National Geographic : 1975 Jan
of a century as a professional weaver, includ ing the time she has devoted to the giant carpet. On completion, the masterpiece will lie in the foyer of the National Assembly at Tehran, and a skilled team of seven years' standing will dissolve. "We are like a huge family of 32 sisters," Fatameh told me, "with all the affection-and sometimes the arguments-of a normal fam ily. We often spend the evening together, and some of the women even vacation together. It will be a historic day when the carpet is finally completed, and a great honor for Isfa han. But there will be sadness, too." I asked if she would consider taking on a similar task once the carpet is completed, and she shook her head. "Such things are for younger women, and seven years is a long time." She glanced at the huge work of art behind her: "It is honor enough for one life." Green Citrus Groves and Yellow Grain Beyond the Zagros Mountains to the south west of Isfahan lies another monumental carpet, a vast patchwork of gold and emerald fields that produces nearly a fifth of the coun try's food supply. After a brief visit to two of Isfahan's modern attractions, the army's new helicopter school and a huge Russian-built steel mill called Aryamehr, I journeyed west ward across the great spine of the Zagros to Khuzestan-Land of Sugarcane. The title is misleading, for khuz no longer dominates local farming as it did in ancient times. Today a widespread agricultural revo lution is overtaking the area near the Shatt al Arab, the outlet of the historic Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. With Ahmad Baharestan, a gifted young agronomist, I explored the fertile region so vital to Iran's expanding population. From massive Dez Dam in the foothills of the Zag ros (left), we followed another river, the Rud-e Dez, southward among ripening stands of wheat, corn, and barley, interspersed with the dark green of orange and lemon groves. Many of the farms give evidence of dra matic change: giant sprinklers hooked to Life-giving spume erupts from towering Dez Dam, built with U. S . technical assistance. One of 12 dams helping to ease Iran's age-old water shortage, it irrigates Khuzestan Province and lights homes 280 miles away in Tehran.