All 14 entries tagged Travel

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August 08, 2007

Here or There?

Writing about web page


I’ve been writing travelogues again recently, this time for and you can check out my stuff at the above link! There’s pictures and stuff about my USA, Sri Lanka and Europe trips so do have a gander…

It’s a tres cool site with lots of wonderful travel experiences to read about so you’ll enjoy browsing other members’ writing while your on there, if travel’s your thing!

Why not join up and make your own profile…I know loads of you have been/are currently traveling and it would be a cool way to show everyone what you’ve been up to…

Other than that I am finishing up the feature on Iranian contemporary literature and culture that I’m doing for The Warwick Review. The issue will be out in september so what ths space for more news on that…

I’m off to enjoy the sun, before it starts raining again!

ciao for now x

February 28, 2007

Rageh Inside Iran

A few people have asked me about what Iran is like recently, especially as it’s in the news so much these days what with the nuclear crap. This is a great documentary by Rageh Omaar, BBC journalist, who spent some time in Tehran (Iranian capital) to find out more about the lives of ordinary, and extraordinary, Iranians.
I highly recommend it. Enjoy!

February 21, 2006

Sri Lanka

We leave for Sri Lanka at 10am on Sunday morning. I can't believe we are leaving so soon. I have spent the past week locked in a room with ten lovely people, to devise a piece of theatre related to Tsunami: The Politics of Aid. We have brainstormed ideas, emotions, snapped at each other's throats…

I mean't to post the above paragraph over a week ago. I get back from Sri Lanka just after 5am yesterday morning and collapsed into bed.

It felt strange coming home. It was as though we'd been away for months, but I simultaneously felt as though the travelling had been cut short. We did so much in 7 days, more than I imagined we could have done, and the trip was a wonderful balance of creativity and travel. We managed to drive through a quarter of Sri Lanka in under three days and somehow pulled off our play, which went down very well with the ISTA festival crowd.

One of the most moving moments of the week was driving along the south coast of Sri Lanka, along many of the beaches which had been utterly devistated by the Tsunami. There was still much to be rebuilt. We stopped at one particular beach to see a temple which had survived the impact of the tsunami and remained the only unscathed building along the shoreline for miles. It was a miracle of sorts, to be hit by a 15 metre wave and not shed a brick. We took a look inside the temple and saw how the painted celing was unmarked but for a few saltlines.

We had spent the past two weeks locked in Union North researching the Tsunami – survivor stories, press conferences, aid organisations, politics, poems, songs, pictures of the devistation, discussions between ourselves about how should depict all of this information – but I think being on the beach and seeing the temple was the first time that the reality of the Tsunami hit us.

Having researched how much aid, how many millions of pounds had been pumped into the country, it was sad to see that the rebuilt shacks were no better than what they'd been before. It was sad to still see wrecked buildings with messages scrawled on the side asking for assistance for people trying to rebuild their homes.

The rest of the trip look us along most of the south coast, Hikaduwa beach being one of the highlights. We did body boarding and poy on the beach. Some o the local guys also brought out some firesticks and to our surprise Karl turned out to be a genius with fire. From the beach we drove to Yala national park and then inland towards Nureliya, the tea county. Miles and miles of tea fields later, we found ourselves on white water rafts, heading down the river where 'Bridge over the River Kwai' was filmed. A picture gallery will be uploaded as soon as people get their snapshots to me.

Sri Lanka is a beautiful country. The scenery and landscape is one of exceptional vibrance and, strangely, even the shanty towns scattered amonth the trees had an aesthetic quality to them. I was secretly gutted that I hadn't taken a camera with me, however wrong it seems to take visual pleasure from another's life of poverty. The Sri Lankan people were friendly too, on the whole. They were intrigued by our white skin and loved to stare/smile/wave at us, very keen to have photos taken. They were eager to know what we though of Sri Lanka and we happy to hear that we were in love with their homeland. The only trouble we ran into was with a couple of trishaw (motorised rickshaw) drivers who tried to drastically overcharge us. Trishaws are a lot of fun, weaving through the traffic, honking at each other, and really up for racing :)

The festival was great too. Stressful – we were told that we had to do tech and rigging ourselves but we roped in some ISTA festival kids to help out. There was a wonderful moment for me in the dress rehearsal when, for the first time, I thought with confidence this show is actually going to work, and it did.

So, overall I'm glad that I did this. It was a trip that was productive and amazing fun. This blog entry is probably really jumbled, but hey, I'm jet lagged and a little fuzzy and thinking about how I'm going to catch up with the mountain of work I've built up for myself! Watch this space for pictures and more thoughts/memories as they come.

