South Khorasan province with a total area of 151,193 square kilometers as the third largest province of the country is located in the eastern part of Iran bordering Afghanistan. South Khorasan is one of the three provinces established after the division of Khorasan in 2004, containing Birjand city as its center and 11 counties.
Its neighbors are Khorasan Razavi, Semnan, Isfahan, Yazd, Kerman, and Sistan and Baluchistan provinces. The major ethnic groups in this region are the Persians who speak Farsi with their local dialect. It is one of the arid areas of the country with hot summer and cold winter but a small part of it enjoys mild temperature. Lut Desert as one of the warmest deserts of the world covers a large area of the province, influencing significantly the temperature of the province.
Qahestan or Quhistan was a region in grand Khorasan stretching from the south of Nishabur to Sistan and at present, South Khorasan includes a great part of it. It is believed that the history of Qahestan villages dates back to pre-Islamic historical eras. During the early conquests of the Muslims, Hephthalites (440-710 A.D.) ruled Qahestan but the Arab Muslims conquered it when Umar (reign: 634-644) became the Caliph.
Years later, a big uprising under the leadership of a person named Qarin happened but the Arab commanders quelled it. Qahestan later became a part of grand Khorasan with Nishabur as its center and Muslim governors ruled it until the invasion of Mongol to Persia in 1219. By the arrival of Mongols, Qahestan was destroyed and never returned to its previous glory. During the next centuries, the region was in total chaos but finally, the independent local rulers were suppressed by the Qajar Dynasty (1796-1925) and the region became once again a part of Iran.
Unique nature, ancient, cultural, and religious sites can be found all over the province. The impressive landscape of Lut Desert, waterfalls, spas, saffron, and barberry farms have made South Khorasan an excellent place for tourists and nature lovers. The historical attractions of the province include Tabas Citadel, Mostofi House, Mansion of Boshruyeh Windcatcher, Nehbandan Watermill, Jameh Mosque of Qaen, and Madreseh Elmiyeh Oliya.
Particularly, Lut Desert, Akbariyeh Garden Complex, and Qanat Baladeh Ferdows have been inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage List.
In terms of handicrafts, the most prevailing ones include embroidery, Jajim weaving, Giveh making, felt making, basket weaving, and pottery. The main eatable souvenirs of the province are also saffron, barberry, jujube, pomegranate, black dried curd, and Persian olive.
The local foods are Abodardar Aash, Omaj Aush, Balgour Polo, Fenugreek Eshkeneh (a kind of Persian soup), Plum Abgoosht, and Saveri. Among the most notable figures of the province, we can mention to Bozarjomher Qaeini (poet), Badi’ozzamān Foruzānfar) contemporary literary critique, linguist, and culture expert).