National Geographic : 1961 Jan
Old-New Iran, Next Door to Russia a guide pointed to a splendid polished frieze. "Salaam No-Ruz," he said. And surely it was the same ceremony we had witnessed in modern Tehran some 2,500 years later. There the diplomatic corps offered greet ings of their varied nations to a 20th-century king. Here Phoenicians in stone brought articles of gold and a chariot; Elamites offered weapons and a lioness with cubs; Egyptians, Bactrians, Medes, Assyrians, and a dozen other ancient peoples brought the best their kingdoms had to give. Skilled artisans from Babylon, Egypt, Sar dis, Media, and other parts of the far-flung empire helped build Persepolis, even as today's Plan Organization draws on world wide technical skills. We would see roads built by Danes, dams built by Frenchmen and Italians, communications networks by Ger mans, and a seaport by British, Dutch, and Americans. Nomads Trek to Summer Pasture Two days of hard driving across razor back ridges and baking plains brought us to the southwest corner of the country and the tall smokestacks of Abadan. En route we witnessed yet another stirring symbol of spring. Descending a narrow mountain pass, the jeep was blocked by a wall of wool-hundreds of bleating sheep and goats. Behind them plodded camels load ed with black goat-hair tents, stakes, carpets, and household utensils (pages 72-73). Men in blue robes and sashes and winged felt caps shouted and switched the livestock on. Women and infants rode donkeys. A healthy, handsome people, I thought, bronzed and curious, but reserved. These were the Kashgai, making their annual trek from the hot lowlands of Fars to cool, high summer pasture.* After 3,000 miles of hot, dusty roads it was exquisite pleasure to be served by white jacketed attendants at the beautiful air-con ditioned Riverside Guest House at Abadan. The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company relin quished control of the Abadan refinery after Iran's oil industry was nationalized in 1951.t The British touch can still be seen in the many miles of tidy hedge around the city's brick cottages. Today Abadan and most of Iran's oil in dustry is run by 17 foreign companies, together known as the Consortium. It operates under an agreement with Iran and the National Iranian Oil Company, which in turn helps pay for Plan Organization's multiple projects. The heart of the industry is Abadan, the biggest and only complete oil refinery in the Middle East. It can convert more than 400,000 barrels of crude oil daily into 102 types and grades of petroleum products. A British Dove, a swift little eight-seater plane, whisked us from Abadan over the wild, bare ridges of southern Khuzestan to Agha Jari, then producing 700,000 barrels of oil a day-nearly three-fourths of Iran's output. "So far this field is 312 to 4 miles across, 35 miles long, and we're still looking for the other end of it," Field Superintendent Assad Abolfathi told me. "It's an oil man's dream it takes a lot of skill to drill a dry hole here!" Agha Jari's Well 59 had come in at 7,300 feet several days before. "Should flow 25,000 to 30,000 barrels a day, about average for this field," drawled the "toolpusher" in charge, a Texan. "And back home we get excited about a 500-barrel well!" Seventy-five miles to the east, tongues of flame licked from the hillsides as we landed at Gach Saran. The Consortium is sensitive about these flares, for they burn up millions of cubic feet of natural gas that roars out of the ground at tremendous pressure - a thou sand pounds per square inch. The fires now are the only safe way to dispose of the dan gerous gas, which is necessarily produced with the oil. Soon, however, the gas from Gach Saran will be piped to Shiraz for the manufacture of chemical fertilizer. That from Agha Jari goes by pipeline to Abadan for refinery use (page 45); part of it may someday be converted into vinyl plastic. Gazelle Plus Goat Equals "Gazoat" On near-by Khark, a two-by-four-mile is land in the Persian Gulf, 2,000 sweating workmen were building a dozen oil storage tanks, among the world's largest, and a half mile-long pier able to dock supertankers. Several gazelles scampered off as we bounced over the island's eastern end in a Land-Rover. "The Iranian Navy landed a pair of them here about fifteen years ago," *The proud, wandering life of this Iranian nomad tribe was described by Jean and Franc Shor in "We Dwelt in Kashgai Tents," NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, June, 1952. tGeorge W. Long reported on the country's oil nation alization in "Journey Into Troubled Iran," NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, October, 1951.