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Honeymoon in Purdah
An Iranian Journey
By Alison Wearing

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Honeymoon in Purdah
An Iranian Journey
By Alison Wearing
Ulverscroft Large Print, (2002)
ISBN: 0-7089-4617-8
Genre: Non-fiction / Travel

Other Editions: Standard Print - Hardcover | Standard Print - Paperback

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - May 23, 2002

Alison Wearing has an indomitable spirt, and a passion for travel. However, when she set her sights upon visiting Iran, she found that she was faced with a major obstacle. It was impossible for a woman to travel alone in the religious, fundamentalist Islamic state. Not one to be stopped by such piddling obstacles, Wearing arranged to travel with Ian, her gay roommate, posing as a newly married couple on their honeymoon. Together they embark on a phenomenal adventure that enabled them to traverse Iran from end to end, observing the 'real' Iran.

Honeymoon in Purdah is written in a pseudo journal format that reads much like a travel monologue. The text begins in Turkey, where the pair boarded a bus for a Tabriz, their first destination in Iran. From the very beginning, Wearing points out that the main quality that a traveler in Iran requires in patience. The trip, which was 'suppose' to take only eighteen hours, took days. Wearing stays in Iran for over five months, ending her epic adventure in Syria.

Wearing is plainspoken, and she views Iran through Western eyes. Nonetheless she does a remarkable job of weaving her way through the maze of religious and secular rules that dominate the country. Infractions for either can be quite serious. This is a point which is driven home when Wearing and Ian are taken in by the police after photographing a parade. Had they not handled themselves with aplomb, they may have faced charges of spying. At other times, Wearing's lack of fluency in Farsi leads to some hilarious, after the fact, adventures, such as when she is shanghaied by a pair of well-wishers who try to 'make her cold' after she complained of the heat.

Throughout this text, Wearing not only offers readers a unique insight into the sights and sounds of modern day Iran, but she also introduces us to a cross section of its residents. Her narrative is colorful, intriguing, and honest. Throughout their travels, the couple is aided, and hosted, often unasked, by an eclectic band of do-gooders'. These hosts include a religious scholar who was tortured by the Shah's secret police and a drug dealer trying to save enough money to immigrate to America.

Wearing seems to have a knack for connecting with people that allowed her to become intimately acquainted with them in a very short period. Her new friends were blatantly honest with her when discussing how the Revolution changed their lives, the current situation in Iran, and their feelings about the outside world. Throughout, Wearing allows her interviewees to speak in their own voice. Wearing presents the Iranian people as honest, caring, and pragmatic. Best of all, Wearing provides a first hand account of what it is like to live in a culture that demands that women wear the hejab, a head to toe covering. Clothed in a polyester hejab, Wearing learns one of its many pitfalls - it's hot!

Filled with humor and riveting anecdotes, Honeymoon in Purdah provides a unique glimpse at Iranian life. Wearing proves that Iran is not a den of religious terrorists. Rather, is the home of a diverse group of people, including a number of Christians. Like any country it has its good parts and its bad, as well what the politicians do does not always accurately represent the feelings of the common people. Overall, this is an excellent book, both as a picturesque travel book and as a treatise on modern Iranian culture.

Wearing is a journalist and travel writer from Canada. Honeymoon in Purdah: An Iranian Journey is her first book.

Honeymoon in Purdah can be purchased directly from Ulverscroft.

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