According to the 1996 census, the province had an estimated population
of 3.7 million people, of which approximately 62.5% were in the urban
centres, 36.5% were rural dwellers and the remaining 1% were
non-residents. According to the most recent census taken in 2004, the
province had an estimated population of 4,277,998 inhabitants.
Khouzestan, unlike most other provinces in Iran, is inhabited by a
number of ethnic minorities and peoples: Autochthonous Persians in major
cities, Iranian Arabs, the Bakhtiari Lurs, Behbahanis,Mizrahi Jews,
Laks, and other Lurs of the north, the Turkic-speaking Qashqai and
Afshari tribes, the Khuzis of Shush/Susa, Dezful, Shushtar, Andimeshk
and the inhabitants of the coastal regions of the Persian Gulf all make
up the population of the province of Khouzestan. There are no official
ethnic statistics released by Iran's government
The Persian, Bakhtiari Lurs and other Lur groups of western
Khouzestan all speak distinct dialects unique to their areas.
Shushtari,Dezfuli and Behbahani are other dialects spoken in Khouzestan.
Some Khouzestanis are bilingual, speaking both Persian and Arabic. Most
Arabic-speakers speak a variety of Arabic distinct to the region known
as Khouzestani Arabic. It is also not uncommon to find people able to
speak a variety of indigenous dialects in addition to their own.
Khouzestani folk music is colorful and festive, and each native group has their own rich traditions and legacy in this area.
The people of Khouzestan are predominantly Muslim, followed by
minorities (Jewish, Christian, and Mandean). Khouzestanis are also very
well regarded for their hospitality and generosity.
Seafood is the most important part of Khouzestani cuisine, but many
other dishes are also featured. The most popular Khouzestani dish is
Ghalyeh Maahi. A popular fishdish that is prepared with heavy spices,
onions and cilantro. The fish used in the dish is locally know as mahi
soboor (shad fish), a species of fish found in the Persian Gulf. Other
provincial specialties include q?liye-m?hi ("fish casserole"),
q?liye-meygu ("shrimp casserole"), ashe-mohshala (a Khorramshahri
breakfast stew), s?r shir (a Dezfuli breakfast of heavy cream), h?lim (a
Shushtari breakfast of wheat meal with shredded lamb), and kohbbeh (a
deep-fried rice cake with ground beef filling and other spices of Arabic
origin, a variant on Levantine kibbeh). Also see Iranian cuisine.
Many scientists, philosophers, and poets have come from Khouzestan,
including Abu Nuwas, Abdollah ibn-Meymun Ahvazi, the
astronomerNowb?kht-e Ahvazi and his sons as well as Jorjis, the son of
Bakhtshua Gondishapuri, Ibn Sakit, Da'bal-e Khazai and Sheikh Mortedha
Ansari, a prominent Shi'a scholar from Dezfu
is the major oil-producing region of Iran, and as such is one of the
wealthiest provinces in Iran, though it is claimed that this wealth does
not benefit the average citizen. The government of Iran claims the
province to rank third among Iran's provinces in GDP.
In 2005, Iran's government announced it was planning the country's
second nuclear reactor to be built in Khouzestan province. The 360 MW
reactors will be a Light Water PWR Reactor.
Khouzestan is also home to the Arvand Free Trade Zone. It is one of
six economic Free Trade Zones in Iran and the PETZONE (Petrochemical
Special Economic Zone in Mahshahr).
Karun River is the only navigable river in Iran. The British, up
until recent decades, after the discovery by Austen Henry Layard,
transported their merchandise via Karun's waterways, passing through
Ahvaz all the way up toLangar near Shushtar, and then sent by road to
Masjed Soleimanthe site of their first oil wells in the Naftoon oil
field. Karoun is capable of the sailing of fairly large ships as far up
Karkheh, Jarrahi, Arvand Rud, Handian, Shavoor, Bahmanshir
Bahman-Ardeshir, Maroon-Alaa', Dez, and many other rivers and water
sources in the form of Khurs, lagoons, ponds, and marshes demonstrate
the vastness of water resources in this region, and are the main reason
for the variety of agricultural products developed in the area.
