Idyllic Iranian island feels the heat as tensions rise with US
A view of the Iranian island of Hormuz, also known for its wide range of colors as the rainbow island, Strait of Hormuz, Iran, May 16, 2019. EFE/Artemis Razmipour
A view of a beach on the Iranian island of Hormuz, also known for its wide range of colors as the rainbow island, Strait of Hormuz, Iran, May 16, 2019. EFE/Artemis Razmipour
By Artemis Razmipour
Hormuz, Iran, May 16 (EFE).- The Iranian island of Hormuz, also known as the rainbow island for the wide range of colors it offers, is an idyllic getaway that has come into sharp focus amid an ongoing tensions between Iran and the United States.
Situated in the Persian Gulf within the strategically important Strait of Hormuz, the island boasts of a natural beauty which attracts a lot of tourists, mainly because of the astonishing diversity in colors – numbering as many as 72 – which can be spotted in its terrain, made up of layers of volcanic sediment and salt.
The island, spread over 42 square kilometers (around 10,400 acres), receives around 50,000 tourists annually, who visit its sublime coasts, valleys, caves and mountains.
But the current turn of events could seriously harm its economy.
Hossein Deirestani, the executive director of the Fardis travel agency, told EFE that the population of Hormuz, numbering around 7,000, has been worried and was continuously following the news appearing in media and social media about the tensions in the Persian gulf.
He said everybody wanted to know what the new US military vessels arriving in the gulf aimed to do, although no extraordinary movements were visible from the island.
In recent weeks, the US has announced that it was deploying amphibious assault vessel USS Arlington, Patriot missiles, aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and bomber aircraft in the Persian Gulf.
The deployment of these war machines forms part of the US strategy to pressurize Iran, after Washington imposed fresh sanctions on Tehran, including on its oil exports, and unilaterally withdrew last year from the historic nuclear agreement signed between the Islamic republic and six world powers in 2015.
Iranian authorities have threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, one of the most strategically important maritime routes internationally, which lies between Oman and Iran and serves a passage to a large part of global oil trade.
Thus the island of Hormuz, situated in the middle of the strait, has become a strategic location, a fact recognized by the Portuguese as far back as the 17th century, when they built a fort on the island after being pushed out by Iranian troops in 1622.
Today, the Portuguese fort is one of the main tourist attractions on the island, along with the rainbow valley, the salt cave, the snow mountains and the turtle beach, where the colors of the soil range from white and yellow to red and purple.
Hormuz's soil is also used in making beauty products.
Ali Bazruj Hormozi, a resident of Hormuz, told EFE that the red earth of the island has antioxidant properties and is used in make-up products such as lipsticks and blush.
Hormozi added that even though a large part of the soil had been exported, the profits had made a very small impact or not benefited the island at all.
He complained that authorities had ignored the island, reflected in the poor state of the roads and the lack of facilities such as a clinic.
Hormuz largely remains an offbeat destination, without any hotels, although tourists can stay in the houses of some residents, and is connected to the coastal city of Bandar Abbas and the neighboring island of Qeshm by boat.
Out of the nearly 50,000 tourists that visit the island every year, only around 2,000 or 3,000 are foreigners, although, according to Deirestani, the figure had risen in recent months due to the rapid devaluation of the Iranian currency, which made it a very cheap destination for foreigners.
The current high temperatures turn summer into the off-season for tourists in the islands of the Persian Gulf, making it difficult to evaluate the impact of the Iran-US tensions on the tourism sector.
The outcome also depends on whether the recent escalation grows further or subsides to earlier levels.
Deirestani said if the tensions rose further, tourist arrivals, both of Iranians and foreigners, would almost certainly drop to zero.