris, Behbahanis, and Lurs of the north, the Qashqais, the Afshari tribes, the peoples of Dezful, Shushtar, and the inhabitants of the Persian Gulf coasts all make up the population of the province of Khuzestan. There are no official ethnic statistics released by Iran's government.

The Persian groups of western Khuzestan all speak distinct dialects unique to their areas. Many Khuzestanis are bilingual, speaking both Persian and Arabic. It is also not uncommon to find people able to speak a variety of indigenous dialects in addition to their own.

Khuzestani folk music is colorful and festive, and each native group has their own rich traditions and legacy in this area.

The people of Khuzestan are generally very religious and most are Shi'a, with small Sunni, Jewish, and Christian minorities. Khuzestanis are also very well regarded for their hospitality and generosity.

Seafood is the most important part of Khuzestani cuisine, but many other dishes are also featured. A popular dish is called soboor (shad), a species of fish found in southern Iranian waters, which is prepared with heavy spices, onions, and cilantro. Other provincial specialties include ghalieh mahi (fish stew), ghalieh maigu (shrimp stew), aasheh mohshalah (breakfast soup; in Khorramshahr), sarshir (heavy cream; in Andimeshk), and haleem (breakfast wheatmeal with lamb; in Shushtar).

Many scientists, philosophers, and poets have come from Khuzestan, including Abu Nuwas, Abdollah-lbn-Meymoon Ahvazi, the astronomer Nowbakht-e Ahvazi and his sons; as well as Jorjis, the son of Bakhtshooa Gondishapoori; Ibn Sakit, Da'bal-e-Khazai, and many more.

The origin of the name Khuzestan

Main article: Origin of the name Khuzestan

The name Khuzestan, which means "The Land of the Khuzi," refers to the original inhabitants of this province, the Khuzi people.

The province, however, has also been called Arabistan at times, particularly after the Arab Muhammad ibn Falah, leader of the Msha'sha'iya, initiated a wave of attacks on Khuzestan in 1440 CE, leading to a gradual increase in the Arab population of Khuzestan.

Reza Pahlavi, however, restored the original name of the province in 1923.


History of Iran
Elamite Empire
Median Empire
Achaemenid dynasty
Seleucid dynasty
Parthian Empire
Sassanid dynasty
Ziyarid dynasty
Samanid dynasty
Buwayhid dynasty
Ghaznavid Empire
Seljuk Turkish empire
Khwarezmid Empire
Muzaffarid dynasty
Timurid dynasty
Safavid dynasty
Afsharid dynasty
Zand dynasty
Qajar dynasty
Pahlavi dynasty
Iranian Revolution
Islamic Republic of Iran
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The ziggurat of Choqa Zanbil in Khuzestan was a magnificent structure of the Iranian Elamite Empire.
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L'Acropole de Suse, Susa, Iran.
The province of Khuzestan is one of the centres of ancient civilization, based around Susa. French archeologists such as Jaques De Morgan date the civilization here as far back as 8000 BCE when excavating areas such as Tal e Ali Kosh. The first large scale empire based here was that of the powerful 4th millennium BCE Elamites, a non-Semitic kingdom independent of Mesopotamia.

Archeological ruins verify the entire province of Khuzestan to be home to the Elamite civilization, "the earliest civilization of Persia" (according to A History of Persia, S. Percy Sykes, p38). As was stated in the preceding section, the name Khuzestan is derived from the Elamites (Ūvja according to The Cambridge History of Iran, 2, 259, ISBN 0521060351), a non-Semitic people unrelated to their northern neighbors in Mesopotamia. (see introduction of The Splendour of Iran, E. Booth-Clibborn, ISBN 1861540116)

In fact, in the words of Elton Daniel, the Elamites were "the founders of the first Iranian empire in the geographic sense." (The History of Iran, p26, ISBN 0313000301) Hence the central geopolitical significance of Khuzestan, the seat of Iran's first empire.

In 640 BCE, the Elamites were defeated by Ashurbanipal coming under the rule of the Assyrians who wrought destruction upon Susa and Chogha Zanbil. But in 538 BCE Cyrus the Great was able to re-conquer the Elamite lands. The city of Susa was then proclaimed as one of the Achaemenian capitals. Darius the Great then erected a grand palace known as Hadish there in 521 BCE. But this astonishing period of glory and splendour of the Achaemenian dynasty came to an end by the conquests of Alexander of Macedon. And after Alexander, the Seleucid dynasty ruled the area.

As the Seleucid dynasty weakened, Mehrdad I the Parthian (171-137 BCE), gained victory over the region. During the Sassanid dynasty this area thrived tremendously and flourished, and this dynasty was responsible for the many constructions that were erected in Ahvaz, Shushtar, and the north of Andimeshk.

The Arab invasion of Khuzestan

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Khuzestan's Elamites were "precursors of the royal Persians", and were "the founders of the first Iranian empire in the geographic sense."
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Masjed Jame' Dezful. In spite of Saddam's devastating bombs, Khuzestan still possesses a rich heritage of architecture from Islamic, Sassanid, and earlier times.

