Iran lies between latitude 400 north and 250 north,but it’s climate varies dramatically from region to region and according to elevation. On the plateau, aridity combined with high elevation produces a very rigorous continental-type climate, with great variation in temperature between seasons and even between day and night. At Tabriz (elevation 4,400 feet), in the northwest, the temperature falls as low as –13°F in winter and soars to 104°F in summer. At Mashhad (3,300 feet), in the northeast, it drops to –18°F in winter and rises to 108°F in summer. Other major cities are far enough south to avoid these extremes in winter. Tehran (3,800 feet), the capital, has an average yearly temperature of 64°F: winter brings a good deal of snow and average lows of 29°F in January; summer is extremely hot and dry, with an average high of 97°F in July. The extremes vary from a record low of 9°F in January to 108°F in July. Isfahan (5,150 feet), in the center of the plateau, has a yearly average of 62°F, with average lows of 29°F in January and highs of 95°F in July Of course, areas in the high elevations are extremely cold in winter, while some of those in the south can be blisteringly hot in summer—daily highs over 122°F are not uncommon in Irânshahr (2,200 feet). Spots in the Dasht-e-lut can claim to be among the hottest on earth, with temperatures often over 134°F and reported measurements as high as 156°F Off the plateau, the climatic regime is quite different. The Caspian areas are much more humid and also milder in temperature, rarely falling below freezing in winter in the lower elevations and with summer highs around 93°F. In the Khuzestân plains, the temperatures at Ahvâz range from highs of around 68°F in January to 118°F in July. The British traveler Percy Sykes noted that the temperature at nearby Shustar in June 1896 measured 129°F in the shade day after day.1 Along the Persian Gulf, humidity hovers near 100 percent, and daily highs range from 68°F in winter to 106°F in summer Iran is replete with paradoxes, contradictions, and exceptions. Most non Iranians think of it as a country of hot deserts, but it is ringed with high, cold mountains. It has rich agricultural provinces and others full of lush subtropical forests. Reflecting its wide climatic variations, Iran has a diverse and colorful range of flora and fauna. Between Iraq and Afghanistan, Russia and the Persian Gulf, Iranians speak an Indo-European language in the midst of the Arabic-speaking Middle East. Iran is commonly thought of as a homogeneous nation, with a strong national culture, but minorities like the Azeris, Kurds, Gilakis, Baluchis, and Turkmen make up nearly half the population.