After a few days in Rome dipping in and out of talks at the Roman Archaeology Conference and (more importantly) bumping into old friends, meeting new ones, and generally feeling very happily ‘Romanised’ it takes something special to wrench myself from the familiar and immerse myself in the unfamiliar. A trip to Iran is pretty darn ‘special’.
No one report stands out in my mind, but rather my memory of the television news in the 80s is that it was brimming with interminable stories of the tragedy that war brings. I didn’t understand at the time why the two countries were at war but I do remember thinking that Iran and Iraq looked like the most dangerous places on Earth and ones in which I would fear to tread.
Over twenty years later and I’m sitting on a plane bound for Tehran feeling anything but fear. I am filled instead with an intense feeling of excitement. It’s a naive excitement as I cannot claim to have read widely on the places I am about to visit but I’m coming to Iran to stare in wonderment, to absorb the culture and above all learn more about Persia and the Persians.
And just as I write this I am looking down on the top of Vesuvius poking out from the clouds as a dark lump with the Sorrentine peninsula snaking off in the background. A very familiar sight to a Pompeianist and one I am leaving behind for unfamiliar ones.
I am travelling, as I did in Algeria with a motley crew of academics. We are mainly a group of British, American and Italian archaeologists with a smattering of people from other backgrounds but all with one thing in common: this is our first trip to Iran. Like my trip to Algeria I am expecting to learn from those around me as well as from the places we will visit.
I am on the brink of starting my Iran odyssey and words cannot express the joy that brings me.