Public Holidays

Public holidays commemorate either religious or secular events. It’s worth staying aware of the dates, especially if you are planning to extend your visa. Government offices and just about everything else will close for the morning, at least, on a holiday, but many small businesses open after lunch. Transport functions fairly normally and hotels remain open, but many restaurants will close. Holidays are sometimes extended for a day if they fall near the Iranian weekend. In Tehran, public holidays are sometimes announced at short notice when air pollution reaches dangerous levels. In recent years that has been in mid-July and late November/early December. These holidays affect government offices, schools, universities, sporting arena and can (but doesn’t always) include museums.

Islamic events are based on the lunar calendar and dates move forward 10 or 11 days each year.

Secular Holidays
Secular holidays follow the Persian solar calendar, and usually fall on the same day each year according to the Western calendar.
Magnificent Victory of the Islamic Revolution of Iran (11 February; 22 Bahman) The anniversary of Khomeini’s coming to power in 1979.
Oil Nationalisation Day (20 March; 29 Esfand) Commemorates the 1951 nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.
No Ruz (21 to 24 March; 1 to 4 Farvardin) Iranian New Year.
Islamic Republic Day (1 April; 12 Farvardin) The anniversary of the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979.
Sizdah Be Dar (2 April; 13 Farvardin) ‘Nature Day’ is the 13th day of the Iranian New Year, when Iranians traditionally leave their houses for the day.
Heart-Rending Departure of the Great Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran (4 June; 14 Khordad) Commemorates the death of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989. About 500,000 Iranians flock to Tehran, Qom (where he trained and lived) and the village of Khomein (where he was born).
Anniversary of the Arrest of Ayatollah Khomeini (5 June; 15 Khordad) In 1963 Khomeini was arrested after urging the Muslims of the world to rise up against the superpowers.

No Ruz (see the boxed text, Click here), the Iranian New Year, is a huge family celebration on a par with Christmas in the West. From a practical point of view, Iran virtually shuts down between 21 March (the beginning of the new year) and Sizdah Be Dar (2 April). Finding hotel accommodation (especially midrange and top-end) is very tough from about 17 March until 2 April and all forms of long-distance public transport are heavily booked, though savaris run more frequently making some shorter trips relatively easy. Government offices and most businesses, including many restaurants, close from 21 to 25 March inclusive, and many stay shut the full two weeks. It’s not impossible to travel during No Ruz, but think twice before heading to popular tourist destinations such as Esfahan, Mashhad, Yazd, Shiraz and anywhere on the Persian Gulf or Caspian coasts. Mountain areas such as rural Kurdistan and primarily business cities such as Tehran and Kermanshah remain relatively uncrowded. On the positive side, museums and tourist sites stay open longer hours while some normally closed attractions will open.

Religious holidays
Religious holidays follow the Muslim lunar calendar, which means the corresponding dates in the Western calendar move forward by 10 or 11 days every year.
Tasua (9 Moharram, 9 September 2019, Friday 28 August 2020)
Ashura (10 Moharram, 10 September 2019, 29 August 2020) The anniversary of the martyrdom of Hossein, the third Shiite Imam, in battle at Karbala in October AD 680. This is celebrated with religious theatre and sombre parades.
Arbaeen (20 Safar, 10 October 2019, 8 October 2020) The 40th day after Ashura.
Martyrdom of the Prophet Mohammed (28 Safar, 27 October 2019, Friday 16 October 2020) Martyrdom of Imam Reza (30 Safar, 29 October 2019, 17 October 2020)
Martyrdom of Imam Hasan-e Askari (8 Rabi’-ol-Avval, 6 November 2019, 25 October 2020)
Birth of the Prophet Mohammed (17 Rabi’-ol-Avval, 29 January 2019, 3 November 2020)
Martyrdom of Fatima (3 Jamadi-l-Okhra, 29 January 2020) Fatima was the daughter of Prophet Mohammed.
Birthd of Imam Ali (13 Rajab, 8 March 2020)
Ascension of Holy Prophet (27 Rajab, 22 march 2020) Maabath.
Birthday of Imam Mahdi (15 Shaban, 8 April 2020)
Martyrdom of Imam Ali (21 Ramazan, 14 May 2020)
Eid al-Fitr (1 Shavval, 24 & 25 May 2020) The Festival of the Breaking of the Fast that marks the end of Ramazan. After sunset on the last day of Ramazan large meals are consumed across the country.
Martyrdom of Imam Jafar Sadegh (25 Shavval, 17 June 2020)
Eid-e Ghorban (10 Zu-l-Hejjeh, Friday 31 July 2020) Marks the day when Abraham offered to sacrifice his son. Expect to see plenty of sheep being butchered.
Eid-e Qadir-e Khom (18 Zu-l-Hejjeh, 8 August 2020) The day Prophet Mohammed appointed Imam Ali as his successor while returning to Mecca.
During the month known in Iran as Ramazan, Muslims are expected to perform a dawn-to-dusk fast that includes abstaining from all drinks (including water) and from smoking. This is seen less as an unpleasant ordeal than a chance to perform a ritual cleansing of body and mind. Some people, especially in cities, don’t fully observe the fast, but most do for at least part of the month. Some Muslims are exempted from the fast (eg pregnant and menstruating women, travelers, the elderly and the sick), as are non-Muslims but they mustn’t eat or drink in front of others who are fasting.

24 April to 23 May 2020
13 April to 12 May 2021

Ramazan can be a trying period, particularly if it falls in summer when the days are that much longer and the heat and hunger tend to shorten tempers. Businesses and shops keep odd hours. However, public transport continues to function and travelers are exempt from the fast so you don’t need to worry about finding food on flights, trains or bus trips, and many hotels keep their restaurants open. Other restaurants either close altogether or open only after dark. Many shops selling food remain open throughout Ramazan, so you can buy food to eat in your room. Although you shouldn’t have many problems in larger cities, in rural areas finding any food might be difficult during daylight hours.