15 December 2019

Book Review: Land of the Turquoise Mountains by Cyrus Massoudi

Sometimes there's a travel narrative that makes you just want to book the next ticket to that destination. This book is perhaps one of those. Cyrus Massoudi is a British-born Iranian who decided to take some time travelling within Iran after his studies. I spent only 3 weeks in the country back in 2016, while the author spent 3 years. And I must say it was a wonderful experience reading his stories, as most of them overlapped with my own experiences in the brief stay I did 3 years ago.

Perhaps one of the things I really liked the most was the fact that the book began not with the stereotypical route that typical visitors take. Most of the first-time visitors (me included) would prioritise visiting the central cities like Kashan, Isfahan, Shiraz, and the like. This book didn't begin with that. Instead, the author first started talking about his travels in the western part of the country, which is not often visited. And because of this, I was hooked. Reading it felt like I was extending my trip from 2016, learning about the places that I didn't get to physically discover.

The author first narrated about his visits to western Iran, and then to the Persian Gulf. Only later, after finishing more than half of the book, did I find the author talking about the cities that I have visited. So for the most part, the book was narrating to me places that were absolutely new, and I had nothing to anchor with my memory of places I have visited.

I also liked the fact that the author did extensive research on the history of Iran. Every city he visited was narrated not only with the physical experiences he had, but also the historical background that was immediately relevant. I therefore learned quite a bit of Iranian history and culture when I was reading this book.

My visit to Iran back in 2016 was perhaps the most memorable trip I have made. Iran is a country of contradictions, and it is a very fascinating destination that I definitely would love to visit again some time. As I was reading this book, I found myself gravitating back to my Iran guidebook, figuring out where to go next in the event that I find myself heading back there for a second time. Alas, there's plenty of other places I have on my short list. In the meantime I will have to be content with this book. I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

See my other book reviews here.

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