Photo Essay

Iran's Shrinking Itinerants

Scattered across the country, these nomadic people are slowly disappearing as they migrate to the cities.
  • A dwelling made of reeds, home to itinerants in Khoozestan Province, southeast Iran. (Photo: Gholamreza Masoodi, Mehr News Agency)
  • Tea, hookah, and food are always on offer in itinerants' homes. (Photo: Gholamreza Masoodi, Mehr News Agency)
  • Traditional stick dance ceremony staged by Bakhtiyari itinerants. (Photo: Gholamreza Masoodi, Mehr News Agency)
  • Traditional handkerchief dance of Bakhtiyari women. (Photo: Gholamreza Masoodi, Mehr News Agency)
  • Traditional way of making bread. (Photo: Eshagh Aghayi, Mehr News Agency)
  • Satellite dishes are banned in Iran, but itinerants often have them in their tents. (Photo: Raoof Mohseni, Mehr News Agency)
  • A Ghashghayi couple in their traditional tent. (Photo: Eshagh Aghayi, Mehr News Agency)
  • An itinerant woman sets up a tent. (Photo: Raoof Mohseni, Mehr News Agency)
  • Milking goats. (Photo: Raoof Mohseni, Mehr News Agency)
  • An itinerants' classroom in a tent in Kerman Province. (Photo: Hamid Sadeghi, Fars News Agency)
  • This is Mashk - the tanned skin of a goat or a calf that is used to store and carry water and milk. (Photo: Eshagh Aghayi, Mehr News Agency)
  • Chalderan meadowland in West Azerbaijan with its moderate climate and green pastures is always a good place for itinerants and their cattle. (Photo: Azin Haghighi, Mehr News Agency)
  • Spring migration of itinerants. (Photo: Saeid Soroosh, Fars News Agency)
  • Horseback riding and shooting are the two skills every Bakhtiyari itinerant man should master. (Photo: Saeid Soroosh, Fars News Agency)
  • Itinerant women are familiar with weapons too. (Photo: Alieh Saadatpour, Mehr News Agency)
  • Sieving grains. (Photo: Babak Bordbar, Fars News Agency)
  • Traditional tent of itinerants in Kerman Province. (Photo: Hamid Sadeghi, Fars News Agency)
  • An itinerant man watches over grazing cattle. He is wearing a smock made of woven felt called Shola. (Photo: Faramarz Mir Ahmadi, Fars News Agency)

A quarter of century ago, Iran's itinerants - or nomadic people - made up a quarter of the population and, for the most part, governed the regions where they lived. Today, they form just one million of Iran's 75,000,000 population, scattered across the country in over 100 sub-tribes.

Even though the itinerants typically move from one location to another, many have settled in one place either because they were forced to by the government or because modernity has finally caught up with them.

Many migrate to the big cities in search of work. The trend is growing all the time and it's possible that within the next few decades there will be little left of these nomadic people .

The economy of Iran's itinerants is based on livestock breeding, but they are mainly known for producing beautiful handicrafts. Although the signs of their traditional lifestyle are fading, traces of old popular customs can still be found.


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