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Iran has appeared in numerous headlines around the world in recent months, usually attached to stories about military exercises and other saber-rattlings, economic sanctions, a suspected nuclear program, and varied political struggles. Iran is a country of more than 75 million people with a diverse history stretching back many thousands of years. While over 90 percent of Iranians belong to the Shia branch of Islam -- the official state religion -- Iran is also home to nearly 300,000 Christians, and the largest community of Jews in the Middle East outside Israel. At a time when military and political images seem to dominate the news about Iran, I thought it would be interesting to take a recent look inside the country, to see its people through the lenses of agency photographers. Keep in mind that foreign media are still subject to Iranian restrictions on reporting. [42 photos]

Iranian grooms, Javad Jafari, left, and his brother, Mehdi, right, pose for photographs with their brides, Maryam Sadeghi, second left, and Zahra Abolghasemi, who wear their formal wedding dresses prior to their wedding in Ghalehsar village, about 220 mi (360 km) northeast of the capital Tehran, Iran, on July 15, 2011. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

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The Hajj pilgrimage draws millions of Muslims from around the world every year to Mecca, the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad, Islam's holiest place. Saudi Arabia expects to host perhaps three million people in a ritual journey that every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it must make at least once in their lifetime. It is the largest annual gathering of humanity anywhere. Timed to the Muslim lunar calendar, the Hajj is followed by the celebrations of the three-day festival of Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice, which symbolizes Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son. Collected here are photographs of the Hajj in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, as well as images of preparations for the Hajj and Eid al-Adha in many other parts of the Muslim world. -- Lane Turner (42 photos total)
A Muslim pilgrim prays as visits the Hiraa cave at the top of Noor Mountain on the outskirts of Mecca, Saudi Arabia on November 2, 2011. According to tradition, Islam's Prophet Mohammed received his first message to preach Islam while he was praying in the cave. (Hassan Ammar/AP)

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Libyan citizens took over Tripoli's main square on Sunday night, as rebel forces claimed to have taken control of much of the capital, and captured two of Muammar Qaddafi's sons. Rebel gains in the past several days brought them to the outskirts of Tripoli, and they practically sped into neighborhoods of the city on Sunday, facing minimal resistance. Qaddafi remains defiant, if unseen, issuing radio statements urging residents of Tripoli to rise up against the rebels. Even as celebrations took place in Benghazi and parts of Tripoli, fighting continues, and Muammar Qaddafi remains nominally in power, even though he appears to have effectively lost much of his control. Also see earlier entries: DIY Weapons of the Libyan Rebels, and Three Months of Civil War in Libya. [44 photos]

People celebrate the capture in Tripoli of Muammar Qaddafi's son and one-time heir apparent, Seif al-Islam, at the rebel-held town of Benghazi, Libya, early Monday, on August 22, 2011. Libyan rebels raced into Tripoli in a lightning advance Sunday that met little resistance as Muammar Qaddafi's defenders melted away and his 40-year rule appeared to rapidly crumble. The euphoric fighters celebrated with residents of the capital in the city's main square, the symbolic heart of the regime. (AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini)

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