In terms of area, Iran is slightly smaller than the combined areas of UK, Spain, France and Germany. Its location is strategic as it stands at the crossroads between the Middle East and South Asia. It is one of the world's most mountainous countries, lying on the collision zone of the Eurasian and Arabian plates. Most of the country is made up of north west / south east trending mountain ranges separated by high plateaux. In the north and east are large areas of sparsely populated desert. The only areas of lowlying plain are around the Caspian Sea in the north and at the head of the Persian Gulf. It is not surprising, therefore, that only about 10% of the land surface is cultivated.
Mark crossed the border yesterday into Iran from Turkey in the extreme north west of the country and has been heading for Tabriz via Maku.The lack of place names on the Google maps/aerial photos of Iran make it just a little harder to fix position but here was the 'view' earlier as he reached the outskirts of Tabriz..... the city in the south east of the view, barren mountains to the north and east and irrigated farmland on the floodplain of a river to the west.
Zooming in, Tabriz (pop 1.5 million)reveals itself as a very high density city. However, as the city has suffered severe damage on many occasions from earthquakes, most of the buildings date from the 20th century. Wikipedia carries quite an informative article about the city, including a tasty bit of trivia - Tabriz, it seems, is noted for chocolate manufacturing! And if you'd like some proof, here is the website for a chocolate company in Tabriz.
And finally, as it's impossible to get a feel for anywhere from the air, here are some very contrasting images chosen from hundreds you could look at in Flickr just by putting 'Tabriz' into the search box..
It looks a beautiful city.