Given its location in the Middle East, Muslim majority, and language which resembles Arabic, Iran is often mislabeled as an Arab nation. A cognate of “aryan,” Iran means “land of the Aryans” and is excluded from the list of Arab League nations in the Middle East/North Africa region. Read on to discover why Iran is not an Arab country.
Did you know you can now travel with Culture Trip? Book now and join one of our premium small-group tours to discover the world like never before.
Ethnicity and ancestry
The Encyclopedia Britannica defines an Arab as “one whose native language is Arabic”. The reference book says the term historically included the “nomadic Semitic inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula” and in modern usage encompasses the Arabic-speaking people stretching from Mauritania to southwestern Iran. With the exception of various minority ethnic groups in Iran (one of which is Arab), Iranians are Persian. Persian history largely begins with King Cyrus the Great, who is credited with the liberation of Babylon in 528 BC, and the oldest known charter of human rights, referred to as the Cyrus Cylinder, which is housed in London’s British Museum. Persian and Arab histories only merge in the 7th century with the Islamic conquest of Persia.
It might be easy to assume that Persian and Arabic are related, based solely on the similarity of their scripts, but a quick study of language families reveals that Persian is an Indo-European language whereas Arabic is a Semitic one. Prior to the Islamic conquest, Old and Middle Persian were written in such scripts as Old Persian Cuneiform, Pahlavi, Aramaic, and Avestan. It was the Tahirid Dynasty who replaced Pahlavi with the Arabic script in the 9th century. The 32-letter alphabet used today includes four letters nonexistent in Arabic: p, ch, g (like golf), and zhe (like the j in déjà vu). Even though Modern Persian has many loan words from Arabic—much in the same way that English does from French—to call them the same or even mutually intelligible is a gross mistake.
Despite the introduction of Islam, Iran has retained its language, identity, and traditions, thereby distinguishing it from neighboring Arab countries.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.