Saturday, April 08, 2006


Sticky notice: to read the full story, have a look at my book Vagabonding in the Axis of Evil – By thumb in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan”. Visit my online bookshop. Order a copy and keep me on the road!

Let’s face it; we know that the nomads are just a perfect excuse to get lost. We know it as we unfold the Iranian roadmap on the night of my birthday "party" in Teheran. Since one of the Imams had no better idea but dying on the same date I was born, all Iranians are supposed to mourn him, so our gathering goes on illegally in the premises of a clinic. The music, low. The guests, tense, as some of them don’t know each other, and live in a society infiltrated by informers. The cake, a chocolate one. And the present, the chance to share the road with Alba and Steven for a while.

I guess that the nickname earned by Steven during his stay in Argentina should be meaningless in the Netherlands, his home. (We called him the Dutch guy) As a water management engineer, Steven attempts to combine his commitment to deliver solutions to water related problems across the world, with the passion for globetrotting. In this way he frequently found himself applying for a UN job in Chad, or accepting one in Argentina, where we met. Steven is gifted with an acute sense of logic, the readiness of an Ironman, and the sensibility required to appreciate the beauty of the open road, or a tent less night in the desert. While the last ingredient of the cocktail is common to the three of us, the logic and athletic spirit was a good balance to the go with the flow that governs Alba and me. Since my passing through Iran, a country that had long been in my friend's agenda, matches his holidays, we have decided to meet. But Steven didn't know we were going to be three on the road…

Alba makes me think of Isabella Bird, one of those fantastic Victorian ladies that traveled solo around Middle East on the 19th century. In one of those trips a Persian officer said to Miss Bird: "No wonders yours is a powerful nation, your women do what our men don't dare to attempt". Alba is a Catalan girl who barely succeeds in hiding her long blonde dreadlocks behind the compulsory hejab. So she looks rather like an octopus smuggler. Alba travels overland from Barcelona to Bombay, camera on shoulder, making a documentary on freedom through the life of five women in five different Islamic countries. "The sights I watch them on the postcards. I am only interested in contemporary history." – She expresses her travel style. It was clear the three of us will get along well. By the end of the meeting, we have some suspicion that the baktiaris or the qashqas will be grazing their sheep on the west side of the Zagros Mountains (we have talked to an anthropologist on the phone), and the absolute certainty that a party without alcohol is not the same.

No comments: