Thursday, April 27, 2006

From New York to Tehran

I am now reading a non fiction book entitled 'Neither East Nor West'

The synopsis of the book - Fusing travelogue, historical inquiry, and interviews with Iranians from all walks of life, it is a landmark contribution to travel writing and to cultural studies, as well as a timely illumination of a nation deeply misunderstood by most Westerners. In describing life in Iran today, Christiane Bird, an American who spent part of her childhood there, breaks the silence that has surrounded Iran's culture, unlike its politics for nearly twenty years.

Bird's travels take her from the modern, bustling capital of Tehran to the medieval holy city of Qom, from the sacred pilgrimage site of Mashhad- visited by more than twelve million Shi'ites annually- to the isolated valley of Alamut, once home to the legendary cult of the Assassins. She visits mosques, public baths, Khomeini's former home, and a Caspian sea resort, and attends prayer meetings and a horse racing meet. Along the way, she talks to muleteers and ayatollahs, Kurds and Turkomans, Westernised and traditional Iranians- many of whom invite her home for a cup of tea.

The results is an astounding, insightful journey into the Islamic Republic of Iran- in all its beauty, ferocity, and contradiction.

I am now following the trail and footsteps from Tabriz to Bam, left behind by Bird, who is the author of The Jazz and Blues Lover's Guide to the U.S. and New York City Handbook, and a co-author of Below the Line: Living Poor in America, graduated from Yale University and a former travel writer for the New York Daily News, and lives in New York City.

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