December 30, 2005

Sequence poem part V

Follow-up to Sequence poem part IV from Into the Flame

Hello all!

I'm back from the East and ready for a new term at Warwick…it's going to be hectic with The Lover, One World Week and Orpheus coming up, not to mention my degree! But I'm rearing to go…

Here's another part to my poem, it's rough (as always I'm a terribly lazy editor for my own work) and if I manage to write another part to the poem this will become part VI, the final part. Enjoy.


From an Iran Air Bowing 711

Tehran irritates the landscpae like a white rash, dry scales on
smooth coffee skin of the Alborz Mountains
which lie like sleeping bodies, tanned beneath the Eastern sun.

they've been lying, slumped over each other in a drunken stupour
for eons, and empires, kings and dynasties have passed them by like
flowing water, constantly renewing but essentially the same.

distant snow-capped ridges are women folk,
veiled in satin so that their peaks and curves are highlighted;
skiiers long to run their ski fingers

over the bellies of these gargantuous brides. we rise and the sun casts
shadows that shade the shrinking mountains like a frozen sea mid-
storm, waves tossing in a wind that blows against the determined sun;

the blade of our wing slices the clouds like soft cheese
as we score our route from East
to West.

December 26, 2005

Sequence poem part IV

Follow-up to Sequence poem part III from Into the Flame

Here's another rough draft for you, comments very welcome.


Jom'e Bazaar
(Friday Market)

cirlcing like beweildered magpie, unsure
in which direction to begin looking: shoppers are surrounded by
gold, silver, jade, emerald, royal red, quileted together

in the corridors of the jom'e bazaar; there are
reels of the finest fabric, fit for a sultan's bride,
and the glint of jewelery relfects in the pupils of many

stall owners and shoppers alike. everyone
has one eye on their hand-bag and the other on the next
potential bargain, each person weighing their neighbour

against the demand and haggle for every treasure:
piles of sequinned slippers, heaps of silver pendants, sprawling
veils that waver in the breeze and beckon,

they are impossible to ignore. the tired expressions
of merchants sat upon their laden sheets, go unnoticed as we
shove cheap notes into their chapped hands and move on.


Yesterday in Tehran there was a bus strike. The bus drivers here are tired of their long hours and extremely low wages so they resorted to protest. The interesting part for me was that they did not stop work; instead, they drove through the streets of Tehran refusing pick up the queues of people waiting for a ride in the pouring rain. The strike had not been sufficiently publicised and there were thousands who had no idea there were no bus services available. The buses would stop on busy street corners, displaying their empty seats through rain-blurred windows, and waiting bus users stood in the middle of main roads to block traffic and delay the rush hour. The bus drivers deliberately paraded their empty carriages in order to anger people so that they would create enough fuss for the people who need to be listening to hear. The people in chare don't care if there are no buses, they have their private cars and like the extra budget pocket money, but hopefully they'll start to care if/when people start smashing bus windows in frustration and block traffic to agrivate the horrendous traffic situation here…what will it take for them to listen?

December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas and more!


Hope everyone has a wonderful christmas full of merriment and good food!

Christmas is only celebrated by the Armenians (and any other Christians) in Iran and therefore it is not a national festival. However, there is another celebration here which has its similarities to Christmas: wednesday night (dec 21st) was shab-e yalda, the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, an occasion for family to gather around each other and celebrate. Shab means night and yalda means birth: this night is recognised as the birth of the sun god Mitra, a god of Zoroastrianism (an ancient religion of sun worshipers which still exists today), and is thus symbolic of the triumph of light over darkness as the days become longer and the nights become shorter. Here is a carving of Mitra (figure on the right) from a Persian temple:

And here is a very popular western relief of Mitra sacrificing a bull:

Similar celebrations to shab-e yalda exist in Egypt and Russia, amongst other countries, who all celebrate this triumph of light at the begining of the new solar year. On shab-e yalda, families gather together and light a candle as a representation of light, prepare a feast of good food, nuts and fruit, with watermelon and pomegranet being particularly significant because the red colour of these fruits symbolises the crimson hues of dawn and glow of life, invoking the splendour of Mitra. Another tradition is to read poems especially by the poet Hafiz. With Hafiz's poetry it is possible to read fortunes: you close your eyes, ask a question and open Hafiz's divan at a random page. The poem that you open to will give the answer to your question (and more often than not it answers correctly). Shab-e yalda, being the longest and darkest night of the year, has become a symbol in Persian poetry, a representation of prologued separation from a loved one, loneliness, anticipation and here are some examples from the poet Sa'adi:

