KHARG ISLAND i. Geography



i. Geography

Kharg Island is situated at about 30 miles northwest of the port of Bušehr and 20 miles west of the port of Ganāva. The island stretches about 5 miles longitudinally and half of that at its widest point; it has a total area of 8.1 square miles, amounting to one-third of the size of the island of Manhattan in New York City. The coordinates of the centroid of Kharg Island are lat 29.25° N and long 50.33° E. Associated with Kharg is Ḵārgu (or Ḵārku) Island, 2 miles to its north. Essentially uninhabited, Ḵārgu is a narrow island with the shape of a finger and has an area of 1.3 square miles (Statistical Center of Iran, 1966, passim).

The interior of Kharg is hilly, terminating in cliffs at the northern and southern ends of the island.  A short range stretches from northwest to southeast, with the highest point approximately 270 feet above sea level. The surface of Kharg is predominantly covered with lime, with patches of silt-clay mostly in the south of the island. Kharg’s location near the Persian Gulf’s continental shelf is a source of moderately high seismicity (IIEES [online]); a significant earthquake was recorded in 1954 (Sāzmān-e joḡrāfiāʾi, pp. 12-13). The inorganic soils covering the island support little flora, while fauna is virtually absent (idem, 41-43). Kharg is characterized by hot and humid summers and mild winters, with an average annual temperature of 75 degree Fahrenheit and precipitation of 10.9 inches (Weatherbase [online]).

Administratively, Kharg is a district (baḵš) consisting of two islands: Kharg and Ḵārgu.  The Kharg district is under the jurisdiction of Bušehr Sub-province (šahrestān), Bušehr Province (ostān). The sole settlement of the Kharg District is its administrative center, the city of Kharg, which is located at the northeastern “horn” of the Kharg Island; it gained its current urban status in 1969. The population of Kharg (Table 1) was reckoned 650 souls in the first national census of 1956; it rose sharply within a decade to 5,460 within a decade, and continued to grow thanks to the industrialization of the island in the Pahlavi era. The population plummet reflected in the first decennial census after the establishment of the Islamic Republic may be justified by the devastation inflicted by the Iran-Iraq War. Still, the population was restored in the following decades, as shown in Table 1.

The traditional economy of Kharg was based on modest agriculture. The inhabitants cultivated date palm groves, citrus orchards, and vineyards, whose produce was partly exported to Bušehr. To irrigate the land, the subterranean water was extracted through digging of a network of underground channels (kāriz). These channels were deserted through industrialization of the island, and wells became the main source of drinking water, requiring electrical water pumps in every house. Moreover, Kharg was a center of fishing and hunting corals and particularly pearls, for which Kharg has been known since medieval times (ʿA. Razmārā, p. 6; Enjavi, p. 31; Āl-e Aḥmad, pp. 53-59, 62-63; Sāzmān-e joḡrāfiāʾi, 37-39; Lorimer, I/2, pp. 1019, 1022, 2223; Floor, 1982, pp. 221-22).

The geographical economy of Kharg was transformed with the expansion of the oil economy in Iran. Since the 1960s, the island has become a crude oil terminal and loading facility; in more recent decades, supertankers have docked at Kharg rather than at Abadan for bulk loading (de Planhol; McLachlan).  In 2014, the satellite images of Google Earth [online] show the industrial areas of the island dotted with petroleum reservoirs and facilities. Wharfs project out from the southeast harbor, which is equipped with a network of piers and warehouses necessary for handling the ships. A disproportionally large airport runway dissects the inhabited part of Kharg, signifying the geopolitical importance of the island.

Bibliography (online resources accessed 16 September 2015):

Jalāl Āl-e Aḥmad, Jazira-ye Ḵārg: Dorr-e yatim-e Ḵalij-e Fārs  (Kharg island: The orphan pearl of the Persian Gulf), Tehran, 1960.

Willem Floor, “A Report on Pearl Fishing in the Persian Gulf in 1757,” Persica 10, 1982, pp. 209-22.

Karim Kešāvarz, Čahārdah māh dar Ḵārg: Yāddāšthā-ye ruzāna-ye zendāni, Tehran, 1984.

John Gordon Lorimer, Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf, ʿOmān, and Central Arabia, 2 vols., Calcutta, 1908-15; repr. Westmead, U.K., 2 vols. in 6, 1970.

Keith McLachlan, “Oil in the Persian Gulf Area,” in Alvin J. Cottrell, ed., The Persian Gulf States, Baltimore, 1980, pp. 195-224.

Ḥosayn Nurbaḵš, Ḵalij-e Fārs o jazāyer-e irāni, Tehran, 1983.

Xavier de Planhol, “Les transformations de l’ile de Khârg d’après Pourandokht Khalil Yahyavi,” Revue géographique de l’Est, 1977, pp. 93-97.

ʿAli Razmārā, Joḡrāfiā-ye neẓāmi-e Irān: Jazāyer-e Irān dar Ḵalij-e Fārs, Tehran, 1941.

Ḥosayn-ʿAli Razmārā, ed., Farhang-e joḡrāfiāʾi-e Irān (ābādihā), Tehran, 1950.

Sāzmān-e joḡrāfiāʾi-e niruhā-ye mosallaḥ, Joḡrāfiā-ye jazāyer-e irāni-e Ḵalij-e Fārs. Ostān-e Bušehr: Ḵārk, Ḵārku, Šif, ʿOmm al-Karām, Jabrin, Naḵilu, Fārsi, Tehran, 2002.

Statistical Center of Iran [Markaz-e āmār-e Irān]), Farhang-e ābādihā-ye kešvar X. Farmāndārihā-ye koll-e Banāder o jazāyer-e Ḵalij-e Fārs o Daryā-ye ʿOmmān, Tehran, 1966.

Idem, National Census of Population, Bushehr Province/ Saršomāri-e ʿomumi-e nofus o maskan. Ostān-e Bušehr, decennial 1956-2006, quinquennial since 2011.

U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Limits in the Seas. Continental Shelf Boundary: Iran-Saudi Arabia, International Boundary Study, Series A, 1970.

Online sources (accessed 20 March 2014).

Google Earth, at

[IIEES] International Institute of Earthquake Engineering and Seismology (Pažuhešgāh-e bayn-al-melali-e zelzelašenāsi o mohandesi-e zelzela), Tehran, Earthquake Catalogue Search, available at

Weatherbase, “Khark Island, Iran” at


(Habib Borjian)

Originally Published: September 15, 2015

Last Updated: September 15, 2015

Cite this entry:

Habib Borjian, “KHARG ISLAND i. Geography,” Encyclopædia Iranicaonline edition, 2015, available at (accessed on 15 September 2015).