Exploring Khuzestan

Exploring KhuzestanExploring Khuzestan

Today, most nations have realized the importance of the smoke-free aspect of tourism industry. Countries like Morocco and Thailand owe their high annual budgets to this industry. Iran, on the other hand, has a trifling share in this global market, despite brimming with cultural and natural attractions, writes Reza Zobeidi in Donya-e-Eqtesad news paper.

Among the 31 provinces, the southern province of Khuzestan possesses a large part of the country’s attractions, and has a huge potential in attracting tourists; a fact that the officials of the province are well aware of.


  Oil, Gas Versus Tourism

Deputy head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO) in Khuzestan Mohammad-Ali Khalili says, “tourism is one of the most employment generating industry in the world, generating between three to five employment opportunities with coming of each foreign tourist.”

Khuzestan is known as the “archaeologists’ paradise”, Khalili said and enumerated the various attractions of the province such as wetlands, ponds, plains, hills, waterfalls, historical monuments, etc. adding that the province has the potential to become Iran’s tourism hub.

After the ancient site of Susa is registered on the UNESCO world heritage list, Khuzestan will become the first province in the country to have 3 sites of such importance.

However, massive reservoirs of oil, gas, petrochemicals, and related industries, he believes, have diverted the decision makers’ attention from tourism. Yet, “if we manage to promote the touristic attractions of the province, we can hope for the heavy shadow of oil industries to be lifted from the province.” he said.

“Tourism has a close affinity with its surrounding social, political, cultural, economic, and natural environment, and is affected in a good or bad way with slight changes in the environment,” Khalili said, adding that tourism in Khuzestan - as a border province - is vulnerable to the turmoil in the neighboring countries. It is also easily affected by dust storms and industrial pollutants, while advanced technologies can be a solution in this regard.

When asked about marketing and promotional activities, he answered, “Lacking adequate budget, we haven’t been able to promote the province as we intended, however we are trying to tap the potential of the private sector sponsors to address a part of the costs. In the absence of adequate infrastructure, if tourism is developed hastily and without proper plans, it will harm both the environment and the historical heritage.”

He called the environment-advocate NGOs as great assets to help preserve the environment; ICHHTO tries to take their help as much as possible.

In a meeting with district managers who issued unemployment and security as the major problems leading to migration from villages to the cities, deputy governor-general for developmental affairs Ahmad Siahi said, every part of the province has its own touristic attractions. by fostering tourism, both employment and security will increase.

Although Siahi’s remarks are idealistic, they are not far from reality. The question is why tourism potentials of this province are still intact, and what solutions can activate them.

  More Attention

Mohsen Ashuri, an expert on tourism, is not an employee of any department; he is a local guide for the tourists visiting Khuzestan.

He believes Khuzestan attractions have not earned the attention they deserve. “When tourists visit a place they know well, an affinity for the place originates,” Ashuri said, adding that the provincial tourism organization has failed to provide enough publicity materials such as films, books, brochures, pictures, etc; what is available is out-dated.

If the province is introduced to the public well enough, there can be a good market for local and international tourists, especially the Europeans, Ashuri added.

“Today tourism has been developed in many forms around the world, including heritage tourism, eco tourism, adventure tourism, nostalgic tourism, events tourism, health tourism, rural tourism, etc. Encompassing different natural beauty like mountains, deserts, and sea shores, as well as a long list of ancient monuments, Khuzestan can launch any of such tourism types,” the expert added.

Thousands of years of history and prehistory would be a thrill for the tourists seeking culture and heritage. On the other hand, traditional rituals such as Ta’zieh - which has been staged since the Safavid era - can very well cater to events tourism.

Atashkuh or Tashkuh mountains of Ramhormoz county, which are of geological importance, can attract geo-tourists, while the variety of foods can lure food adventurers.

Ashuri noted that most beautiful cities and tourist destinations in the world, are usually somehow connected with water, like having a river running through them, which is the case with Khuzestan city, with Karun river flowing in the center.

  Dezful, the Land of Mountains and Plains

Tourists who have not visited Khuzestan yet, are sure to find many beauties there. In the northern parts and Dezful in particular, there are peaks shrouded in mist, green meadows and lively forests.

Ahmad Fadolah region is a notable attraction 150 km from Dezful city, named after a descendant of Imams buried there. Of other holy shrines in Dezful county, tomb of Ahmad in Sardasht district can be mentioned here; it is located in a beautiful green plain.

There is Kineh-za ‘grudging’ mountain in Ahmad Fadolah region, with its famous yellow circle. The mind-boggling death of a shepherd with all his sheep on the mountain, frozen and intact for many years, may be an indication of the mountain’s ‘grudge’.

Saland Kuh ‘Mount Saland’ in Imamzadeh Seyed Mahmud district, 120 km northeast of Dezful attracts mountaineers and nature lovers. At nearly 2,650 meters height, it is one of the most precious habitats in Zagros mountain range, with rich biodiversity.

The 85-meter high waterfall of Shevi, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country, runs down the southwestern slopes of Saland mountain. Valleys of Chaldoran, Polo, and Silu are among other attractions.