Tuesday 01 December 2020

Tourism in Iran has a very long history. All the historic documents related to the ancient times and before the Islamic conquer, indicate the expansion of cities, roads and residences all over the vast land of Persia. The written documents show that the Greece and the Romans had traveled to Iran. However, there is scarce information about the exact names of the travelers who visited Iran before the Islamic conquer.

During the first centuries after Islam, having forsaken a period of crisis, Iran started a new literary, cultural and scientific approach, which led to great flourishment. Many poets and writers traveled to Iran and produced some valuable travel books, through which one can get to know the geography, culture and civilization of Iran in those days. One of the most famous travelers during this period was Nasir Khusraw (1003-1077), the poet, philosopher and travel book writer living in 11th century. On the other hand, gradually – especially after the 13th century – western travelers also traveled to the East and Iran. It was during this period that some residences were established in Iran, most of which are still standing. Iran in Safavid dynasty, especially during the rule of Shah Abas the Great, attracted many European tourists as an attractive country. This is why one can consider the period from the rule of Shah Abas the Great to the end of Safavid dynasty as the most important period of tourism development in Iran.

After Safavid period, as a result of unrests and instabilities, Iran was hurt by continuous chaos, but from the Qajar dynasty and after an gradual stability settled in Iran and the phenomenon of colonization developed – which led to a competition between powerful European countries – travel to Iran revealed many secrets regarding its archeology and history. Traveling among the Iranians and their desire to tour in Europe increased since the Constitutional Revolution.

However after the Constitutional Revolution the number of foreign tourists traveling to Iran was continuously increasing, tourism was not considered as an industry and income source with defined organizations, laws and regulations. Tourism industry in Iran was established half a century ago with the objective of introducing the Iranian causes of glory and civilization. It was in 1935 that for the first time an office was established in the Ministry of Interior titled “The Office for Foreign Travelers and Advertisement”, which was limited to issuing journals and travel guides. In 1941, the abovementioned office was changed to “The Supreme Association of Tourism”, supervised by the Ministry of Interior and finally in 1963, the board of ministers enacted the establishment of “The Organization for Attracting Travelers” and this organization was formally started.

In 1974, the Organization for Attracting Travelers was merged with the Ministry of Information and changed to “The Ministry of Information and Tourism”. After the Islamic Revolution in 1979, “The Ministry of Islamic Guidance” was established by merging “The Ministry of Information and Tourism” and “The Ministry of Culture and Art” and all the affairs related to traveling, pilgrimage, domestic and foreign tourism was organized in the form of travel and pilgrimage affairs in this ministry. Then, due to an enactment from the supreme association of administration, all the duties and missions of the travel and pilgrimage deputy of Ministry of Islamic Guidance was delegated to “The Organization of Domestic and Foreign Tourism”.

 

The Establishment of “Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization” (ICTHO)

After the enactment from the supreme association of administration on April 5th, 2006 (session 130) in order to fortify and develop the handicrafts and expand the tourism industry, the Iranian organization for handicrafts (formerly supervised by the Ministry of Industry and Mines) was merged in the organization for cultural heritage and tourism with all duties, authorities, legal responsibilities, assets, commitments, credits, facilities and human resources to established the “Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization” (ICHTO). In the following paragraphs, we will take look at the history of handicrafts in Iran before the merge.

The Islamic Revolution and Dissolution of the Ministry of Culture and Art

After the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the Ministry of Culture and Art was dissolved and some of the duties of this ministry – cultural heritage-related missions – were delegated to two ministries: the Ministry of Culture and Higher Education and the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. After the fall of the royal government, royal palaces were announced as cultural centers. The historic monument experts decided to register and organize the existing cultural works in palaces and open the doors to the public. The transferred units from the Ministry of Culture and Art to the ministries are:

The Ministry of Culture and Higher Education

The Head Office for Traditional Arts

The Center for Iranian Archeology

The Center for Anthropology Museums

The Ancient Iran Museums

The Office for Historic Monuments

The National Organization for Preservation of Ancient Monuments

The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Garden

The Office for Preserving County’s Cultural Heritage

The Head Office for Museums

The Head Office for Historic Buildings

The Head Office for Palaces

During this period, Golestan Palace (belonged to the Head Office of Royal Houses before the Islamic Revolution) was transformed into a cultural center, under the supervision of Economic and Property Affairs.

The Establishment of Cultural Heritage Organization

In January 30th, 1986, the Cultural Heritage Organization was legally established. According to the law, the Ministry of Culture and Higher Education was allowed to found the Cultural Heritage Organization by merging 11 scattered units in the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. This law was approved on January 30th, 1986 in the Islamic Consultative Assembly and 2 days later, it was accepted by the Guardian Council.

The Establishment of Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization

According to the law, the Cultural Heritage Organization was delegated to the Ministry of Culture and Higher Education. In 1993, the Supreme Council of Administration, separated the Cultural Heritage Organization from the Ministry of Culture and Higher Education and joined it to the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, as was suggested by the Administration Affairs Organization in order to coordinate and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of Cultural Heritage Organization and more focus on the management of cultural organizations. According to the Article 3 of this enforcement, all the authorities and responsibilities of the minister and the Ministry of Culture and Higher Education regarding the executive duties of the Cultural Heritage Organization was transferred to the minister and the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.