'The sight of you each morning is a New Year
Any night of your departure is the eve of Yalda'
'With all my pains, there is still the hope of recovery
Like the eve of Yalda, there will finally be an end'

The similarities to Christmas so far are the gathering around each other. However, historically on shab-e yalda, which was a pre-Christian festival, families would put presents beneath a tree and then distribute them amongst the poor the next morning. Sound slightly familiar? Shab-e yalda is also the reason that Christ's birthday is celebated on the 25th dec instead of its original date of 6th jan:

Over the centuries Mithraism [Zorastrianism] spread to Greece and Ancient Rome via Asia Minor, gaining popularity within the ranks of the Roman army. In the 4th century AD as a result of errors made in calculating leap years and dates, the birthday of Mithra was transferred to 25 December. Until then Christ's birthday had been celebrated on 6 January by all branches of the Christian Church. But with the cult of Mithra still popular in Roman Europe, the Christian Church adopted many of the Mithraic rituals and proclaimed 25 December as the official birthday of Christ.

Interesting stuff. What did I do on shab-e yalda? Gathered around some friends, ate a lot, lit candles, read love fortunes, sang songs…I then then joined my cousins at a party, arriving just in time for a recital of Hafiz accompanied by a deep, juicy bowl of pomegranet seeds :) mmmmmm.

One of the highlights of this past week has been visiting the Museum of National Jewels (previously Royal Jewels). The museum is in a vault beneath the Melli (national) Bank of Iran. It houses some of the most exquisite rareties of the world including the 'Dariaye Nour' (The Sea of Light) which is the worlds largest pink diamond, the sister of which is the world's largest white diamond that lives in the Tower of London amongst the Crown Jewels. I have never been to a museum of royal treasures and thus this was the first time I had ever been exposed to so much shiny, expensive, beautiful things. I wandered around like a sedated magpie, staggering from one work of art to the other. We latched onto a tour group and got the lo-down on all of the monarchs which owned the jewels too. One of my favourite items in the museum was Nader Shah's throne:

This is a bad picture but I am sure you get the idea. It's a wonderfuly intricate piece of art with something like over 1000 (correct me if I'm wrong) precious jewels embedded in it, and the entire surface is decorated with mina-kari, a special style of Persian painting. The best thing about this throne was that, with all its majesty, it was not even a palace throne – it was Nader Shah's picnic chair!

My other favourite item was an ostritch egg which had been engraved with carvings of birds and flowers. I was blown away by the delecacy of the carvings and the fact that someone was skilled enough to be able to creat such a carving by hand without cracking the egg. Sadly there aren't any pictures of it to show you. I can't descibe it all, but other things that made me smile were the ornately expensive domestic items such as ghelioon (shisha), bowl covers, dishes and foot exfoliators which were adorned with gold, silver, mina-kari and some of the worlds most precious collections of emerals, diamons, rubies and turqouise stones.

Whist I was browsing the cases of rareties, I got talking to one of the guards and as soon as he found out I was from England the questions issued forth…the first being 'So, is it better here or back in England?' It is amazin how many people have asked me that. Everyone wants to know what you think of Iran as a Westerner, and why. Why is it good? or bad? Would I live here or there if I could choose? It is always hard to answer this question because the two environments are completely different. There is a phrase here that I use which is that Iran and England are as different as the sky is to the ground. I love being here in my holidays, having fun with my cousins and going out to nice places every day, but to live here is another thing altogether: to work, to study, to learn the language to a professional level, to earl a salary in rials but have to spend money at the rate of dollars, to learn my way around, to accept living under an Islamic Republic…etc etc. It is something that I would like to experience in my lifetime. Something that is important for me to understand, but I'd have to adjust to a completely new way of life.

People here often ask about how different things are in England from a cultural point of view, and I realised this trip that I have to answer from two persectives, from that of the student community that I belong to and that of England in general. This is because our student environment is a highly sociable one. When we started at Warwick, no one knew anyone and everyone was keen to make friends. Living together in halls and close by each other on campus created a wide network of people there to support each other, cook for each other, comfort each other, effectively act as each other's family. This is a social system that is not generally characteristic of English society because England is, generally speaking, an individualistic society, every person acts for him/herself, not as part of a network/community of people. This university community we have is more like the collectivist family and residential communities of Eastern cultures. University, especially Warwick, is a bubble of support, opportunity and culture that is not realistic of the 'real world' so I always have to think twice when answering the above question from the point of view of my current way of life.

