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Total Eclipse Tuesday, 24 August, 1999, 11:53 GMT 12:53 UK
Eclipse seekers flock to Iranian town
Iranian teenagers gaze at the eclipse
Iranians and foreigners watched the eclipse in Isfahan
Eclipse watchers flocked to the town of Isfahan in central Iran on Wednesday.

Special report
Special report
11 August
Wallpaper
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They went there in unprecedented numbers after the US space agency Nasa said it would be one of the very best places to watch the solar event.

The visitors filled the town's majestic square and its hotels.

"It's total frenzy, it's jam-packed everywhere, on the main square and the two banks of the Zayendah Rud River," said one French tourist.

As middle of the night descended for two minutes into the middle of the day, crowds shouted "God is great!" - and whistled in honour of the spectacle.

On the balcony of the historic Ali Qapu palace, scientists equipped with high-tech cameras gazed at the phenomenon which could be seen for nearly two across a band 100km (60 miles) wide.

Celestial celebrations

But for millions, the event signified a spiritual, solemn time. Muslim clerics called for special Shiite 'namaz-e ayat,' prayers offered at times of natural phenomena to celebrate God's glory and power.

Muslim tradition holds that the prophet Mohammed, the founder of Islam, prayed for the duration of an eclipse.

In the Iranian capital Tehran, which witnessed only a partial eclipse, tens of thousands of people heeded the call to mass prayers and gathered at mosques.

"The great Iranian people must show their humility before the all-powerful one and creator of the universe and perform the prayer of divine signs," said the spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

'End of the world'

In Jordan, the mood was more sombre as doomsayers predicted the end of the world.

Jordanian women watch the eclipse
The moon covered 80 per cent of the sun in Jordan
In Amman, a preacher at the capital's King Abdullah Mosque, said: "This is a sign of doomsday and it should be a lesson to all to stick to the word of God."

Jordanian shopkeeper Samir Qalaji, 47, was reported to say: "We are scared that the sun will never rise again."

Entering into the spirit of the event, Lebanon's electricity company promised to suspend power restrictions so that television broadcasts could be watched uninterrupted.

Since Israeli bombs damaged a power station in June, many homes have been without electricity for hours during the day.

State of emergency

Minor earthquakes and an unseasonal hailstorm accompanied Egyptians as they flocked to mosques in the capital, Cairo.

The Egyptian authorities put government hospitals and fire brigades on alert, apparently fearing widespread injuries among eclipse spectators.

Senior clerics issued an edict forbidding people to look at the Sun directly because it transgresses Islamic law to harm oneself.

Links to more Total Eclipse stories are at the foot of the page.


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