The subtitle of this wonderful book by Jason Elliot is Journeys in Iran. He is a young Brit much traveled in the Middle and Near East, and a fluent speaker of many languages in the area.
His first book, one of the best travel narratives I’ve ever read, is An Unexpected Light – telling us about his travels in Afghanistan just on the heels of the departing Russians and as the Taliban were emerging. Reading it, I fell in love with the Afghani people, quirks and all, for their hospitality, creative poverty, curiousity. And the country, the land itself, felt part of me.
So I looked much forward to this book and really enjoyed getting to know every day Iranians, not the newsmakers, but those living their lives, caring for their families. And getting to know the fabulous mosques, market places, ancient ruins – like Persepolis – that I had read about in other travel books.
Jason did not let me down, and even came up with a theory for Islamic art that made sense, rather than the usual it’s-all-decorative discussions. And his interweaving of ancient history and today is once again masterful.
Iran, as everywhere, is full of quirky people, making their own culture while living inside a set of rules they know how to avoid. If you want to know more than the evening news will tell you, read this latest Elliot book. You’ll be glad you did!