Two Wings of a Nightingale

June 15th, 2011 at 8:07 pm by David Farrar

Have just returned from the Iranian Embassy, which hosted a function for Jill Worrall, the author of Two Wings of a Nightingale – a travel book about .

I mentioned the function and the book on The Panel prior to the function and was amused that it seems half the people at the reception heard me mention it. Shows how strong Radio NZ is in Wellington.

Readers may recall I visited Iran in 2009, hence my invite to the launch. Like Jill, I found it a wonderful country, nothing like what one might expect. The people are wonderfully friendly and hospitable, and the sights are magnificent. If it is shame that so few New Zealanders travel to Iran (under 100 a year probably).

I’m definitely going to return one day, and recommend those curious abaout it read Jill’s book.

Next time I visit, I plan to stay for at least two weeks. There is so much to see.

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31 Responses to “Two Wings of a Nightingale”

  1. Mike Readman (361 comments) says:

    Does anybody else find this post hilarious?

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  2. mikenmild (11,246 comments) says:

    It’s definitely up there!

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  3. Other_Andy (2,513 comments) says:

    Iran, great place…
    Isn’t that the country where they hold the International Holocaust Cartoon Contest?
    That country with wonderful, friendly and hospitable people which has a policy of calling for the execution of those who practice homosexuality?
    That country where a very highly placed government official called Non-Muslims ” animals who roam the earth and engage in corruption”.
    Yep, can’t wait to visit.

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  4. mikenmild (11,246 comments) says:

    Other_Andy

    Just some of the attractions, I understand.

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  5. Captain Neurotic (206 comments) says:

    Reading ‘Not without my daughter’ has put me off

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  6. Gwilly (156 comments) says:

    My favourite memory was walking through the hotel lobby in just my swimming togs and seeing the looks on the local gals faces – priceless! Going for an early morning jog also interesting, but that is another story.

    But yes, wonderful hospitality and very friendly people. Just a pity the country is run by clergy and a manic dictator.

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  7. Other_Andy (2,513 comments) says:

    Captain Neurotic (189) Says:
    Reading ‘Not without my daughter’ has put me off

    You should try the ‘Little Green Book’ by Khomeini.

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  8. side show bob (3,660 comments) says:

    I’m sure the real people of Iran are like the other 95% of people in the world, friendly, hospitable and generous. But from what I’ve been reading it could pay to take some sun screen rated over 3000+.

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  9. Other_Andy (2,513 comments) says:

    side show bob (3,251) Says:
    “I’m sure the real people of Iran are like the other 95% of people in the world, friendly, hospitable and generous.”

    And in the 1940′s only 1.5% of the Germans were active Nazi party members and the rest were like the other 95% of people in the world, friendly, hospitable and generous.

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  10. vibenna (305 comments) says:

    “But yes, wonderful hospitality and very friendly people. Just a pity the country is run by clergy and a manic dictator”

    Actually, the “dictator” is subject to a vote. Just as Nixon lost to Kennedy, and Gore and Kerry both lost to Bush. Beside, the USA has massive church attendance by western standards, and a huge influence from the religious lobby on politics. By contrast, Iran is reported to have one of the lowest mosque attendances of any Islamic country !

    I admit I am being a bit mischevious. :-) but there is a serious point there. Because of a bad history, the USA lost an opportunity to engage with an ancient civilisation with a genuine democracy. Yes, Iran’s democracy is imperfect – but that is the nature of democracies! All of them are imperfect. Yet while a leader can stand against 60% of the vote, they can never stand against 80% of the vote. Even Zimbabwe’s imperfect democracy has forced Mugabe into compromise.

    So good luck to Iran. (And the USA, India, South Africa, Zimbabwe and all other democracies, no matter how imperfect.)

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  11. side show bob (3,660 comments) says:

    So Andy are we basically good or bad? I still go for good, if we were truly bad we would have wiped ourselves out years ago. You quote the Nazi example. Germany had had it’s arse kicked in WW1, the country was shambolic the people where looking for a savour,. Who can blame them if Hitler offered a better looking future, it’s easy to be clever in hindsight.

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  12. TimG_Oz (924 comments) says:

    I agree with DPF. I would love to visit Iran, it’s an amazing place, from all I’ve heard.

    My cousin (neither Jewish nor Israeli nor a spy) visited a few years ago. Unfortunately on arrival they threw him in jail, and didn’t tell anybody. Eventually his parents were able to contact NZ consulate staff and he was freed and told to keep it quiet.

    So yeah, other than the unelected, terrorist sponsoring, oppressive regime (that threatens to wipe it’s neighbours off the map), I’m sure it would be a great place, and I’d love to visit one day too!

