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Iran : update1

On 20 June 2009, as the footage showing the dying moments of Neda Agha Soltan sent shockwaves around the world, it became clear that there was about to be another bloody crackdown in Iran. Inevitably, writers and journalists were once again in the front line. Just the day before Soltan’s death at the hands of a Basij militiaman, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had blamed foreign media for social unrest, calling it “evil” and accusing it of misleading and agitating the Iranian people.  According to Iranian news reports, an official then claimed that the BBC had shot Soltan in order to cause further unrest against the government.


From The Good Tourist

Land of the Noble


Indo-Iranians divided the world into seven climes, of which they believed theirs, Khvaniratha, to be the largest, central, and most pleasant. The various rivers, mountains, and other natural features which appear in the myths are difficult to associate with actual places, since the ancient Iranians were mobile and probably shifted their identities in keeping with their changing locales. Migrants typically gave old names to new places…Ancient Iranians called their immediate territory  - Airyana Vaejah …Land of the Noble”[1]

Iran, the cradle of western civilisation and some say of religion, is becoming increasingly popular as a holiday destination. Whether you are interested in its early Islamic architecture, soaking up the profusion of cultural influences, or just browsing the bazaars, the country boasts an array of unexpected pleasures for a variety of tastes. As well as being a nation deservedly proud of its heritage, the hospitality of Iranians is legendary

Together with the obligatory carpet shopping and teashop stops, visitors to Iran can enjoy Silk Road Trekking, or the Great Omar Tour, which is structured around one of the great Persian poets Omar Khayam. You can even ski in the Alborz mountains – there are two main resorts less than a two hours’ drive outside Tehran – or relax in various spas and hot springs throughout the country.

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[1] Foltz, Richard C.: Spirituality in the Land of the Noble: How Iran Shaped the World’s Religions, UK 2004


From The Good Tourist

The Road to Damascus

The prophet Muhammad is said to have refused to enter Damascus. Approaching from the south… Muhammad saw the city with its gardens…and said, more or less, that any man may only enter paradise once. He chose the one hereafter.[1]

Home to some of the world’s earliest civilizations, where metallurgy and agriculture developed, and the first alphabet was used, Syria is an appealing holiday destination. It is a land of stunning natural beauty, with snow-capped mountains, green valleys, beaches along the Mediterranean and of course, the desert; it boasts numerous ancient ruins, medieval castles and fortresses, and Islamic mosques. Down the centuries, Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, Hittites, Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Turks all passed through Syria and left their mark and formerly it encompassed Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine…

Syria played an important part in the early history of Christianity and Islam, and Roman temples, churches and mosques co-exist side by side. It vibrant capital, Damascus, sounds like a magical place to visit with its various souks, cobbled streets, fountains, ornate tiles, courtyards scented with oranges, and a history stretching back thousands of years. You can explore the main archeological sites of the old city on foot. Down ‘the street called straight’ is the house where Saul became Paul and so helped ensure the spread of Christianity. Close by in the centre of the city is the Ummayyad Mosque, one of the largest and oldest in the world, and created by thousands of craftsmen. The mosque holds a shrine which is said to contain the head of John the Baptist, honoured as a prophet by Muslims and Christians alike.

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[1] Fadel, Marie And Schami, Rafik: Damascus: taste of a city. English translation by Debra S. Marmor and Herbert A. Danner 2005