The Arab invasion of Khuzestan took place in 639 CE under the command of Abu Musa Al-Ash'ari who drove the Persian Hormozan out of Ahvaz. Hormozan fled to Shushtar, where his forces were besieged by Abu Musa for 18 months. Shushtar finally fell in 642 CE to Abu Musa's army, followed by Susa, Jondishapoor, and many other districts along the Tigris. The battle of Nehavand finally secured Khuzestan for the Muslim armies. (Encyclopedia Iranica, p206).

The Arab settlements by military garrisons in southern Iran was soon followed by other types of colonization. Some Arab families, for example, took the opportunity to gain control of private estates. (Encyclopedia Iranica, p212). Like the rest of Iran, the Arab invasion thus brought Khuzestan under occupation of the Arabs of the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates, until Ya'qub bin Laith as-Saffar, from eastern Iran, raised the flag of independence once more, and ultimately regained control over Khuzestan, among other parts of Iran, founding the short-lived Saffarid dynasty. From that point on, Iranian dynasties would continue to rule the region in succession as an important part of Iran.

In the latter part of the 16th century, the Bani Kaab, from Kuwait, settled in Khuzestan. (see J.R. Perry, "The Banu Ka'b: An Amphibious Brigand State in Khuzestan", Le Monde Iranien et L'Islam I, 1971, p133) And during the succeeding centuries, many more Arab tribes moved from southern Iraq to Khuzestan, and as a result, Khuzestan became "extensively Arabized". (Encyclopedia Iranica, p216).

According to C.E. Bosworth in the Encyclopedia Iranica, under the Qajar dynasty "... the province was known, as in Safavid times, as Arabistan, and during the Qajar period was administratively a governor-generalate."

In the mid 1800s Britain initiated a war with Iran in a failed attempt to conquer Khuzestan. Having lost, the British continued in their attempts to wrest control of the province by supporting a number of foreign Arab tribes that had invaded Iran. The last remnants of these tribes (ruled over by Sheikh Khaz'al, of Kuwaiti origin) were finally defeated in 1925 by Reza Shah. In the past eighty years, except during the Iran-Iraq war, the province of Khuzestan thrived and prospered and today accounts for one of the regions in Iran that holds an economic and defensive strategic position.

The existence of prominent scientific and cultural centers such as Academy_of_Gundishapur which gathered distiguished medical scientists from Egypt, Greece, India, and Rome, shows the importance and prosperity of this region during ancient times. The Jondi-Shapur Medical School was founded by the order of Shapur I (241-271 CE). It was repaired and restored by Shapur II (a.k.a. Zol-Aktaf: "The Possessor of Shoulder Blades") and was completed and expanded during the reign of Anushirvan.

The Iran-Iraq war

Being on the border with Iraq, Khuzestan suffered the heaviest damage of all Iranian provinces during the Iran-Iraq war.

What used to be Iran's largest refinery at Abadan was destroyed, never to fully recover. Many of the famous nakhlestans were annihilated, cities were destroyed, historical sites were demolished, and half the province went under the boots of Saddam's invading army. This created a mass exodus into provinces that did not have the logistical capability of taking in such a large number of refugees.

However, by 1982, Iranian forces managed to push Saddam's forces back into Iraq. The battle of "the Liberation of Khorramshahr" (one of Khuzestan's largest cities and the most important Iranian port prior to the war) was a turning point in the war, and is officially celebrated every year in Iran.

Struggle over the province

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A "nakhlestan" near Shadegan, Khuzestan. Many of these palm farms were annihilated by Saddam during the Iran-Iraq war.

The first person to launch secessionist unrests in Khuzestan was Sheikh Khaz'al, who rose to power in 1897 and had originally been supported by the British colonialists. He was finally arrested in 1925 by Reza Shah and the area of Khuzestan he had dominated returned to the province.

Domination of Khuzestan was also Saddam Hussein's primary strategic objective that launched the Iran-Iraq war, which forced thousands of Iranians to flee the province.

The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran does not conduct any official ethnic census in Iran, thus it is difficult to determine the exact demographics. Beginning in the early nineties, many ethnic Persian Khuzestanis began returning to the province, a trend which continues to this day as the major urban centres are being rebuilt and restored. Restoration has been slow due to neglect by the regime of the Islamic Republic. The city of Khorramshahr was almost completely decimated as a result of Saddam's scorched earth policy. Fortunately, Iranian forces were able to prevent the Iraqis from attempting to spread the execution of this policy to other major urban centres.

