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A few streets and several centuries apart, Iran's gyms come in distinctive breeds, ancient and hypermodern, reflecting a society torn between outside influences and the ongoing strength of religious ritual.In the shiny new Sport Plus gym in central Tehran, the soundtrack is all pounding DJ mixes and dirty bass lines imported from Europe.Ten minutes down the road at the "zurkhaneh," or "house of strength," a bespectacled man sits in a booth with a large drum on his lap, beating out a rhythm with his fingers, occasionally clanging a bell and calling out mournful pleas to Imam Ali – the beat no less energetic, but doused in ancient history.The deep roots of Persian culture, from the bazaar to the mosque to old pastimes like the zurkhaneh still command a powerful allegiance.There are still around 1,000 zurkhanehs in Iran, the government says, though some of the old mythology has certainly worn off.A modern mythology has taken root at the new gyms, too, though it is one built around social media.Many bodybuilders boast tens of thousands of followers on social media platform Instagram.
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