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Shah's mourners recall a golden era

Iranian royalists make their annual trek to his Cairo tomb and share memories of parties, discos and peace.

July 26, 2007|Borzou Daragahi | Times Staff Writer

They boarded the buses again to make the trip across town to the shah's tomb. A group of passing Egyptian police recruits crammed into an official van gaped salaciously at the well-coiffed men and women inside the air-conditioned bus.

Shirvani noted with alarm the explosion in the number of women wearing all-covering head scarves and garments in Egypt and the passionate support the controversial Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, gets on the streets.

Iran, she said, is behind this trend, spending its oil money on Islamic movements throughout the region.

"The taxi drivers tell me, 'Ahmadinejad! Ahmadinejad!' " she said angrily. "I tell them, 'If he's so great, why don't you make him your president?' "

Keeping shoes on

Egyptian well-wishers and journalists looked on baffled as the women entered the Rifai mosque without putting on head scarves and the men walked in without taking off their shoes, obligatory for entering a Muslim house of worship.

The Iranians were seemingly oblivious to their host country's deep-felt piety.

"If our country changes, the entire region would change," Gholipour said. "Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism would go away."

The smell of freshly cut jasmine filled the mosque's cavernous interior. A cleric recited verses from the Koran that echoed within the elaborately tiled walls.

"Is the reading over yet?" one of the Iranians asked in exasperation.

"No," another said sarcastically, "there are still five more verses to go."

Diba knelt before her husband's final resting place, placing first her hand and then her forehead on the marble tomb. An open Koran, its margins illuminated in turquoise and crimson script, rested nearby.

"We can lose a lot of things," she said later. "We can lose our country, our loved ones, our positions, our belongings, but we can never lose hope. One day, I am sure, this nightmare will be over."

--

daragahi@latimes.com

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