Kish (Persian: کیش) is a 91.5-square-kilometre (35.3 sq mi) resort island in the Persian Gulf. It is part of the Hormozgān Province of Iran. Due to its free trade zone status it is touted as a consumer’s paradise, with numerous malls, shopping centres, tourist attractions, and resort hotels. It has an estimated population of 20,000 residents and about 1 million people visit the island annually. Kish Island was ranked among the world’s 10 most beautiful islands by The New York Times in 2010, and is the fourth most visited vacation destination in Southwest Asia after Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Sharm el-Sheikh. Foreign nationals wishing to enter Kish Free Zone from legal ports are not required to obtain visas prior to travel. Valid travel permits are stamped for 14 days by airport and Kish port police officials.
Kish Island has been mentioned in history variously as Kamtina, Arakia (Ancient Greek: Αρακία), Arakata, and Ghiss. In 325 BC, Alexander the Great commissioned Nearchus to set off an expedition voyage into the Sea of Oman and the Persian Gulf.
Nearchus’s writings on Arakata is 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 the last Shah of Iran turned the island into a luxury resort for the international elite complete with a Grand Casino (now known as the Shayan International Hotel) and an airport designed to handle the Concorde. After the Islamic Revolution, Kish Island became a duty-free shopping center.
Kish Island’s strategic position 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 and 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 and Aryan people 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 signs, including lighthouses, were set up to facilitate navigation in the Persian Gulf.