The sound of the fidoos horn is the familiar rising call of the oil-producing regions of Iran which signifies the beginning of the working day not only for the oil workers but also for the entire city.
This is southwestern Khuzestan, with its three rivers and oil refinery, after the sound of the fidoos and before the unforgiving heat of its noontime sun. Khuzestan is Iran’s most ancient region and the birthplace of its nation. It is a region blessed and cursed by its wealth of oil and natural gas, pillaged in an eight-year war with neighbouring Iraq, and crushed under the weight of the sanctions and an ineffective government. The local population is made up of Lurs, Iranian Arabs, Qashqai people, Afshars, indigenous Persians, Iranian Armenians and the Bakhtiari peoples.
Khuzestan has great potential for agricultural expansion, which is almost unrivaled by the country’s other provinces. Large and permanent rivers flow over the entire territory contributing to the fertility of the land. Karun, Iran’s most effluent river, 850 kilometers long, flows into the Persian Gulf through this province. The agricultural potential of most of these rivers, however, and particularly in their lower reaches, is hampered by the fact that their waters carry salt, the amount of which increases as the rivers flow away from the source mountains and hills. During the Iran–Iraq War, Khuzestan was the focus of the Iraqi invasion of Iran, leading to the flight of thousands of the province’s residents. As a result, Khuzestan suffered the heaviest damage of all Iranian provinces during the war; what used to be Iran’s largest refinery at Abadan was destroyed, never to fully recover, many of the famous nakhlestans (palm groves) were annihilated, cities were destroyed and historical sites were demolished. Despite all this, Khuzestan remains as one of the most hospitable regions of Iran and as the great poet Nizami said, “Her lips aflow with sweet sugar, the sweet sugar that flows in Khuzestan.”