City of Wind Catchers

In my first post about Iran I said that there was much more to the country than tiled domes and minarets, and classical Persian architecture in ancient cities surrounded by desert.  This remains true, but the domes, minarets and classical architecture do, of course, exist. Yazd, Esfahan and Shiraz are three places which feature on […]

Le Château de Versailles et ses Jardins

Vus Autrement

The Palace of Versailles is one of France’s top tourist attractions.  In recent years, internationally renowned artists have been invited to display their works in the palace and its grounds.  In 2016 it was the turn of Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson, known for his unusual pieces.  Having not been to Versailles for some time, this […]


An Archipelago in Autumn

Åland is a group of islands at the entrance to the Gulf of Bothnia in the Baltic Sea, just 38 km from Sweden and 25 minutes from Stockholm in a small propellor plane.  Home to some 29,000 people, Åland is part of Finland but has autonomous status.  It is the only region in Finland where technically Swedish […]

Northern Iran

From the Caspian Sea Coast to the Castles of the Assassins

Mention Iran and many people will think of classical Persian architecture in ancient cities surrounded by desert.  While such places do of course exist, there is much more to Iran than ‘just’ tiled domes and minarets.  Iran is a big country – 54 times the size of Belgium – and its landscapes incredibly diverse.  From […]


At the Heart of Central Asia

Tajikistan is a mountainous country nestling in the heart of Central Asia.  Traditionally, it has been at a cultural crossroads and over the millennia has formed part of various empires that have straddled the region.  Over two thousand years ago it came under the sway of the Persian Achamenids before in 336-330 BC falling to […]


Ancient Sea Port on the Gulf of Aden

In ancient times the port of Berbera in Somaliland was known as Malao.  Ships would sail into its harbour on the Gulf of Aden bringing tunics and cloaks, cups, copper and iron and left carrying frankincense, myrrh and cinnamon.  Berbera is also thought to be the town of Bobali, referred to by the 9th-century Chinese […]


The Horn of Africa's Best Kept Secret

When I told people I was going to Somaliland most people thought I meant Somalia and once again assumed I was trotting off to a war zone – something I do not actually do but for which I seem to have acquired a reputation.  In fact, Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1992 but has […]

The Hyenas of Harar

Nighttime Visitors to Ethiopia's Walled City

The fortified town of Harar in predominantly Christian eastern Ethiopia is said to be the fourth holiest city in Islam.  Although as a trading place it is a melting pot of African and Islamic cultures, historically Harar was relatively isolated in the region.  As a result, it has developed certain unique cultural aspects, such as […]