National Geographic : 1961 Jan
V NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSOCIETY Zoroastrian priest guards a temple fire, symbol of purity. He wears a mask lest human breath contaminate the flame. Small colonies in Kerman and Yazd still follow Zoroaster, founder of the faith that was the national religion before the Moslem conquest in 641. Beach market at Bandar 'Abbas offers fish from the Persian Gulf, tomatoes, and squash. Woman with gold nose rosette eyes the camera disapprovingly. Palm-mat lean tos shade merchants from a scorching sun. Summer temperatures here reach 1300 F. lish textiles, gunpowder, hardware, copper, and spices from the Indies. Shallows fend off today's deep-draft ves sels; the few that call here anchor several miles offshore. Only two ships rode the harbor when we arrived: a converted LST, mother ship to a tiny shrimp-fishing fleet, and a squat German freighter taking on chromite ore. I threaded through the port's beach market, a narrow strand where produce arrives by both donkey and dhow. The gabble of mer chants and patrons proclaimed a polyglot people: Arabs, Baluchi, and Kashgai among them, and others whose blood clearly mingled with that of Europe, India, and Africa. Sardines, tuna, red snapper, and a dozen fish varieties strange to me lay heaped on straw mats, wafting notice of a fine morning's catch to the nostrils. "We have 150 different kinds of fish in these waters," a resident told me. The near-by Conserve, a 20-year-old cannery, was being renovated by the Plan Organization, the Ira nian agency responsible for executing the nation's ambitious development program. Pat Hickey, a California cannery expert, put down a wrench and shouted above a clat 66 tering machine. "We're packing 100, some times 150 cases of sardines a day. In full oper ation we should turn out a thousand. One trouble is, we can't work through the summer. Without refrigeration the catch would be half cooked before it reached the dock." We asked at the customs house, rebuilt from the Dutch East India Company factory of another century, for passage to Hormoz Island, hanging like a cloud on the horizon. "Farda," we were told. "Tomorrow." Not until then would a boat be free to take us to that old Portuguese stronghold. The delay cost us a precious day of travel time - and possibly saved our lives. Wooden Pegs Hold Dhow Together In the morning we clambered aboard a 40-foot motor dhow, her planking fastened with wooden pegs. As the ancient engine wheezed and shuddered, I thought of Marco Polo's ominous comment: "They have no iron to make nails of, and for this reason they use only wooden trenails in their shipbuilding.... Hence 'tis a peril ous business to go a voyage in one of those ships, and many of them are lost...."