Monday, 16 January 2017

Review: Revolutionary Ride: On the Road in Search of the Real Iran

Revolutionary Ride: On the Road in Search of the Real Iran Revolutionary Ride: On the Road in Search of the Real Iran by Lois Pryce
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Britain and Iran have always had a turbulent relationship, and in 2011 just after the latest tit-for-tat diplomatic storm Lois came back to her motorcycle and found a note stuck to it:

... I wish that you will visit Iran so you will see for yourself about my country. WE ARE NOT TERRORISTS!!! Please come to my city, Shiraz. It is very famous as the friendliest city in Iran, it is the city of poetry and gardens and wine!!!
Your Persian friend,

Habib


Being the adventurous sort, she has ridden across down through Africa and all the way up from South America to Alaska, this unofficial invitation to a country that very little of us know anything about, was too much to resist. Perhaps, she might even be able to meet the man who wrote the note. When most people think of Iran, the things that come to mind is the Iran – Iraq war and the boggle-eyed fanatics that seem to delight in setting western flags alight. Against the official advice of don’t travel there and to the horror of her friends and family, she applies for a visa. Amazingly, it is granted. Crossing the border from Turkey by train, her first Iranian city was Tabriz and the beginning of her 3,000 mile motorcycle ride around the enigmatic country that is Iran. The people that she encountered on her travels came from all walks of life; there are students, soldiers, housewives, teachers and even drug addicts.

It is a country of stark contrasts; ancient and modern, pragmatic and whimiscal. She comes to understand the juxtaposition between the strict Islamic control that the mullahs and Revolutionary Guards enforce, and the warm, welcoming and generous people who share their homes and lives with her and we learn how the real people live behind closed doors and how they feel about their country. It is a brave journey too given the attitude towards women, in particular solo Western women. There is one heart stopping moment in the book, though thankfully Pryce was seen as a curiosity and a welcome visitor to the country most of the time. Pryce immerses herself in the country and the warm, welcoming experience of Iran that she brings us is rich and engaging, making this well written account an excellent travel book.

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