Here be Goblins

By |2022-09-07T14:54:24+02:00February 3, 2019|Middle Earth|

Middle Earth. It’s a name we give to this curious collection of countries. The ones that swoop around the Black Sea. With the exception of Iran, of course, which stands off on its own. But Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Armenia, Moldova, the Ukraine, Moldova…. that clutch of ex-Soviet satellite states. Middle Earth. Nah, we didn’t expect to find hobbits here. But, we didn’t expect to find goblins either. And, we did! At the Goblin Rally. The biggest motorbike rally around. For a 17th consecutive [...]

The Strength of Her Elegance

By |2022-12-08T11:18:16+02:00August 20, 2018|Middle Earth|

Galina. Is a Russian girl’s name and means ‘the Goddess of Calm Seas’. We meet Galina in ‘our’ courtyard in Odessa. With Julia, but this is not about Julia. This is about Galina … who encloses me. It is hard to explain … I suppose her poise pins me down. Her serenity, her calm, her bearing. She stands in such strong contrast to her surrounds. Eyebrows arch. Eyes pierce. A head held so high, so high. Below hair swept up in a bun. [...]

Slices of Life in the Ukraine

By |2022-09-07T15:00:01+02:00August 13, 2018|Middle Earth|

Oh my, oh, my Ukraine. You are not in an enviable position. You seek EU membership. As Russia surrounds you in ever decreasing circles. We arrive by ferry in Odessa, a port city on the Black Sea. We go from Odessa to Kiev and to Odessa again. We didn’t expect to linger so long! Such honest places. Such real people. Despite your geo-political pickle, you prosper quietly. A GINI coefficient (an inequality index) drops from 39.3 in 1995 to 25 today! An impressive [...]

Iran – A last few Photos

By |2022-09-07T15:00:19+02:00August 7, 2018|Middle Earth|

Iranians seem to produce everything. Here young guys are picking tea leaves. And ladies work rice paddies. Beekeepers dot the landscape. They need to satisfy that collective Iranian sweet tooth. And while scarecrows guard tomatoes, cucumbers and beans .... Farmers drive their produce to villages and towns ... all in the standard blue Zamyad pick up truck. On the outskirts of every village and town, farmers sell their wares from [...]

An Iranian Welcome

By |2022-09-07T15:00:38+02:00July 31, 2018|Middle Earth|

An Iranian welcome, for us, tops the list. For 40 days and 40 nights they call us out and soak us up. It is consistent, from top to bottom and side to side. It’s hard to grasp. In fact, it intoxicates! Just as well, as a not a drop of alcohol passes our lips. For 40 days and 40 nights! On the road, they honk and hail us. The shortest of walks marks 5 heartfelt conversations. Young girls and boys creep up, shyly, [...]


By |2022-09-07T15:00:52+02:00July 26, 2018|Middle Earth|

Our journey takes us to Western Iran and its border with Iraq, a predominately Kurdish region. It is a mountainous sparsely inhabited area with tracks that seem to lead nowhere, or so we thought. Numbering over 20 million, the Kurds are one of the largest non-state nations in the world. Their homeland, Kurdistan, has been forcibly divided and lies mostly within the present-day borders of Iraq, Iran & Turkey with smaller parts in Syria, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The Kurdish nation, with its distinctive [...]

The Republic of Kurdistan

By |2022-09-07T15:01:13+02:00July 16, 2018|Middle Earth|

The Republic of Kurdistan. Sadly, does not exist. But it persists in the dreams of 20 million Kurds in the world. Seven million live in Iran, the rest live in Iraq, Turkey and Syria. They are the largest ethnic group in the world without a country. Kurds, in the past, suffer brutally in Turkey and Iraq and Syria. Ties between Kurds and Iranians are a little healthier. But everywhere Kurdish independence is a bad joke. Recently, Kurdish fighters, the Peshmerga, turn the ISIS [...]

A Deafening Silence

By |2022-09-07T15:01:27+02:00July 12, 2018|Middle Earth|

‘A great silence overcomes me, and I would wonder why I ever thought to use language’ This is a well used line by Persian poet Rumi. He may have never been to the desert towns of north eastern Esfahan but his line could have been written specifically for them. Dasht-e Kavir is one of two deserts dominating the landscape of eastern Iran. It is a mix of sand and salt that is as blinding in its whiteness as the desert is deafening in [...]

Sisters in Hoods

By |2022-09-07T15:01:43+02:00July 5, 2018|Middle Earth|

I wear a hejab in Iran. The country requires this of me. And I do, as requires. As I have done before, and as I will do again, in my life. Turns out, I dislike and like it. I dislike it; because it’s an order! The little bit of teenager that still resides in me, rebels. And initially it’s a bother. But soon it becomes a habit. Ha – a nun’s habit! It’s bizarre. I almost start to like it … for practical [...]

The Cherry on Top … at Shushtar

By |2022-09-07T15:01:57+02:00June 29, 2018|Middle Earth|

We hear two antiquities call …. from 1000 kilometres away! We answer. And it’s up and over the Zagros Mountains we go. It’s a knotty spine of a mountain that halves Iran into a west and an east. Both these antiquities hang around a village called Shushtar. One is a set of ancient watermills from the 3rd century A.D. The other is a huge ziggurat from the 13th century B.C. We arrive in Shushtar and it is severely hot! All we do, is [...]

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