The Iranian Embassy Siege of 1980 was a terrorist siege of the Iranian Embassy in London initiated by Arab separatists, backed by Saddam Hussein. Initially it emerged the terrorists wanted autonomy for Khuzestan; later they demanded the release of 91 of their comrades held in Iranian jails. Arab separatists supported Saddam's forces in attacking both Persian and Arab Iranian soldiers and civilians, in what could be considered an attempt at an ethnic cleansing of the Iranian population, as the majority of the Arab Khuzestani population were loyal to Iran and fought alongside other Iranians against Saddam. After the withdrawal of Iraqi forces towards the end of the war, the remainder of these Arab separatists fled to Iraq, though Saddam continued to entertain the notion of a potential future invasion of Khuzestan for many years afterwards.


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The government of Iran is spending large amounts of money in Khuzestan province. The massive Karun-3 dam, was inaugurated recently as part of a drive to boost Iran's growing energy demands.

Khuzestan is the major oil-producing region of Iran, and as such is the wealthiest province in Iran, though it is claimed that this wealth does not benefit the average citizen. The government of Iran claims the province to rank third among Iran's provinces in GDP. source (in Persian) (


Karun river is the only river in Iran capable of sailing. The British, up until recent decades, after the discovery by Sir Henry Layard, transported their merchandise via Karun's waterways, passing through Ahvaz all the way up to Masjed Soleiman, the site of their first oil wells in the Naftoon oil field. Karun is capable of the sailing of fairly large ships as far up as Shushtar.

Karkheh, Jarrahi, Arvand, Handian, Shavoor, Bahmanshir (Bahman-Ardeshir), Maroon-Alaa', Dez, and many other rivers and water sources in the form of Khurs, lagoons, ponds, and marshes demonstrate the vastness of water resourses in this region, and are the main reason for the variety of agricultural products developed in the area.


The abundance of water and fertility of soil have transformed this region into a rich and well-endowed land. The variety of agricultural products such as wheat, barley, oily seeds, rice, eucalyptus, medical herbs; the existence of many palm and citrus farms; having mountains suitable for raising olives, and of course sugar cane - from which Khuzestan takes its name - all show the great potential of this fertile plain. The abundance of water supplies, rivers, and dams, also have an influence on the fishery industries, which are prevalent in the area.


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Iran has some major industrial facilities located in Ahvaz. The Fulad-e-Ahvaz steel facility is one of them.

The Karun 3 and 4, and Karkheh Dam, as well as the petroleum reserves provide Iran with national sources of revenue and energy. The petrochemical and steel industries, pipe making, the power stations that feed the national electricity grid, the chemical plants, and the large refineries are some of Iran's major industrial facilities.

The province is also home to Yadavaran Field, a major oil field.


Attractions of Khuzestan

Iran's National Heritage Organization lists 140 sites of Historical and Cultural significance in Khuzestan, reflecting the fact that the province was once the seat of Iran's most ancient empire.

Some of the more popular sites of attraction include:

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The Parthian Prince, found in Khuzestan circa 100 CE, is kept at The National Museum of Iran, Tehran.
  • Choqa Zanbil: The seat of the Elamite Empire, this ziggurat is a magnificent five-story temple that is one of the greatest ancient monuments in the Middle-East today. The monolith, with its labyrinthine walls made of thousads of large bricks with Elamite inscription, manifest the sheer antiquity of the shrine. The temple was religiously sacred and built in the honor of Inshushinak, the protector deity of the city of Susa.
  • Shush-Daniel: Burial site of the Jewish prophet Daniel, who was revered by Cyrus The Great. He is said to have died in Susa on his way to Jerusalem upon the order of Darius. The grave of Ya'qub bin Laith as-Saffar, who rose against the oppression of the Umayyad Caliphate, is also located nearby.
  • Dezful (Dezh-pol), whose name is taken from a bridge (pol) over Dez river having 12 spans built by the order of Shapur I. This is the same bridge that was called "Andamesh Bridge" by historians such as Istakhri who says the city of Andimeshk takes its name from this bridge. Muqaddasi called it "The City of the Bridge."
  • Shushtar, one of the oldest fortress cities in Iran, known as the "City of Forty Elders" in local dialect. The Friday Mosque of Shushtar was built by the Abbasids. The mosque, which features "Roman" arches, has 54 pillars and balconies.
  • Izeh, or Izaj, was one of the main targets of the invading Islamic army in their conquest of Persia. Kharezad Bridge, one of the strangest bridges of the world, is situated in this city and was named after Ardeshir Babakan's mother. It is built over casted pillars of lead each 104 meters high. Ibn Battuta, who visited the city in the 14th century, refers to many monasteries, caravanserais, aqueducts, schools, and fortresses in the town. The brass statue of The Parthian Man, kept at the National Museum of Iran, is from here.
  • Masjed Soleiman, another ancient town, has ancient fire alters and temples such as Sar-masjed and Bard-neshondeh. It is also the winter's resting area of the Bakhtiari tribe, and where William Knox D'Arcy dug Iran's first oil well.
  • Abadan is said to be where the tomb of Elias, the long lived Hebrew prophet is.
  • Iwan of Hermes, and Iwan of Karkheh, two enigmatic ruins north of Susa.

See also

External links


eo:Hxuzestano es:Khuzestn fa:استان خوزستان pt:Khuzisto


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