Kish (Persian: کیش ) is a 91.5-square-kilometre (35.3 sq mi) resort island in Bandar Lengeh County, Hormozgān Province off the southern coast of Iran in the Persian Gulf . Owing to its free trade zone status, the island is touted as a consumer's paradise, with numerous malls, shopping centres, tourist attractions, and resort hotels. It has an estimated population of almost 40,000 residents and about 1 million visitors annually.
Kish Island is the third most-visited vacation destination in Southwest Asia, after Dubai and Sharm el-Sheikh.Tourists from many—but not all—foreign nationals who are not from countries for which Iran typically requires a visa wishing to enter Kish Free Zone from legal ports are exempt from having to obtain a visa. For those travelers, upon-arrival travel permits are stamped valid for 14 days by Kish officials.
Kish Island has been mentioned in history variously as Kamtina, Arakia (Ancient Greek: Αρακία), Arakata, and Ghiss. Kish Island's strategic geographic location 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 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 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 aids, including lighthouses, were set up to facilitate navigation in the Persian Gulf.
In 325 BC, Alexander the Great commissioned Nearchus to set off on an expeditionary voyage to the Sea of Oman and the Persian Gulf. Nearchus's writings on Arakata contain 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, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran, turned the island into a luxury resort for the international elite and a tourism hotspot, complete with a Grand Casino (renamed as the Shayan International Hotel after the Iranian Revolution). Kish Airport was designed to handle the Concorde. After the Islamic Revolution, Kish Island became a duty-free shopping center.
Kish Island is the last known location of Robert Levinson, a "former F.B.I. agent turned private investigator" who disappeared there on 9 March 2007
Kish is located in the Persian Gulf, 19 km (12 mi) from mainland Iran, and has an area of approximately 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) wide from its west coast to its 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) above sea level. Its highest surface inclination extends from the airport to the shores near Shayan hotel.
The Greek Ship is the wreck of a 1943 cargo steamship, the Koula F, on a beach on Kish's southwest coast. She was originally a British ship, Empire Trumpet, and was built in Scotland. In 1966, she ran aground 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 hull.
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 include the beaches, which have a bluish tint, and the long shoreline that sees many tourists visit during the winter season. The water is so clear that fish can be seen swimming in the sea all year long.
Kish Island hosts numerous international sporting events, including the Fajr International Squash Championship, which is part of the Professional Squash Association's annual tour.
Kish 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 1,200 spectators which 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.
The island attracts top national football teams and clubs who often use Kish as a summer training camp, taking advantage of its high quality facilities, good weather and tranquil environment. The island itself has a professional football team, Kish Air FC, which plays in the Hormozgan Provincial League.
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 offered in Kish, including snorkeling and scuba diving, jet skiing, water skiing, parasailing, windsurfing, and fishing, as well as sailing and cruising on jet boats, sea skiffs, pedal boats, and banana boats, among many kinds of watercraft. Recently, Ocean Water Park, the first Iranian-themed and outdoor water park, was officially opened at Kish Island; it offers 14 water rides, four swimming pools, and other attractions.
Kish Island has three international standard volleyball courts and hosted the 2006 Asian Beach Volleyball Championship.
Kish was host to an officially sanctioned FIVB beach volleyball event, the Kish Island Open 2016, which ran from February 15 to 17. Qualification rounds at the 2017 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour event took place on Kish from 15 to 18 February.
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