Review: The Slow Road to Tehran

“Ever since Dervla Murphy packed a pistol and cycled from Ireland to India in 1963 to tell the story of her adventures Full Tiltthere was a demand for two-wheeled adventure stories,” Caroline Eden said in the FT.

The slow way to Tehran is the latest addition to the genre as British journalist Rebecca Lowe chronicles her year-long, 11,000km journey across the Middle East on a bike she dubs “Maud”. Lowe admits she was unprepared to the point of foolhardiness: She set out with “zero hours of training” and didn’t bother to map her terrain in advance. “We think you’re probably going to die,” her family told her.

However, she proves to be an “excitingly single-minded” adventurer and “so refreshingly self-deprecating that you can’t help but root for her”. Her book isn’t perfect – she packs too much into it – but her ‘travel for travel’s sake’ ethos is refreshing and most of her stories are ‘hugely entertaining’.

Lowe had an inkling that her experience as a solo female traveler would be enhanced by her vulnerability, James Barr said in The times. This intuition turns out to be largely correct, but also exposes her to many inconveniences: in Lebanon, a man rolls down the window of his black Mercedes and simply says “sex”; “In Egypt, she is relieved and then horrified when a passing tuk-tuk driver who has just slapped his behind is stopped and beaten up by the police officers who are tailing them.”

She has a knack for getting people to talk to her, and those conversations set the stage for sharp “vignettes,” Tom Chesshyre said in The critic. Meticulously researched and peppered with tongue-in-cheek humour, this is “modern travel literature at its finest”. When Lowe finally arrives at Tehran Airport – and checks in her “clearly dented and repaired bike – I can’t help but whisper: Bravo!”

September publication 416 pages; £18.99

book cover of Slow Road to Tehran

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Fry Electronics Team

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