Kish is a 91.5-square-kilometre (35.3 sq mi) resort island in the Persian Gulf. It is part of the Hormozgān Province of Iran. Due to its free trade zone status it is touted as a consumer’s paradise, with numerous malls, shopping centres, tourist attractions, and resort hotels. It has an estimated population of 20,000 residents and about 1 million people visit the island annually. Kish Island was ranked among the world’s 10 most beautiful islands by The New York Times in 2010, and is the fourth most visited vacation destination in Southwest Asia after Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Sharm el-Sheikh. Foreign nationals wishing to enter Kish Free Zone from legal ports are not required to obtain visas prior to travel. Valid travel permits are stamped for 14 days by airport and Kish port police officials.
Kish Island’s former casino.
Kish Island has been mentioned in history variously as Kamtina, Arakia (Ancient Greek: Αρακία), Arakata, and Ghiss. In 325 BC, Alexander the Great commissioned Nearchus to set off an expedition voyage into the Sea of Oman and the Persian Gulf.
Nearchus’s writings on Arakata is the first known mention of Kish Island in antiquity. When Marco Polo visited the Imperial court in China, he commented on the Emperor’s wife’s pearls, he was told that they were from Kish. In the 1970s the last Shah of Iran turned the island into a luxury resort for the international elite complete with a Grand Casino (now known as the Shayan International Hotel) and an airport designed to handle the Concorde. After the Islamic Revolution, Kish Island became a duty-free shopping center.
Kish Island’s strategic position served as a way station and link for the ancient Assyrian and Elamite civilizations when their primitive sailboats navigated from Susa through the Karun River into the Persian Gulf and along the southern coastline passing Kish, Qeshm and Hormoz islands.
When these civilizations vanished, Kish Island’s advantageous position was lost and for a period it was subjected to turmoil and the tyranny of local potentates and other vendors. With the establishment of the Achaemenid dynasty, the Persian Gulf was profoundly affected. Kish was, in particular, economically and politically linked with the civilization of the Medes, Persians and Aryan people when they were at the height of their power.
In the shadow of the empire, the islands in the gulf became prosperous, navigation in the Persian Gulf was expanded and better vessels were used to carry passengers and goods. Navigational signs, including lighthouses, were set up to facilitate navigation in the Persian Gulf.
Kish Island, Persian Gulf
Kish is located in the Persian Gulf 19 km (12 mi) from mainland Iran and has an area of around 91 km2 (35 sq mi) with an outer boundary of 40 km (25 mi) and a nearly elliptical shape. Along Kish’s coast are coral reefs and many other small islands. The Island is positioned along the 1,359 km (844 mi) long Iranian coastline north of the Persian Gulf, at the first quarter from the Hormuz entrance to the Persian Gulf. The island is 15.45 km (9.60 mi) long from west coast to the east coast (the distance between Mariam Complex and Hoor field). Its maximum width extending from the southern shorelines to the northern shorelines is 7.5 km (4.7 mi) (the distance between Gomrok Port and the lighthouse). The island’s surface is flat, lacking mountains or even high hills. Kish International Airport is built in the center on an elevated area 35–40 m (115–131 ft) from the sea level. Its highest surface inclination extends from the airport to the shores near Shayan hotel.
Climate, nature, and geobotany
Kish, like the other Persian Gulf Islands, especially the islands in the Strait of Hormuz, is located on a narrow strip of tropical vegetation in the Northern Hemisphere, with the Persian plateau to the north and the Arabian Peninsula to the south. In addition to its special geographic and climatic attributes, Kish Island, like other nearby islands, such as Forur, Hendurabi, Shatuar and Lavan and even Qeshm, is under the sway of the semi-equatorial climate dominating this band of vegetation.
Kish’s climate is considered to be a very dry semi equatorial climate. For an 8 years span of time, the median annual rainfall in Kish has been 145 mm (5.7 in) (54% in winter, 28% autumn and 14% in summer) and the annual temperature 26.6 °C (79.9 °F). The relative atmospheric humidity in Kish makes it like a sea island except in cold seasons. The humidity is about 60% most of the year. In the months of October to April, Kish’s weather is mild, ranging from 18 °C (64 °F) to 25 °C (77 °F). The statistical data in the Kish free zone’s archives show that the island’s temperature varies from very hot to moderately hot, accompanied by relatively high humidity often interspersed by heavy rains of short durations in certain seasons. With the exception of some southeastern coastal areas and a few other islands in the Persian Gulf, Kish Island has the longest sunny hours in the region which is roughly 3100 hours a year. Based on climatological classification and general weather conditions and nearness to the Tropic of Cancer and exposure to high tropical pressure system and being in the midst of hot and shallow waters, the island tends to be hot and humid most of the year.
The Greek Ship in Kish
Kish is a small island but it has numerous tourist attractions.
The Greek ship is the wreck of a 1943 cargo steamship, the Koula F, on a beach on Kish’s south-west coast. She was originally a British ship, Empire Trumpet, and was built in Scotland. She ran aground in 1966 and all attempts to salvage her failed. When Koula F ’s crew abandoned her they set her on fire, and all that remains is her steel hulk.
Another attraction is the ancient underground aqueduct, also called the ‘Underground City’, which is partly open for tourists. It was built about 1,000 years ago for transportation and water supply across the different parts of the island.
Other attractions are the beautiful beaches that captivate the eye with their bluish tint and the long shoreline that allures many tourists during the winter season. The water is so clear that fish can be seen swimming in the sea all year long.