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  13. hubbers (230 comments) says:

    Having spent nearly 4 weeks in Iran in 2004 the thing i would say that would help their tourism the most would be to lighten up on the visa. Getting an Iranian visa from the Sophia embassy was easilly teh worst visa experience I have ever had in 89 countries visited. Not only did the duplicated forms have to be manually typed in English in a country where the local alphabet is Cyrillic but there was a constant degree of paranoia and suspicion about why I would want to go there in the first place.

    http://www.hubbers.com/index.php/day-63-sofia-and-paranoid-iranians/

    Comparing Iran to Nazi Germany shows a shocking lack of knowledge about politics and history. It also suggests you might have Nazi Tourettes.

    The local guys (it’s always guys) I met in Iran were curious, friendly, and nice. The regime however is a cleptocracy masquerading as a theocrazy. When criticising another country en mass one should always be careful to differentiate between the actions of the populous and the actions of the leadership.

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  14. BlairM (2,306 comments) says:

    I can’t say I’d be too keen to go to a cocktail party at the Iranian embassy. It must be a Wellington thing to cuddle up with representatives of hostile and repressive governments. (I know we sell them a lot of agricultural products, but geez, do we have to have an Iranian embassy in New Zealand?)

    Actually, the “dictator” is subject to a vote. Just as Nixon lost to Kennedy, and Gore and Kerry both lost to Bush. Beside, the USA has massive church attendance by western standards, and a huge influence from the religious lobby on politics. By contrast, Iran is reported to have one of the lowest mosque attendances of any Islamic country !

    I admit I am being a bit mischevious.

    A little! As far as I can tell, the Southern Baptist governing body doesn’t have veto power on who goes on any ballot paper in the United States. If that happened, then we’d have a choice between James Dobson and Ralph Reed for President – they’d be subject to a vote too! How democratic, and not at all like a dictatorship, that would be!

    The influence of the Christian Right (TM) is vastly VASTLY overstated in America, mostly by left wing people and the MSM, who love to scaremonger. With the exception of Jimmy Carter (and that was a LONG time ago) I can’t think of a single politician they’ve successfully helped to get elected. There’s just no comparison between the US and the tightly controlled process in Iran.

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  15. hubbers (230 comments) says:

    Oh and one more thing they could do to improve tourism ni Iran. They could stop mass murdering their own citizens in the street. While most backpackers are a pretty adventurous lot I’d bet that ‘running the secret-police in Tehran’ is outside their comfort zones.

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  16. Tom Paine (3 comments) says:

    What you people fail to grasp is that THE TRAINS RUN ON TIME! Splendid place, the security forces have a refreshingly robust attitude towards troublemakers, and the President is a charming man who assues me that all this talk about raping girls in prison prior to their execution so they are no longer virgins is a Jewish conspiracy to defame the wonderful Iranian civilisation. I do hope the screams of the victims didn’t trouble you are the embassy reception.

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  17. mikenmild (11,246 comments) says:

    I thought about this post again this morning, and it still made me laugh out loud.

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  18. Longknives (4,686 comments) says:

    After ‘A Gay Girl in Damascus’ turned out to be written by a deranged student activist in Atlanta I just don’t know what to believe about the Middle East anymore…..

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  19. Neil (572 comments) says:

    Interesting post. I was in Iran five years ago and as well I went to Cuba with Jill Worrall as tour leader this year.
    I found Iran a good country to visit.While you have the power of the Mullahs strong the government led by Ahkmamenajad was widely seen as being a pack of “wallys”.
    I found Iran much less frightening than Egypt which I visited in the same trip. The young in Iran are going to challenge the Mullah rule with the limited satellite TV and cellphones. The US government is unpopular but American life and the people are really popular.
    Even in the countryside young people approach you to show off their English. They love to be part of a photo.
    The US pooped in Iran pre-1979 revolution with cultural insensitivity. Time will never return to those days. The next Iran regime will still have a dose of nationalism and religion.

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  20. Mary Rose (393 comments) says:

    >I’m definitely going to return one day

    You may find it a bit dry, thanks to the evil Europeans stealing Iran’s rain:

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  21. Fletch (6,148 comments) says:

    Once Iran gets nukes (which it is working toward), all hell is going to break loose in the Middle East.
    Obama should be doing something about Iran (where the real threat is), not Libya.

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  22. backster (2,123 comments) says:

    Is your head still on your shoulders?

    A good book on Iran following the overthrow of the Shah is ‘Whirlwind’ by James CLAVELL it shows that nothing much has changed since then. I doubt the Embassey gave him a reception though.

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  23. mikenmild (11,246 comments) says:

    backster

    From memory, Whirlwind, though a great read was set only during the revolution itself, 1979-80. However, it was very good at capturing the mind-set of the mullahs and their adherents, who remain firmly in charge.

