Iran is a stunning and diverse country that visitors will love. It has a rich artistic, cultural, natural and archaeological heritage and stands out for the friendliness of its people. If you want to know what to buy in Iran in any of its colorful bazaars, take note of the following ideas.
Spices, dried fruits or sweets
Those with a sweet tooth will enjoy the journey trying the country's desserts. Sohan is one of the typical products of Iran, its most popular traditional sweet. It is a sort of very brittle toffee made with eggs, butter, rose water, saffron, cardamom, and pistachio. Koloocheh is a rich cookie made of nuts, cinnamon, and cocoa or halva, a dessert reserved for religious ceremonies.
Spices and dried fruit play a large part in Iranian gastronomy, so you will find these products in abundance in the markets. The most popular spice in the country is sumac and you will taste it in most of their dishes. Saffron, also called “red gold”, is widely used in Persian cooking and the best comes from Mashhad. Another thing to buy in Iran is toasted pistachios in lemon juice, very typical of the area and with a surprising spicy flavor. You will also enjoy the rose water, which is used in many typical desserts. It is obtained from the variety of roses known as Damascena or Gole Mohammadi, which are particularly fragrant.
Rugs and cloths
If you think of Iran, straight away you imagine rugs, one of the most sought after souvenirs of Iran. If you’re not convinced about making an economic investment in an artisan rug, made of pure silk or silk mixed with wool, you can opt for something cheaper. For example, cushion or pillow covers with the traditional tribal pattern, a kilim or a tapestry. Materials by the meter are also an interesting option although you will probably find it difficult to choose between them. There are two types of traditional patterns. For the ghalamkâri, a wooden stamp is used on which they have carved arabesques, flowers and geometric shapes that they apply to a cotton cloth. The pateh is made of wool and is sewn and hand dyed. The termeh is the most luxurious, it is a silk material woven with red gold.
The minâkâri is an ancient art which consists of decorating the surfaces of different metal objects with colored enamel. It is painted using a very fine brush making intricate designs of flowers or miniature birds, usually on a blue background, although they can also be seen on red and green. You can find minâkâri on vases, plates, chalices and any other decorative object. It is common to see artists in the bazaars concentrating on painting new pieces with this bright enamel. It is one of the souvenirs of Iran which is most valued by tourists.
Ceramics and pottery
Ceramics have been important in a country like Iran since the times of the Persian empire. You will find proof of it in the National Museum. Some Iranian cities such as Natanz, Meybod or Lalejin, keep up to date with this ancient tradition and continue hand painting objects such as mugs or dishes. The patterns they paint are also part of the tradition like the boteh, also known as cashmere, pomegranates, flowers, or birds.
The giveh is a typical shoe used in the mountainous and rural areas of Kermanshah. It is a type of handmade canvas shoe, made of white cotton or wool, with a leather or rubber sole. These traditional shoes are very comfortable and practical for summer. It is one of the most successful souvenirs of Iran.
If, when you are any of the bazaars, you hear the bang of metal, then you are approaching the section of the ghalam zani. It is the art of engraving on different metals such as copper, bronze, gold, or silver. The expert craftsmen create spectacularly exquisite designs on dishes, trays or vases. They work with a chisel and a small hammer which they use to make incisions in the metal to make the desired shape that is usually arabesques and geometric shapes.
Marquetry is another of the Persian arts expertly nurtured in Iran. It consists of inlaying pieces of metal, bone or wood with an intricate design on all types of decorative objects as photo frames, jewelry boxes, boards for boardgames, pen holders, mirrors, etc. Some of these items are also decorated with delicate miniatures painted with a brush with only one bristle. Any item of khâtamkâri will be a good buy if you are thinking about what to buy in Iran.
If you still don't know what to buy in Iran, go for a tea set. Like the whole of the East, in Iran they also drink lots of tea, so each house has one or more tea sets. In any bazaar, you will find a full set that is made up of the glasses, dishes and the teapot. The most typical ones are red and are decorated with flowers and the image of Shah Abbas, the ruler of the Safavid dynasty. The Iranian tea set is perfect for using or to decorate a corner of your house.
With these suggestions, you now know what to buy in Iran. As you can see, it is a country which is rich in traditional handicrafts, of all types, but also in exotic flavors.