But, in general, things are very different here. For me, spending money here is very cheap because of the rates, but for someone earning a salary of toumans/rials it is very expensive. Knowing this, it is hard for me to accept the tradition of 'tarof' here. What is tarof? I'm not sure that it has an equal term in English so I will try and explain. It is a term that encompasses many etiquets here and the best way to illustrate it is to give examples. Say my cousin takes me out for coffee, we will not pay for ourselves, one of us will pay the bill and treat the other person. The tarof is that we fight over who will pay and both refuse to let the other person pay. The etiquet is that if your a visitor, the person taking you out will never let you pay the bill, so I have paid for hardly anything here! Another tarof is if someone offers you something and you refuse politely, they will persist in offering until you take some of whatever they're offering, or refuse quite profusely. There are just two examples, there are many other instances of tarof but I hope you get the idea…tarof is an extremely important etiquet in Iranian culture, and other cultures too, but especially with the Iranians :)

One treat I accepted was that yesterday I went skiing at the Tochal ski slope with my cousin and her husband. Tochal is in the Alborz mountains just above Tehran. To reach the slope and the beautiful hotel there, you must take a 25 minute tele cabin ride up the mountains. It's by no means a hindrance because you see Tehran spread before you like an immense sea of lego that spreads past the eye's horizon, and then the buildings give way to the shoreline of mountains and the view of peaks rising and falling stretches for miles around. We got to enjoy the view of Tehran and some of the mountains, but our telecabin soon entered a light blizard and the fog grew so thick that at one point we couldn't even see the telecabin cable above our heads. It was as though the world had been erased from around us and it felt like we were somehow weightless and floating in an expase of nothingness.

We skiied for a while before the slope had to be closed due to the thick fog and heavy snow, but it was worth going for the experience.

One thing I have felt here is that people really have a passion of life. They are energetic and enthusiastic and brimming with kindness. I know this is a biased point of view because I am a visitor and for the two weeks that I am here people make an effort to show me a good time, but I also think that this enthusiasm for life is inherant in the spirit of the Iranian people. Maybe it is a result of being restricted under such an opressive political regime that the Iranian people make the most of what they do have to bring joy to their lives: the beautiful landscape, mountains, rivers, passion for a subject or band or place, good food, good music, good literature, and most of all good company…or maybe it is just in their blood. Whatever it is, as I've said before, with all of the downfalls and difficulties and inevitability of "bad" people existing in this country, there is still a strength of spirit and hospitality that I have not experienced anywhere else.

There is so much still to write stored away between my ears, but I think I'll save it for another time, a poem, a story or a later conversation, or maybe it'll remain locked in the chest of my mind forever. Who knows. For now, MERRY CHRISTMAS, enjoy your presents and I'll see you soon!

December 18, 2005

Out and about

The radio this morning issued the following warnings:
Due to the horrendous air pollution that Tehran has been subject to in the past few weeks children, the elderly and those with heart problems should remain indoors. People with high stress levels should refrain from driving at rush hour. And finally, if the pollution continues (and this is the poetic part) the city's birds will give up the city and fly away.

Given that life here has many difficulties, there is a poetic element to almost everything.

Today we went to a fruit bazaar to do the weeks shopping. It struck me that one remarkable thing about this city is that the chain supermarket has not yet established itself here to push small businesses into bankrupcy. Shoppers here still go to a bakery for their bread, a grocer for vegetables and a butcher for meat etc. It's such a novelty for me especially as I can't remember the last time I popped into the local bakery to buy bread straight from the oven. The city is still divided into sectors, to a certain extent. Depending on what you want to buy, there is a sector for jewelery, baby's clothes, shoes, antiques, leather goods etc etc. So, if you want to buy a watch you know exactly what part of town you're guaranteed to find an abundance of watches instead of trailing the high streets looking for jewelers. I suppose many cities work on this sceme but it is rare that it is still working in the same way in this day and age. Maybe I'm just easily pleased ;)

Yesterday I went book shopping and bought myself a few books of traditional and contemporary Persian poetry with english translations. Made me very excited. Book shopping in general is a joy and this was no exception. I did however, get frustrated after a while because the book covers were decorated so beautifully with traditional persian art and calligraphy, but it took me minutes (rather than seconds) to read the covers let alone what was contained within. So, aim is to improve reading and vocab in Persian in order to really appreciate the literature. It's a shame to let it slip between my fingers.

