As Ive mentioned before, Iran as a country is an incredibly diverse land…ethnically, linguistically, culturally and religiously. You have a touch of everything from north to south. This post will focus on a little known group (outside of the region) the ‘Arabs of Khuzestan.
What prompted this post was this morning after my husband left for work, I put on Iranian satellite TV (we get it on our computers) and was flipping through the IRIB channels. Its possible to get the provincial IRIB channels too and I often like going to the Kurdistan, Khuzestan and Boushehr channels as they often have interesting shows which are regional and relate to the local culture and sometimes they are broadcast in the local language.
Apparently IRIB Khuzestan’s evening programming is all in Arabic and while my son and I watched we were struck by just how similar the ‘Arabic they spoke was to Iraqi and Eastern Saudi Arabic (Qatifi dialect) “shloon” anyone? LOL…and their attire, mannerisms and the inside of the homes were exactly the same as the traditional homes/attire you see again in Saudi’s Eastern province and Southern Iraq into Kuwait. I had known that Iraqi Arabic, Kuwaiti and Eastern Saudi Arabic were similar and their cultures were too (Eastern/Qatifi Saudi Arabic isnt really similar to Hejazi, it has more in common with Iraqi than western Saudi Arabic) but I didnt really know those similarities extended on into South western Iran.
Ahvaz is the provincial capital of Khuzestan and the area has a long and interesting history, the population of Khuzestan is quite diverse with Persians, ‘Arabs, Bakhtiari and other groups. My husband and I know two families here in our city which hail from Ahvaz, one though is Persian and the other is Bakhtiari…neither speaks more than a slight smattering of Arabic and they have told us that the closer you get to the Iraqi border the more ‘Arab the population, culture and language gets while Ahvaz remains a very mixed city with a little of everything. But ‘Arabs do predominate in Khuzestan.
Okay, enough with the long, wordy introduction.
Here are some pictures. The part of Khuzestan close to Iraq is very reminiscent of the Iraqi Marshes and infact during the Iran-Iraqi war and later in the First Gulf War many, many Iraqis (especially Marsh Iraqis) fled to Khuzestan to the point that they now make up quite a large amount of the population.
Such as these Iraqi women voting in the election from Khuzestan.
The traditional mens attire is essentially the same as what is traditional to southern Iraq and Kuwait and down into Eastern Saudi Arabia and much of the Gulf. The long thobe with ‘Aba, shmagh and related accutriments.
I am unsure whether urban Khuzestani ‘Arabs wear this attire out in public-like in downtown Ahvaz but I have been told they wear it in the rural areas, small towns and around the house, also maybe some do indeed wear it out in public too as I have seen some pictures of downtown Ahvaz and a few of the men shown in the pictures had thobes on.
Living the Marsh life…
The traditional womans attire seems to be the same as what has traditionally been worn in Southern Iraq, Kuwait, Eastern Saudi Arabia and down into much of the Gulf…the black batwing overhead abaya worn over a loose dress and black shaylah. Most young, urban Khuzestani ‘Arab women dress much like their Persian counterparts in a short manteau, jeans and maghneh.
its mostly the older women and rural/village/small town women who keep their overhead abaya ofcourse some young urban ‘Arab girls do too, but apparently its not quite as common. In this region the Chador remains a Persian “thing” while the Abaya Ra’as remains an ‘Arab “thing”.
These clips from the Iranian movie Niloofar shows Khuzestani ‘Arab villager attire.
…and pictures from a TV show about a type of bread and how they make it popular in the area
One thing which Khuzestan is FAMOUS for, throughout all of Iran is its dates! They are INCREDIBLE!!! OUtside of the region its possible during certain times of the years to find large plastic buckets full of incredibly ripe, almost smashed dates, fresh from the date farms of Khuzestan. They are incredibly succulent and produce a delicious syrup called dibs which is the REAL dibs (not that fake, fast pressed stuff normally sold in stores) and it tastes fantastic with some fresh nan, salts paneer (cheese) and a cup of tea or mixed into a cup of fresh, full-fat milk. YUM!
And don’t forget the Qahwah and Dallah! I think pretty much the only area of Iran where coffee is the normal beverage is Khuzestan and maybe the Bandari areas along the Gulf coast as the rest of the country remains staunchly tea based.