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In Northern Iran, Religious And Traditional Roots Run Deep


Two clerics wait for a green light in Qom, northern Iran. - Qom is one of the holiest cities in Shi'ite Islam, a pilgrimage destination, and a center of religious study. It was the seat of power of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini for many years, and all aspects of life there are deeply influenced by Shi'ite belief.
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Two clerics wait for a green light in Qom, northern Iran. - Qom is one of the holiest cities in Shi'ite Islam, a pilgrimage destination, and a center of religious study. It was the seat of power of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini for many years, and all aspects of life there are deeply influenced by Shi'ite belief.

Mourners carry a coffin to the Shrine of Masume for a final pilgrimage. - One of the holiest sites in Qom is the Shrine of Masume, the sister of the Eighth Imam Reza, who died in the early 9th century.
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Mourners carry a coffin to the Shrine of Masume for a final pilgrimage. - One of the holiest sites in Qom is the Shrine of Masume, the sister of the Eighth Imam Reza, who died in the early 9th century.

Pilgrims, including children, recite prayers for martyred imams outside the shrine.
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Pilgrims, including children, recite prayers for martyred imams outside the shrine.

Girls return to school after a visit to the Shrine of Masume.
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Girls return to school after a visit to the Shrine of Masume.

Clerics look at the selection of books in a local bookstore.
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Clerics look at the selection of books in a local bookstore.

Believers collect donations to have a new mausoleum placed on the grave of a son of the 9th century Imam Jawad.
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Believers collect donations to have a new mausoleum placed on the grave of a son of the 9th century Imam Jawad.

Bakers in Zanjan use a stone oven to make sangak, a type of plain white bread baked on a bed of pebbles. - In the city of Zanjan, northwest of Qom, many small businesses and craftspeople preserve the traditions they have kept for centuries.
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Bakers in Zanjan use a stone oven to make sangak, a type of plain white bread baked on a bed of pebbles. - In the city of Zanjan, northwest of Qom, many small businesses and craftspeople preserve the traditions they have kept for centuries.

Knifemaker Davud crafts a blade, a skill he has developed over 22 years. He says his business is now struggling. - Zanjan is famous for its knives, but many workshops have shut down in recent years, unable to make ends meet.
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Knifemaker Davud crafts a blade, a skill he has developed over 22 years. He says his business is now struggling. - Zanjan is famous for its knives, but many workshops have shut down in recent years, unable to make ends meet.

The elaborate mausoleum of an imam's son contrasts starkly with the run-down buildings and shuttered workshops outside.
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The elaborate mausoleum of an imam's son contrasts starkly with the run-down buildings and shuttered workshops outside.

In Qazvin, between Zanjan and Tehran, graffiti urges Iranians to pray for the return of the 12th Imam, the Mahdi.
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In Qazvin, between Zanjan and Tehran, graffiti urges Iranians to pray for the return of the 12th Imam, the Mahdi.

Huseyn Agha makes a setar, an Iranian stringed instrument, in his workshop in Qazvin.
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Huseyn Agha makes a setar, an Iranian stringed instrument, in his workshop in Qazvin.

Men warm up on a cold day outside their carpentry workshop. Agha Mahmud, second from left, has worked here since age 10.
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Men warm up on a cold day outside their carpentry workshop. Agha Mahmud, second from left, has worked here since age 10.

For a small fee, Ismayil writes prayers for customers to ward off fear, ensure success, and solve romantic problems.
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For a small fee, Ismayil writes prayers for customers to ward off fear, ensure success, and solve romantic problems.

These two young Afghan refugees make a living by carrying heavy goods in the market in Qazvin.
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These two young Afghan refugees make a living by carrying heavy goods in the market in Qazvin.

A young couple chats outside the Imamzade Ismayil Mausoleum. - (Photos by RFE/RL Azerbaijani Service correspondent Abbas Atilay)
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A young couple chats outside the Imamzade Ismayil Mausoleum. - (Photos by RFE/RL Azerbaijani Service correspondent Abbas Atilay)

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