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Drinking Arak off an Ayatollah's Beard: Through the inside-out Worlds of Iran and Afghanistanby Nicholas Jubber
Synopses & Reviews
An engrossing blend of travel writing and history, Drinking Arak off an Ayatollah's Beard traces one man's adventure-filled journey through today's Iran, Afghanistan, and Central Asia, and describes his remarkable attempt to make sense of the present by delving into the past. Setting out to gain insight into the lives of Iranians and Afghans today, Nicholas Jubber is surprised to uncover the legacy of a vibrant pre-Islamic Persian culture that has endured even in times of the most fanatic religious fundamentalism. Everywhere-from underground dance parties to religious shrines to opium dens-he finds powerful and unbreakable connections to a time when both Iran and Afghanistan were part of the same mighty empire, when the flame of Persian culture lit up the world. Whether through his encounters with poets and cab drivers or run-ins with pleasure daughters and mujahideen, again and again Jubber is drawn back to the eleventh-century Persian epic, the Shahnameh (Book of Kings). The poem becomes not only his window into the region's past, but also his link to its tumultuous present, and through it Jubber gains access to an Iran and Afghanistan seldom revealed or depicted: inside-out worlds in which he has tea with a warlord, is taught how to walk like an Afghan, and even discovers, on a night full of bootleg alcohol and dancing, what it means to drink arak off an Ayatollah's beard.
Iran and Afghanistan. Two modern countries so overtaken by Islamic fundamentalism that many citizens spend their entire lives hiding what they do, enjoy, and value. To better understand the cultural issues and paradoxes facing Iranians and Afghans today, Nicholas Jubber travels from the underground dance parties of Tehran to the opium dens of south Afghanistan. Along the way he discovers traces of a vibrant, pre-Islamic Persian culture, and with each encounter he is increasingly drawn back to an unlikely source—Ferdowsi, the father of Persian culture, whose eleventh century epic, the Shahnameh (“Book of Kings”), becomes both Jubber’s window into the region’s past and his link to its tumultuous present.
Documents the author's investigation of daily life in Iran and Afghanistan, from religious shrines to illegal dance parties, and his use of Ferdowsi's epic poem "Shāhnāmeh" as a key to past and present conflict in the region.
About the Author
Nicholas Jubber is the author of The Prester Quest, winner of the prestigious Authors Club/Dolman Best Travel Book Award. His writing has appeared in periodicals worldwide. He lives in London.
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History and Social Science » Sociology » General