Wonders of Iran: Kish

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Hedieh Ghavidel

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Dariush Grand Hotel, Kish Island, Iran
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A Kish restaurant
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Virtual image of Flower of the East luxury hotel
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Dolphin Park
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Greek Ship
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Green Tree, Kish, Iran
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Kish Qanat
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Kariz, Kish, Iran

Everyone in Iran wants a piece of Kish, the coral island where shopping is enjoyable and almost cheap, tourists need no entry visa for at least 14 days, and the enticing lure of warm sandy beaches and tall palm trees is irresistible.

Kish is the world's only duty-free shopping mall island, offering affluent Iranians and international visitors an ever-growing range of major brands and designer labels. The laws of the land are somewhat more relaxed on Kish to attract foreign investment, trade and tourists.

Kish airport is only a short drive away from the island's numerous hotels which have been designed for every budget ranging from 5-star hotels to motels.

One noteworthy hotel on the island is the Dariush Grand Hotel which was built in remembrance of the Iranian nation's glorious past and brings to mind Persepolis.

Two 7-star ultra-luxury hotels are currently under construction and are expected to be completed by 2009. These showpieces in-the-making will be the Middle East's first solar-powered and underground hotels.

To enjoy Iranian cuisine there is a huge choice of hotel and independent restaurants, and the island's many fast-food eateries are always crowded with hungry people.

Food stands in malls offer hot Samosa, Mexican corn and hotdogs to tourists who want to sit on a bench, relax, munch on a little something and get ready for another round of shopping.

As in other parts of Iran, the coffee shops on Kish play an important role in the social life of the island's youth. There are a number of open roof cafés with comfortable armchairs in the middle of malls as well as coffee shops with a more modern décor.

The island's many traditional teahouses with their aromatic Iranian-style tea, dates and Hookah, accompanied by live traditional Persian music, give tourists a little taste of Iranian culture.

The weather on Kish is almost always warm. The island has long hot summers, in which humidity sometimes reaches 100%, and very short mild winters.

Kish is a flat island with no mountains or any other natural elevations. It is also one of the Persian Gulf islands with the longest sunny hours, ideal for people who love to doze in the sun and wake up with a natural tan.

In line with the siesta cultures of Italy and Mexico, all shops close between 1-5pm because the weather makes it too hot for work. Tourists can enjoy a few hours of rest, food and relaxation, and on the stroke of five, venture out again refreshed and ready for more.

One of the most popular attractions on Kish is the Dolphin Park. Home to the Middle East's only dolphins, the park is surrounded by over 1,100 palm trees and houses a Silkworm compound along with Butterfly, Exotic Bird and Cactus gardens. The island's turtle colony is also well worth a visit.

And then there is the sea itself. Scuba diving, snorkeling, jet skiing, water skiing, pedal boating and windsurfing are all available. There are also regular diving cruises, fishing cruise boats, and popular glass-bottomed boats, which allow one to enter the private world of sea creatures and peep at fish schools swimming by.

The 'Greek ship', which ran aground on the island and partially sank in 1926, is another popular attraction and photo-op spot. Moving the stricken ship was too expensive so the authorities of the time simply decided to leave the ship where it sits just offshore, huge and rusty, patiently observing the tourists and islanders who come to watch the flaming sun setting into the azure sea every day.

For those who prefer to keep their feet on the ground, the island has facilities for volleyball, basketball, handball, gymnastics, wrestling, martial arts, squash, bowling and horseback riding.

Many come to the island to enjoy glider flights or to cycle around the island via a special bicycle route that circles Kish. There has even been talk of turning the island into a venue for Formula One World Championships.

Another point of interest on the island is the ancient Green Tree, which is believed to have healing powers. Considered sacred by natives, the tree is adorned with pieces of cloth and colorful strings.

Most of the population of Kish Island, or simply "the Island" as locals call it, consists of people who have come there from different parts of Iran to find employment.

For historical interest, the Kish Qanat should not be missed. This water channel has a 2,500-year history and once supplied islanders with drinking water. It is only one of many underground water management systems unique to Iran.

Today the Qanat, which is 16 meters below ground level, has become an amazing subterranean city that houses a theater, conference hall, restaurant and souvenir shops as well as an art gallery and museum.

It has an 8-meter-high ceiling covered with seashells, coral and fossils, which experts believe are as old as 270 to 570 million years. Many believe Kish Qanat should be listed as a world heritage site.

The ruins of the ancient town of Harireh, situated in the center of Kish Island, are said to be 800 years old. Archeologists believe that the multi-floored monuments of the town were destroyed in an earthquake.

Referred to in the Persian poet Sa'di's book of poems, the ruins of Harireh bear witness to the flourishing economy of Kish in ancient times when the island facilitated trade between China, North Africa and Europe.

Kish is somewhat like the Korean island of Jeju-do, a place of luxury where people can pamper themselves for a few days, forget their worries, shop till they drop and immerse themselves in Persian Gulf waters.


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