Economy of Kish
Communications in Iran and Foreign Direct Investment in Iran
Since the mid-1990s the Iranian government has embarked on an aggressive promotional and developmental campaign to tailor Kish as a rival to Dubai but mainly a big rival to Doha. Steps taken in order to accomplish this include launching massive construction projects and programs designed to attract foreign investment and trade. Within the area of the Kish Free Zone, as it is known, the standard laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran are far more relaxed than on the mainland, which has resulted in significant increases in mostly domestic tourist population over the years, as well as in international trade on the island. The population of the island includes significant numbers of both Muslims and Christians. Kish Free Zone total foreign trade stands at around $9.2 billion per annum (2009). Fifteen percent of all imports to Iran are through Kish.
Investment incentives in Kish free trade zone include:
15 years tax-exemption;
no entry visa requirement;
100% foreign ownership possible;
flexible monetary & banking services;
extended legal guarantees & protection.
Besides the existing Iranian Oil Bourse, a new exchange, the Kish Stock Exchange was inaugurated in 2010 to facilitate foreign investment and monetary activities.
See also: Education in Iran
Kish Island Bird Garden, 2014
Kish is home to Kish University, a university founded in 1996; it now has 360 students. The importance of public education from the lowest to the highest levels as a main element in the steady development of Kish is now being paid special attention. The educational centers were built upon the educational foundation and plans developed by Dr. Jerry Griffin in 1977.
Some of the most important activities include supporting and expanding existing educational centres, creating new educational centres, using new technology in developing educational activities, exploiting creditable educational national and international experiences, creating the foundations for all social classes to benefit from educational possibilities, the development of applied sciences regionally, and the promotion of university education levels through holding courses with creditable universities home and abroad.
Activities carried out in the educational section on general education, basic education, and higher education are presented as follows: KFZO has made efforts to create educational centres for basic education and provided facilities to promote the quality and quantity of education.
Creating educational spaces by building new schools and giving priority to technical and vocational courses are some of the activities carried out. Kish schools have been located so as to make them easily accessible, especially for the local population. Considering the increased educational facilities, and also the better living conditions of families in Kish, the number of students at each level is on the increase.
The total area of educational space on the island was over 4658 square metres in 2005, which shows a 40% rise as compared to the beginning of 2001. Furthermore, KFZO has set up institutions in parts of the island, which the inhabitants, including many civil servants and members of the general public, use. These include:
Kish Institute of Arts and Sciences (teaching foreign languages)
Kish Institute of Graph-Rayaneh (teaching computing)
Parto Institute (teaching English)
Sadaf Cultural Centre
Mir Mohana Cultural Centre
Sana’ei Cultural Centre
Kish Institute of Science and Technology
See also: Sport in Iran
Scuba diving in Kish Island.
Jet skiing at Kish Island.
Kish acts as the location for numerous international sporting events. Kish Island is part of the Professional Squash Association’s annual tour, holding the Fajr International Squash Championship.
Kish Island also holds Iran’s Traditional and Heroic Games Contests annually attracting over 17 countries worldwide. As part of the Flower of the East project Kish will have an 18-hole championship golf course based on PGA standards and a 9-hole course for beginners.
Kish is home to a multi-purpose Olympic stadium seating 1200 spectators, it caters for 11 sports including volleyball, basketball, handball, futsal, gymnastics, wrestling, taekwondo, judo, karate and chess. All of these are supervised by professional and international coaches.
It attracts top national football teams and clubs who often use Kish as summer training camp with high quality facilities, good weather and a tranquille environment making it a good location. The Kish Karting Track is one of the largest in Southwest Asia, and one of the first of its kind in Iran. A great array of water sports are also on offer in Kish such as snorkeling and scuba diving courses, jet skiing, diving cruises, water skiing, sea skiffs, cruises to other islands around Kish, parasailing, jet boat rides, cruise fishing boats, pedal boating, banana boat rides, and windsurfing.
Maryam Bowling Complex includes 16 bowling lanes, a health club with a fitness suite, and a jacuzzi. Kish Equestrian Club hosts national races and is capable of holding international competitions.
Kish has 3 international standard volleyball courts, Kish held the 2006 Asian Beach Volleyball Championship.
Kish Island has 1 professional football team, Kish Air FC plays in the Hormozgan Provincial League.
Major Kish Island projects
International Oil Bourse
The International Oil Bourse is a commodity exchange which opened on February 17, 2008
Kish Hidden Pearl
In 1999, a project to build an underground complex was begun by 300 artists and excavation workers. After deep excavations rigid coral ceilings were discovered, and this was included in the final design. Once completed, the city will include restaurants, tourist resorts and underground therapeutic mud pools.
Kish Dolphin Park
The Dolphin Park is a 70-hectare (170-acre) park located at the south east corner of Kish Island. It is surrounded by over 22,000 palm trees, and includes a dolphinarium, butterfly garden, silkworm compound, bird garden, artificial rain forest, volcanic mountain, orchid garden, and cactus garden. The dolphinarium includes the largest man made pool on the island, and exhibits dolphins, sea lions, and white whales.
The Bird Garden in the park is home to more than 57 species of birds and other animals from around the world including pelicans, ostriches, blue-and-yellow macaws, storks, toco toucans, turacos, swans, African penguins, and marsh crocodiles.
The Art Center on the island includes an aquarium that displays marine species unique to the Persian Gulf.