In addition, in order to guarantee the enforcement of the law for Cultural Heritage Organization, approved by the Islamic Consultative Assembly, and reinforce the research and investigation about the items remained from the ancients in order to introduce their inherent values using the scientific capacity and information (through the usage of the potential and actual facilities including workforce, labs and tools, library, etc.), the research center for cultural heritage was established, which hereafter is called the Research Center.

In a plenary meeting of the Islamic Consultative Assembly on January 13th, 2004, the Cultural Heritage Organization and the Domestic and Foreign Tourism Organization were separated from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance and merged in order to establish “The Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization”, under complete supervision of the President. After the enactment of this law, the governmental duties of the Domestic and Foreign Tourism Organization was transferred to the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization and its executive duties, along with all the facilities, workforce, properties and assets, commitments and credits, in the format of a governmental cooperation titled “The Corporation for Domestic and Foreign Tourism” were delegated to the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization. In the following paragraphs, we will take a look at the history of tourism in Iran, before the foundation of the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization.

The History of Tourism

Tourism in Iran has a long history. There are historical evidences since the ancient times, down to the pre-Islam era, regarding the expansion of cities, roads and residences all over the vast land of Persia. The remaining written documents indicate that the Greece and the Romans have traveled to Iran; however there is scarce evidence for the names of the travelers who has visited Iran before the Conquer of Islam.

During the first centuries after Islam, having forsaken a period of crisis, Iran started a new literary, cultural and scientific approach, which led to great flourishment. Many poets and writers traveled to Iran and produced some valuable travel books, through which one can get to know the geography, culture and civilization of Iran in those days. One of the most famous travelers during this period was Nasir Khusraw (1003-1077), the poet, philosopher and travel book writer living in 11th century. On the other hand, gradually – especially after the 13th century – western travelers also traveled to the East and Iran. It was during this period that some residences were established in Iran, most of which are still standing. Iran in Safavid dynasty, especially during the rule of Shah Abas the Great, attracted many European tourists as an attractive country. This is why one can consider the period from the rule of Shah Abas the Great to the end of Safavid dynasty as the most important period of tourism development in Iran.

After Safavid period, as a result of unrests and instabilities, Iran was hurt by continuous chaos, but from the Qajar dynasty and after an gradual stability settled in Iran and the phenomenon of colonization developed – which led to a competition between powerful European countries – travel to Iran revealed many secrets regarding its archeology and history. Traveling among the Iranians and their desire to tour in Europe increased since the Constitutional Revolution.

However after the Constitutional Revolution the number of foreign tourists traveling to Iran was continuously increasing, tourism was not considered as an industry and income source with defined organizations, laws and regulations. Tourism industry in Iran was established half a century ago with the objective of introducing the Iranian causes of glory and civilization. It was in 1935 that for the first time an office was established in the Ministry of Interior titled “The Office for Foreign Travelers and Advertisement”, which was limited to issuing journals and travel guides. In 1941, the abovementioned office was changed to “The Supreme Association of Tourism”, supervised by the Ministry of Interior and finally in 1963, the board of ministers enacted the establishment of “The Organization for Attracting Travelers” and this organization was formally started.

In 1974, the Organization for Attracting Travelers was merged with the Ministry of Information and changed to “The Ministry of Information and Tourism”. After the Islamic Revolution in 1979, “The Ministry of Islamic Guidance” was established by merging “The Ministry of Information and Tourism” and “The Ministry of Culture and Art” and all the affairs related to traveling, pilgrimage, domestic and foreign tourism was organized in the form of travel and pilgrimage affairs in this ministry. Then, due to an enactment from the supreme association of administration, all the duties and missions of the travel and pilgrimage deputy of Ministry of Islamic Guidance was delegated to “The Organization of Domestic and Foreign Tourism”.

The Establishment of “Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization” (ICTHO)

After the enactment from the supreme association of administration on April 5th, 2006 (session 130) in order to fortify and develop the handicrafts and expand the tourism industry, the Iranian organization for handicrafts (formerly supervised by the Ministry of Industry and Mines) was merged in the organization for cultural heritage and tourism with all duties, authorities, legal responsibilities, assets, commitments, credits, facilities and human resources to established the “Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization” (ICHTO). In the following paragraphs, we will take look at the history of handicrafts in Iran before the merge.

The History of Handicrafts in Iran

Cultural Heritage, as we call it today, has long been an inseparable part of people’s everyday life: the carpet under their foot, the lamp lighting their houses, etc. In fact, what is nowadays kept in our museums as a part of cultural heritage is made by the hands of our precedents left for us since the ancient times and is now the symbol of the culture, art and civilization of the people who have made them. After the Industrial Revolution, as a result of mass production in various areas, handicrafts stepped in the path of degeneration and destruction. Iranian handicrafts are no exception, so in mid-nineteen century