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Honeymoon in Purdah: An Iranian Journey    by Alison Wearing order for
Honeymoon in Purdah
by Alison Wearing
Order:  USA  Can
Vintage, 2001 (2000)
Hardcover, Softcover

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Honeymoon in Purdah recounts Alison Wearing's experiences during five months of travel in Iran. Why Iran? 'I have come to this place because it frightens me; because it frightens the world. And because I don't believe in fear. In giving it such power.' As a woman she could not go alone, so brought a good friend as her husband along with fake marriage papers.

Wearing has to dress in hejab, which involves a dark heavy manteau and scarf that hides a woman's body and hair. In especially sacred places like the holy city of Qom, she must also wear another layer, the chaador. She found this extra apparel a torture in the baking heat, but also became used to the invisibility it conveyed, to the point of discomfort in places where she could discard it.

The power of this story comes from the author's inclusion of all the different voices and opinions that she hears - those that think it was better before or after the revolution; those that admire or scorn Western lifestyles. As always with encounters across cultures, there are funny incidents like the killer ping pong player or the local who admires the six million dollar man. There are accounts of discomfort and difficulties familiar to anyone who has travelled in the area. But overall, the greatest impression is of the ubiquitous generosity of individuals.

If your only view of Iran has been through the lens of Western media reports, leaving residual impressions of screaming, fanatic mobs, then read this book for the other side of the picture. It is an objective, entertaining and absorbing account of ordinary people who live up to their own words ... 'Keep your hearts in our people, my friends. We are strangers, but we try to be kind.'

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