Qeshm from space, August 2000
Qeshm Island is located a few kilometers off the southern coast of Iran, opposite the port cities of Bandar Abbas and Bandar Khamir. The island, which hosts a 300 square kilometer free zone jurisdiction, is 135 km long, and lies strategically in the Strait of Hormuz, The Island, at its widest point, located near the center of the island, spans 40 kilometers. At its narrowest point, the island spans 9.4 kilometers. The island has a surface area of 1491 square kilometers and is 2.5 times the size of Bahrain.
The average temperature on the island is approximately 27 °C. The warmest months are June through August, and the coldest from October to January. The average rainfall is 183.2 mm.
The island comprises 59 towns and villages. The local population is involved in fishing, construction, trade and services
Plans have also been made to build a bridge to connect Qeshm with the rest of Iran.
Tomb stone in Portuguese castle, Qeshm
Historical records concerning the Qeshm island date far back into the pre-Islamic era. Names as Qeshm, Keshm, Kish and Tunb mark the lengthy stay of Ilamids in the area, several centuries BC. It is, apparently, the island called Alexandria[disambiguation needed] or Aracia by Ptolemy (Book 6, Chap. IV), in the 2nd century CE and as Alexandria by Ammianus Marcellinus (xxiii.6.42) in the 4th century. On account of its strategic geopolitical situation, near the mouth of the Persian Gulf, it has been frequently attacked by invaders including Ilamids (Elamites), Umayyads, Abbasids as well as the Portuguese and English. During Sassanian Empire administration the island was called Abarkawan. According to historical records, Qeshm Island has been famous as a trade and navigation center. Its economy flourished during the Dailamites and Buyid eras, as trade vessels sailed between Qeshm Island and China, India and Africa.
Portuguese castle at Qeshm Island
Chahouh Valley at Qeshm Island
Chah Kooh valley in Qeshm is made of Marl Sandstone which has holes created by the flow of rain water
Portuguese Castle of the Qeshm town
One of the cannons of Qeshm Portuguese castle
Mountains on Qeshm Island have a specific form. Most of them are low and are made up of sedimentary layers which are totally parallel and their surface is covered by coral layers as well as bivalves. Only in two places, the parallel and horizontal arrangement of layers has been disrupted due to presence of salt domes. Winds have scoured rocks and their coral layers and have, at times, created shapes which are similar to imaginary animals. Presence of such spectacles has imparted a unique appearance to Qeshm Island.
Some mountains of Qeshm have turned into salt caves as a result of accretion of sea water in deep fault and subsequent precipitation of salt. Such caves are not only important as a tourism attraction, but are also significant geological hallmarks. Salt domes are more than 570 million years old and date back to Precambrian Period. However, salt domes are younger and date back to about 6,000 years ago.
Namakdan salt dome is among natural attractions of Qeshm Island, which attracts a lot of tourists every year. Namakdan salt dome is the only salt dome in Qeshm Island which extends from southern promontory of Salakh anticline up to the northwestern promontory of Basaeedou anticline. On the map, it roughly looks like a circle with a diameter of 6.5 km x 7 km. Salt caves are located to the south of Namakdan salt dome and are up to 20 m high. Ceilings of the caves are covered with stalactites which have been created as a result of water infiltrating the caves.
These caves which are both natural and manmade are located 10 km from Qeshm city on the slopes of a mountain which faces the sea and Miyankaseh plain. There are four caves, which are connected from within. They believe that such ancient geological phenomena are the result of whirlpools and sedimentation of sand. Not all those caves are natural, but some of them have been carved out by ancient Iranians, who have used them as they needed. Some signs indicate that Kharbas caves have been a dwelling for snakes and some even think that they have been a place for worshipping Mehr (the Goddess of Sun or Mitra).
Coral islands located near Qeshm Island are the most complete and the liveliest collection of corral reefs present in the Persian Gulf. In spite of presence of various colorful aquatics, they are still considered one of the main natural attractions of Qeshm Island. They are more beautiful and diverse on the coasts of Larak and Hengam islands.
One of the amazing plants on the island is banyan tree. The tropical tree has a big crown with roots, which are mostly in the air. The best example of this tree is found at Tem Sonnati village of Rourian region which is close to an old mausoleum, which is known as the Old Man of Tem Sonnati. Banyan tree also bears fruit which is orange in color and edible.
Perhaps the most unique attraction on Qeshm Island and the coasts of Persian Gulf for every domestic and foreign tourist is the perched mangrove forest. The forest goes underwater upon high tide and reemerges during low tide. Mangrove forest is made up of a tree called mangrove, which is called Timer in Sistan and Baluchestan, Toul in some southern parts of Iran, and Harra in Bandar Abbas.
Mangrove forest displays high biodiversity and is a habitat for tropical birds. It is a haven for 150 various species of birds in cold seasons of fall and winter whose number sometimes exceeds hundreds of thousands. They include seagulls, cormorants, flamingoes, storks, pelicans, eagles and falcons. Apart from birds, mangrove forest is a good haven for a variety of other animals including various fish, sea snakes, crabs, clings, various frogs and even mammals.Apart from northwestern coasts of Qeshm, which host the bulk of Iran’s mangrove forest, they can also be found 3 km from Tiab port near Minab as well as in Jask region of Chabahar.
Qeshm Island has resorted to many ways to find the water it needs. One of those ways is to drill wells in the rocks, which sometimes end in gypsum layers and are capable of holding water healthy and cool for a long time.
Naderi castle is one of old historical castles on the island, which is located near Laft. This had been a fortress for defending Qeshm Island, but has been worn out in time and is now far from its original grandeur. Iran Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, however is planning to renovate it.
Another historical bastion in Qeshm, which is 400 years old, has been built by the Portuguese soldiers after they arrived in Persian Gulf and occupied such islands as Qeshm and Hormuz. In addition to residence, such castles were used as watchtowers to oversee traffic of warships. The Portuguese fortress has been made of coral stone and mortar. It has two towers and includes chambers, warehouses and wells.