For the third week in a row, Tehran residents were given an unanticipated public holiday last Wednesday and Thursday, but there wasn’t much to celebrate over the rare four-day weekend.

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For the third week in a row, Tehran residents were given an unanticipated public holiday last Wednesday and Thursday, but there wasn’t much to celebrate over the rare four-day weekend. Far from a religious or nationalistic occasion, the Iranian government granted the days off in an attempt to diminish the capital’s abnormally high levels of air pollution.

For two days, Tehran’s streets were unusually devoid of traffic jams. Buses sailed smoothly up and down Valiasr, the city’s main thoroughfare and the longest street in the Middle East. Still, a thick cloud of brown smog enveloped most of the city, and state television urged citizens to stay indoors unless absolutely necessary. Many Tehran residents used the opportunity to get out of town for a few days, heading to the villages on the coast of the Caspian Sea.

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