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January 18, 2003

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Would you ever think you'd be approached by prostitutes in Iran? While Jill felt reluctant to brave the cold night, Massoud (our guide) and I went for some pictures of Esfahan's bridges under the moonlight. We hailed a taxi and some women jumped into the back seat. They made small talk with Massoud and then stepped out with us in front of our hotel. The taxi hung around. I waited while Massoud chatted for a few minutes, then the ladies left and we entered the hotel. The taxi drove away. At that time Massoud told me the women were prostitutes. If we had accepted their proposition, the taxi would have taken us to their 'safe house' (no Iranian hotel will allow unmarried couples to take a room). The women wanted 200,000 Rials ($25). Massoud says prostitution in Iran grows each year yet a casual visitor could never know. Without any bars or discos, most prostitutes hang around tea houses. Under Iran's strict dress code for women, prostitutes can't advertise themselves with skimpy clothing; they look like normal Iranian women in black hejabs. What is the penalty for a non-Muslim man to have sexual relations with a muslim woman? Death.
In the early 1600's Shah Abbas the Great sat on his palace terrace and watched polo, gave audience to his subjects, or listened to shopkeepers sell their wares along the square as they still do today.
Esfahan at night.