Iranian shopkeeper Hassam Habili was open for business in Bam yesterday in a well-stocked and largely undamaged little grocery store, believed to be the first shop to reopen after an earthquake flattened the city.
Business was slow and there were no takers for the diary products, tuna, olive oil and nuts in the one-room store. "Only for cigarettes," Habili said with a shrug of his few customers.
There was an ominous-looking crack in a back wall of Habili's shop, which otherwise suffered surprisingly little damage in the December 26 quake that destroyed 90 per cent of Bam's buildings and killed 30,000 people, a third of the population.
Habili, in his early 50s, has always slept in the back of the shop because supplies are delivered at all times of day and night - a practice that may have saved his life.
"I can't really get fresh supplies," Habili, wearing a black shirt and trousers, said soon after reopening his store located near a "Welcome to Bam" sign on the main road into town.
"There's nobody to bring them, no money and no cars. People don't have money to buy things either," he added.
Still Habili's open shop marks the resumption of commerce in Bam and offers a tiny ray of hope to the survivors, most of whom have no homes or belongings.
The historic Silk Road city 1,000km southeast of Tehran has begun to inch back to normality.
Some schools have reopened and so have several banks.
But power supplies are still erratic and telephones are unreliable.
Thousands are missing. International relief teams are searching for survivors pinned under the rubble and setting up temporary shelter for displaced people.
While many in Bam are contemplating leaving their ruined city, Habili says he has his future worked out.
"I'm going to stay here," he said without hesitation.