Iranians expressed their hopes for a better economy as they prepared for Persian New Year, or Nowruz, in Tehran on Thursday.

Shoppers in Tehran's Grand Bazaar could be seen buying goods such as food, plants and even goldfish to create a Haft-sin - an arrangement comprised of seven symbolic items beginning with the Persian letter 'seen.' Performers dressed as the Iranian folklore character Hajji Firuz could be seen singing and dancing their way through the market.

Despite the festive atmosphere, shoppers expressed frustration about Iran's strained economy following US sanctions on the country, which were re-imposed last November.

Shopkeeper Esmaeil Zolfaghari said: "Goods have become more expensive, even three times, but our earnings are the same as the last year or a little bit more. The living expenses are expensive and expenditures and income are not equal."

Other shoppers said that help from Europe was not coming fast enough, arguing that Europe's recent introduction of the INSTEX (Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges) mechanism was not sufficient in helping Iran continue to trade.

Hossein Javadi, an Iranian actor, said: "If they [the European community] really want to help, do it so we can feel it in reality, so that the youth feel it and can become hopeful and reassured. The issue is that they say that they will help, but when? In ten years? In twenty years?"

Other shoppers wished for the new year to bring economic stability, job opportunities and prosperity to the country.

Nowruz, which has its roots in Zoroastrianism, begins on the vernal equinox each year and is celebrated in communities around the world.

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