National Geographic : 1975 Jan
Iran DESERT MIRACLE By WILLIAM GRAVES Photographs by JAMES P. BLAIR BOTH NATIONAL GEOGRAPHICSTAFF jumped over the fire, chanting the words young Ali Moradi had taught me: "My troubles and my age I cast into your flames; give me your warmth and brightness in return." Ali nodded with all the satisfaction of a 12-year-old as he stoked the fire for his next customer. "Now," he assured me, "you will have a successful new year and your days will dance with happiness. You have honored my fire by jumping over it. Ten rials, please." I paid it gladly-fifteen cents for a year of good fortune is a notable bargain-and strolled off down the avenue. Other fires that evening bordered the streets of Tehran, Iran's enormous capital, for it was Chahar Shanbeh Suri-the Feast of Wednesday. Iranians on that spring night traditionally leap a fire of boteh, or desert thorn, in a symbolic swap of past troubles for a fresh beginning. For those who have no fire of their own, Ali and others like him are happy to oblige. I had arrived in Iran just in time for the In step with his emerging nation: An Iranian welder climbs from the hatch of a catalytic cracker at an oil refinery in Abadan, on the PersianGulf. Ownership of a tenth of the world's oil is the means to Iran's end to break the bonds of feudalism and assume economic leadership in the Middle East, and to do it in record time.