For vast numbers of this region's inhabitants, today will not be just any day. There will be last-minute spring cleaning, called "shaking the house". There are flowers to be bought, signifying a fresh start, and new clothes for children, too. In some places, haggling for highly prized goldfish will reach a fever pitch. All the scurrying about is preparation for Nowruz, the first day of spring and the traditional start of the Persian New Year, which begins tomorrow night. An estimated 300 million people - mostly in Iran and Afghanistan, along with parts of Lebanon, Syria and Turkey - will mark the 13-day holiday. At heart, the 3,000-year-old celebration is about the family and a spirit that has endured through the most trying times.
During the New Year celebration after the Taliban's overthrow in 2001, a leaflet with the following lilting words circulated Kabul: "A thousand thanks that the spring has come and the fall is gone. As with the grace of a flower, may young and old prosper". Eid-e shoma mobarak.