Iran ranks 10th globally on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) list of world heritage sites and tops all other countries in the Middle East. With 24 sites — two of them natural — the country is pushing to get more of its vast range of historically significant attractions recognized by the international organization.
In 1978, four years after joining UNESCO's World Heritage Convention, three Iranian sites, Tchogha Zanbil, Persepolis and Meydan Emam, were granted world heritage status. Dating back to 1250 BC, Tchogha Zanbil, in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, is an archeological site preserving the ruins of the holy city of the ancient Kingdom of Elam. A few hundred kilometers to the east lies Persepolis, the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire built in 518 BC. In modern Iran, the 125,000-square-meter site is located 60 kilometers (37 miles) outside the southern city of Shiraz. Further north into the central city of Isfahan, Meidan Emam — formerly known as Naghsh-e Jahan — was built by Shah Abbas of the Safavid Dynasty in early 17th century. The spacious square houses a magnificent set of architectural masterpieces including the late 16th-century Ali-Qapou Palace.