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  24. totaranui (10 comments) says:

    Going to Persepolis in 2012 (bucket list) and then skiing in Iran for a week, so I just bought the book to add to the library. Thks for the link. Odd that people think that by travelling in a country you endorse everything about it. Just as pple who travel to Fiji, Cook Islands, Tonga, W Samoa, Vanuatu endorse all the frightful corruption in those places?

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  25. Sam Buchanan (502 comments) says:

    Great country, lovely people, horrible government. Not too difficult to comprehend is it?

    If you go back I recommend Takht-e-Soleiman, a ruined Sassanid city. Not a lot there, but the location is amazing, with a huge spring dead centre of the old fortified city. The midget volcanic cone nearby is worth climbing up too.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Takht-e_Soleym%C4%81n

    I thought Yazd, with its Zoroastrian fire temple and tea houses was the most interesting town. And the ex-Shah’s jewellery collection in Tehran was mind-blowing – like something out of an Uncle Scrooge comic.

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  26. Sam Buchanan (502 comments) says:

    I’d recommend The Mantle of the Prophet by Roy Mottadeh for background reading.

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  27. Daigotsu (451 comments) says:

    The Green Book was written by Qadaffi, not Khomeini.

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  28. kowtow (7,945 comments) says:

    So much for “people power”.

    Neda, Neda ,Neda…….

    Forget her, forget her, forget her.

    Shame.

    And to those apologists…..note the function was at the embassy. That’s supporting the mullahs. Was any booze or bacon titbits on offer?

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  29. mikenmild (11,246 comments) says:

    kowtow

    Goodpoint. Travel to Iran is fine. Hobnobbing with the handpicked representatives of the islamofacists is harder to take.

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  30. Neil (572 comments) says:

    The biggest nag that I had with Iran when I was there was the fact that there was nothing to do at night.(Well I hope you know what I mean !)
    You had a good dinner, with Iranian non alcoholic “beer” and then went away at about 8.30pm to write up your diary.
    Visited Shiraz which apparently had some of the nicest wines around. Also the home of Bahai.
    One of the most fascinating places I visited was the cemetery in Tehran that commemorates all the youngster killed in the Iran-Iraq war. Thousands of graves with toys and photographs of the deceased in boxes above the graves. Then visited the grave of Ayotollah Khomenei in a huge building – quite underwhelming.
    However places like Shiraz,Persopolis,Isfahan and the Caspian Sea made up for that. And oh those marvellous carpets.
    Must be one of the few places in the world where you could go skiing in the morning and swim in the afternoon outdoors.
    I don’t think the embassy would be providing alcoholic drinks.

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  31. Jill Worrall (1 comment) says:

    It’s the author here – bit late because since my appearance at what to some of your correspondents, is Wellington’s own centre of the axis of evil, I’ve been out of action.
    I did want to put a few things on record, no matter how late.
    Yes, we had an event at the Iranian Embassy – NZ and Iran have had a long-standing diplomatic relationship – there’s trade and also a significant number of Iranian students studying here. I obtain myIranian visas through the embassy, as do the people who come with me on our tours. Inicidentally it is vastly easier for Kiwis to get a visa to go to Iran than it is for bona fide Iranians to get visas to come here. This was the first time I have met the current Iranian ambassador but he and the previous ambassador were enthusiastic about the book. Although it is clearly just too tempting for conspiracy theorists to promulgate devious reasons for the book function in the embassy, the motivation was simply one of marking the occasion of a New Zealander publishing a book on Iran. Never once during the process of writing the book did anyone official want to know where I was going, check up on me or even ask to see the manuscript. I’d susggest to some of your correspondents that they might like to consider what embassies they WOULD be prepared to visit – the US maybe, China, Russia, – some people could even argue that we should stay away from the Australian High Commission becuase of our trans-Tasman neighbours’ treatment of indigenous people and refugees. Do they also for example, ask for a full run down on the ethical, religious and political status of anyone that invites them in for a cup of tea? I am certain that the Iranian embassy staff is well aware that I probably have hugely divergent views on Iranian politics to them. And I will put myself firmly on record in saying that I find any country’s repression, supression etc of its own people and any violation of human rights abhorrent. Any country. But equally I am incredulous that people cannot separate the actions of a country’s rulers from the nature and actions of its own people. You have every right not to go to Iran because you disagree vehmently with its government, but we have no right to be holier than thou. I imagine there could be many thousands of Iranians who, if informed of New Zealand’s grim and tragic record on child abuse might equally think twice about visiting a country that still seems capable of turning a collective face to the wall about what we do to our children. Two Wings is not, and was never intended to be a political book – it is a road trip, a story about the side of Iran that gets overlooked among all the politics. I suggest rather that some correspodents should take a deep breath and read it – it’s obvious there’s a few gaps in their understanding to be filled.

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