The abundance of water and fertility of soil have transformed this
region into a rich and well-endowed land. The variety of agricultural
products such as wheat, barley, oily seeds, rice, eucalyptus, medical
herbs; the existence of many palm and citrus farms; having mountains
suitable for raising olives, and of course sugar cane - from which
Khouzestan takes its name - all show the great potential of this fertile
plain. In 2005, 51,000 hectares of land were planted ith sugar cane,
producing 350,000 tons of sugar. The abundance of water supplies,
rivers, and dams, also has an influence on the fishery industries, which
are prevalent in the area
There are several cane sugar mills in Khouzestan province, among them Haft Tappeh and Karun Agro Industry near Shushtar.
The Karun 3 and 4, and Karkheh Dam, as well as the petroleum
reserves provide Iran with national sources of revenue and energy. The
petrochemical and steel industries, pipe making, the power stations that
feed the national electricity grid, the chemical plants, and the large
refineries are some of Iran's major industrial facilities. The province
is also home to Yadavaran Field, a major oil field.
Kuzestan has some major academic centers as:
- Khorramshahr Univ. of Nautical Sciences and Tech.
- Ahvaz Jundishapur University of Medical Sciences
- Petroleum Univ. of Technology
- Shahid Chamran Univ. of Ahvaz
- Amirkabir Tech. Univ.
- Dezful Chamran University
The seat of the province has for the most of its history been in the
northern reaches of the land, first at Susa) Shush (and then at
Shushtar. During a short spell in the Sasanian era, the capital of the
province was moved to its geographical center, where the river town of
Hormuz-Ardashir (modern Ahwaz). However, later in the Sasanian time and
throughout the Islamic era, the provincial seat returned and stayed at
Shushtar, until the late Qajar period. With the increase in the
international sea commerce arriving on the shores of Khouzestan, Ahwaz
became a more suitable location for the provincial capital. The River
Karun is navigable all the way to Ahwaz (above which, the Karun flows
through rapids). The town was thus refurbished by the order of the Qajar
king, Naser al-Din Shah and renamed after him, Naseri. Shushtar quickly
declined, while Ahwaz/Naseri prospered to the present day.
In the 19th century, "Ahvaz was no more than a small borough
inhabited mainly by Sha'ab Arabs and a few Sabeans (1,500 to 2,000
inhabitants according to Ainsworth in 1835; 700 according to Curzon in
In the 1880s, under Qajar rule, the Karun River was dredged and
re-opened to commerce. A newly-built railway crossed the Karun at Ahvaz.
The city again became a commercial crossroads, linking river and rail
traffic. The construction of the Suez Canal further stimulated trade. A
port city was built near the old village of Ahvaz, and named
Bandar-e-Naseri in honor of Nassereddin Shah Qajar.
Oil was found near Ahvaz in the early 20th century, and the city
once again grew and prospered as a result of this newfound wealth. From
1897-1925, Sheikh Khaz'al controlled this area and the name was changed
to Naseri. Afterwards, during the Pahlavi period, it resumed its old
name, Ahvaz. The government of the Khouzestan Province was transferred
there from Shushtar in 1926. The trans-Iranian railroad reached Ahvaz in
1929 and by the World War II, Ahvaz had become the principal built-up
area of interior of Khouzestan. Professional segregation remained well
marked between various groups in that period still feebly integrated:
Persians, sub-groupings of Persians and Arabs.
Natives of the Isfahan region held an important place in retail trade, owners of cafes and hotels and as craftsmen.
Iraq attempted to annex Khouzestan and Ahvaz in 1980, resulting in
the Iran–Iraq War (1980–1988). Ahvaz was close to the front lines and
suffered badly during the war.
Iraq had pressed its claims to Khouzestan in part because many of
the inhabitants of the area spoke Arabic rather than Persian, the
dominant language in Iran. Iraq had hoped to exacerbate ethnic tensions
and win over popular support for the invaders. Most accounts say that
the Iranian Arab inhabitants resisted the Iraqis rather than welcome
them as liberators. However, some Iranian Arabs claim that as a minority
they face discrimination from the central government; they agitate for
the right to preserve their cultural and linguistic distinction and more
provincial autonomy. See Politics of Khouzestan.
During the year 2005 the city witnessed a series of bomb explosions.
Many government sources relate these events to developments in Iraq,
accusing foreign governments of organizing and funding Arab separatist
In 1989, the Foolad Ahvaz steel facility was built close to the
town. This company is best known for its company-sponsored football
club, Foolad F.C., which was the chart-topper for Iran's Premier
Football League in 2005. Ahvaz is also home to another IPL football
team, Esteghlal Ahvaz F.C.