In 2015, Rebecca Lowe set out on a year long cycling trip from London to Tehran, passing through the Balkans, the Levant and North Africa, crossing over to the Arabian Peninsula and ending in Iran.
The Syrian civil war was raging, and Western newspapers were filed with stories of conflict and crisis, the sort of images that have come to dominate our impressions of the region we’ve called the Middle East.
We’re obsessed by fanaticism and gloomy theocracies, but it doesn’t paint an accurate picture of these incredibly rich and hospitable cultures, or of the everyday lives of the people who live there.
I think this entire region is also misunderstood by those who have never travelled there as a homogenous monoculture dominated by the Islamic religion and the Arabic language, as if they didn’t each contain many expressions and shades.
Rebecca’s journey reveals a splintered mosaic of cultures, countries and languages, each with their own unique histories and rich literary and artistic traditions.
It’s a fascinating part of the world to travel through and to read about.
We talked about slow travel, the hangover of the Arab Spring, the promise of Sudan, and the stark cultural divides within cosmopolitan Iran.