The advertising on the dry cleaner's window said much about the conflicted identity of this nation where winged gods and glorious battles of ancient Persian kings are balanced against ayatollahs and an Islamic revolution that nearly 30 years ago brought morality police and martyrs.
Before the mullahs took charge in 1979, the dry cleaner was named Persepolis, the capital of the Persian Empire. That had the whiff of nationalism and the dry cleaner suddenly became the namesake of a revered cleric. The window today is an unreconciled collage where the names of Persepolis and the cleric coexist above a painting of spear tips and Achaemenian warriors.
There are few avenues for defiance in this Shiite Muslim nation, but one of them is in the past, where the emblems, folklore and images of old Persia mingle in quiet protest against the mullahs. The pre-Islamic era is alive in jewelry, architecture, decals, books, videos and websites that feature Cyrus the Great and gold-horned bulls.
—Jeffrey Fleishman in Tehran
Photo: A Worker walks by statues inspired by Persepolis that are part of the gate to the Dariush Hotel on the tourist island of Kish. The modern hotel resembles Persepolis, Iran's best-known relic of ancient Persia. Credit: Vahid Salemi / Associated Press