Iranian Shiites traditionally made pilgrimages mainly to Mashhad, where the Eighth Imam, Reza, is buried, to Karbala and Najaf, the great holy cities of Shi'a Islam, in Iraqi territory, and of course to Mecca. However, the practice of pilgrimage attests to the vitality and viability of a form of socially and economically independent civility and, when the time comes, they need to ask whether it falls within the concept of civil society. Finally, pilgrimage is self-managed by private operators at the interface of trade and religion, operators who in fact are not subject to the supervision of the republic, if indeed this described as a homogenous, centralized or coherent entity. It is thus part of the relative autonomy of the social sphere which contributes to the structuring of civil, and in this case religious, society in its moral economy. The contemporary political debate tends to obscure these first truths by focuses on Islamic identity and the conflicts it creates.