Medicine: The East & the Needle

Tulips flashed from the mile-high meadows in Iran's Zagros Mountains. Through Do Polan Pass, heading north as they had each spring for generations, a band of Bakhtiari tribesmen rode from winter pasturage in Shiraz and Khuzistan to summer fields in Isfahan province. In their ankle-length gowns and brimless felt hats, they nimbly crossed rock-strewn slopes, driving herds before them. At Do Polan summit the brazen, electronic voice of the 20th century met the ancient, changeless East. Four loudspeakers placed around a neat white tent blared at the tribesmen: "Stop!"

Men, women and children, 40 in all, reined in. They checked the...

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