Whilst browsing I also came across the work of one of the most famous and talented Persian Minature artists, Mahmoud Farshchian. Here are some pictures of his that I particularly like:



To be honest its hard for me to say that these are favourites because I fell in love with almost every one of his paintings that I set eyes on. Do bear in mind that to see these pictures as weblinks is one thing, and to see them on the page, see each brushstroke, is another. There was one particular one that blew me away but I couldn't find it on the internet to shows you. It was done in the style of Despair but with white figures on a black background. I won't describe it because it's hard to do it justice.

Bestow is a classic Perisna Miniature painting. A friend told me today that the way Persian classical dance was created was by placing many Minature paintings of women next to each other and imitating the figures' positions in a sequence. A wonderful way to bring art to life.

I was struck by Despair because it made me think of a writer with some extreme writers block :) made me smile – I think many of you will relate to that kind of 'despair'... but on the whole the picture moved me to a great extent, I was quite overwhelmed by the artist's skill, and the stark black-on-white made the despair of the figure almost contagious.

Anyways, my mind is coming alive here in a different sort of way to home; I am using the Persian parts of my brain more and it's doing me a lot of good :) I have been reading from the Persian poet Forough Farokhzad and one stanza really stood out for me:

Those days are gone
Those days when from the slits of my eyes
My songs boiled out like air bubbles
Whatever my eye settled on
It drank up like fresh milk

Well, I hope those days have not passed for me…however bad my 'songs' are they're still bubbling out :) and there is still so much for me to see and lap up, bring it on!

September 05, 2005

Europe Summer of Travel 2005 – The Emails

Seeing as some of you didn't recieve the emails I sent out while I was away and I also didn't blog anything while I was out there, I though I'd post up my emails just incase anyone was interested in reading about my little wanderings…Enjoy!


Gutentag mein freunden!

One day of my trip down and we have blitzed through Hamburg already. Things
are going well, the only mishap being that as soon as we checked the bags
in, I managed to leave the tent by check-in and thats where it stayed! Mum,
Dad – dont worry, its in lost property for when I get back. Anyways apart
from that we are having a great time. Our hostel is in the student part of
Hamburg – a lively part of town with nice bars, cute restaurants, and great
cafes overflowing into the streets. Took us a while to master the U-bahn
(underground) and went back and forth along the same line about 4 times
because we kept missing our stop. Began to think it was a ghost platform
like the one in Harry Potter but we got there in the end! Our hostel room
mates were two Americans David and Michael. Nice guys doing a road trip
through Europe, one of which sang this song when he woke up – Rise and
shine, rise and shine, let the God light in. Guess it makes a positive start
to the day!

The best and worst part of today was taking a "historic" boatride along the
river. It was all in German so we didnt understand a word of it and the
whole trip pretty much consisted of us floating past huge industrial plants
and ocean liners. It was funny for about 20 mins until we realised that that
was ALL there was to the history of the Hamburg docks – modern, filthy
industry. What a way to waste 8.50 euros. We saw a cool church, a few cool
churches actually, and the shopping central. Hamburg at the end of the day
hasn't got that much to see apart from places to eat – we had some
BRAT-WURST for lunch – so we are off to Berlin now! Should be more to
explore… hopefully we wont be tricked into any more pseudo-"historic"

More soon!

Love Sholeh


…has been pretty chilled out. we had planned to rush through museums,
tourist sites and generally go mad but when we arrived, exausted from our
rushed self-guided tour of hamburg, all we had the energy for was
collapsing! we have stayed a day longer than expected because to be frank we
like our hostel and havent felt the urge to move on too fast! while we've
been here we've seen checkpoint charlie,the museum of which primarily
documentedthevarious elaborate escape attempts that occurred whenthe berlin
wall was in place. my favourite was the homemade aeroplane escape- it was
quite a contraption!

we also blitzed (no pun intended) our way round the brandenburg arch, the
berlin cathedral and other tourist sites. but mainly we havestrolled
thestreets,amused by the various erotica museums that seem to crop up all
over the area that wearestaying in, enjoying the cafe scene and the
neoclassical aritechture that surprises you from behind the bland modern
concrete everywhere. basically we'vetaken it all atavery chilled pace.

i think one ofthe best moments here was a group of breakdancers who were
amazing! the beststreet dancers i have seen in a long time, possibly ever,
who were popping and breaking all over the place for a good long while.
mesmerising. today i also fell in love with a punk. she was beautiful, the
moment passed, whatever :)

today weare going to move on but havent decided where. weare oignt o walk
into thetrain station and get on a train that sounds like its going
somewhere good :) we'll see where we end up :)

more soon-

love sholeh

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