Q&A with Writer Lois Pryce

Author Lois Pryce spent two months riding on a motorcycle in Iran. She covered 3000 miles of the country in 2013 and 2014. She documented her travels in her third book, Revolutionary Ride, which was published in 2017.

She has a never-ending love for Iran. Learning so much about the country and meeting the warm and kind-hearted everyday Iranian people, Lois describes her travelling experience there as the one which has effected her the most. She very kindly answered some questions about her time there and the importance of visiting countries like Iran.

Lois with the locals. Photograph by Lois Pryce

1 – What did you like about Iran? 

So many things! The incredible welcome I received as soon as I arrived from complete strangers – men and women, of all ages and backgrounds. So much genuine kindness and generosity. Then of course, the natural beauty of the mountains and the deserts, the incredible architecture and decoration, the wonderful food… 

2 – How did you feel in Iran as a woman and a solo traveller? What would you say to someone interested in going to Iran?

On the whole I felt very safe as a woman travelling alone. Most of the men were respectful and genuinely friendly and helpful. I had the occasional incident of hassle but nothing that would be enough to warn anyone. It is important to dress appropriately – covering up hair, arms, wearing the manteau (shirt-dress type of garment) but even if you get it wrong, people understand if you are a foreigner and don’t give you a hard time! People were surprised to see me travelling alone, especially on a motorbike but they liked the novelty of it – rather than be disapproving. I found Iranian people to be curious and eager to engage in conversation, share ideas etc, without being judgemental.

3 – Why do you think we should go to places like Iran? Why is it important? What do you think to FCO guidelines, do you follow them? 

I don’t tend to take much notice of FCO guidelines. I can’t remember the last time I looked them up, actually! They need to be over cautious to cover all eventualities/types of traveller so it’s worth checking them but the reality is to be found on the ground – and it’s always much better! I think it’s important now more than ever that we (Westerner travellers) visit Islamic/Middle Eastern countries. Once you get out there, travelling around and talking to people you see how the image of this part of the world is misrepresented by the mainstream media – and how humans all over the world have more in common than differences.

4 – What surprised you about Iran? Both something you expected to experience but didn’t, and something you experienced but didn’t expect.

The great Iranian sense of humour! I didn’t expect to be laughing and joking around so much. When I think of Iran and Iranians, I think of people who really like to have fun and muck around. It’s quite subversive and silly (in a good way) that reminded me a lot of the British sense of humour. I was also surprised at how Iran does not feel like an overtly religious country (especially compared to other Islamic countries I have visited).

5 – How were you received by locals and the authorities?

By the locals – always made welcome. By the authorities – it varied. Some police and military were suspicious of what I was up to! But some were fine.

6 – Did you feel safe in rural areas, as well as big cities?

Yes, people were friendly in the country too. Although there is not as much English spoken in rural areas so it wasn’t as easy to have proper conversations, but people still made me welcome by offering me food (and tea of course!).

7 – Is there anything you felt you couldn’t do, either places you wanted to visit or etiquette wise? What should you bear in mind? 

There are some tea-houses and certain areas or streets in towns where only men congregate, so it was best to avoid them. I ate out and wandered around towns alone and felt fine. Of course the clothing/hair covering take a while to get used to but that’s just the way it is. As I discovered, most Iranian women don’t like it either!

8 – Regarding UK and US visitors having to go to Iran with a guide now, do you think you need a guidebook to explore somewhere?

 I think a book complements a guided tour. You can read in advance to get excited about what you’re going to be seeing/doing, and then after the tour is over you can enjoy it in a different way, and you have a greater understanding/appreciation of the book’s contents.

Parked up in Kashan. Photograph by Lois Pryce

9 – What was your favourite food and drink?

I love fesunjun (nutty chicken stew with pomegranates) and doogh (salty yoghurt drink)!

10 – How would you describe Iran in a few words?

The most fascinating country I have visited – intriguing, contradictory, fun. And certainly the most friendly.

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