Customer Reviews


7 Reviews
5 star:
 (6)
4 star:
 (1)
3 star:    (0)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 
Most Helpful First | Newest First

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars `Bare-chested backgammon in a brothel - don't knock it until you've tried it.', 28 Jan 2011
By 
Jennifer Cameron-Smith "Expect the Unexpected" (ACT, Australia) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Drinking Arak off an Ayatollah's Beard (Paperback)
This is an interesting combination of travelogue and history. Armed with an 11th century epic poem, Nicholas Jubber travels to Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia. Written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi around 1000 CE, the Shahnameh (Book of Kings) consists of some 60,0000 couplets - about four times the length of the combined Odyssey and Iliad. The Shahnameh is both mythical and historical: it contains the stories of the shahs from the prehistoric Gayomart to the fateful reign of Yazdegerd III which saw the Arab invasion of 637 CE. Although the Shahnameh is considered heresy by Islamic mullahs because of its celebration of Iran's pre-Islamic past, it is revered by many Iranians.

The stories and verses, harking back to pre-Islamic Zoroastrian beliefs, pop up in paintings, puppet shows, everyday proverbs, contemporary thrash metal lyrics, and even lurk behind religious festivals. The tale of the legendary hero Rostam was recited by soldiers to bolster their courage during the Iran/Iraq war.

The Shahnameh becomes Nicholas Jubber's passport into households in Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia: the epic is a unifying factor from a past when this part of the world was part of the same empire and shared the same Persian culture.

After a brief visit to Central Asia (including backgammon in a brothel), and after earning to walk like an Afghan (in a straight line, and taking bigger steps) Nicholas Jubber heads off to Afghanistan. He wants to trace the steps of Ferdowsi, who took his epic to Sultan Mahmud. Alas, Nicholas Jubber's journey took him through Helmand Province and into Taliban country, where he had to pretend to be mute to try to hide his foreignness.

In Afghanistan, too, the Shahnameh sheds light. An Afghan mujahid tells Nicholas Jubber that `If you read the Shahnameh, you can understand why we will never let foreigners rule our country'.

I enjoyed this book, and to some extent the quirky title sums up why. If you are interested in reading a book about this region that draws on its shared cultural history, then this book may interest you.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling insight into Persia, 28 Jun 2010
This review is from: Drinking Arak off an Ayatollah's Beard (Paperback)
This is a fascinating book, a travelogue that uses the Shahnameh - Book of Kings - to help the narrator explore Iran, Afghanistan and the Persian psyche. Jubber writes lively, engaging prose, and brilliantly conveys his enthusiasm for the culture and people he encounters. Next stop - learn Farsi, pick up a copy of the Shahnameh and start discovering Ferdowsi for myself...
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling ride through modern and ancient Persia, 4 Jun 2010
By 
R. Francis (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Drinking Arak off an Ayatollah's Beard (Paperback)
A fascinating read! Jubber uses the lense of a Persion epic - the Shahnameh - to great effect in unpicking the fabric of modern day Iran and Afghanistan. At every step of his journey, he seems to find himself in novel situations, retelling the tales with great humour. His perceptive depictions of the range of characters he meets, from the family he lives with in Tehran to the guide he travels with through Helmand add additional depth to provide an overall perceptive, erudite, fun (and to a certain extent, crazy) book!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic read indeed, 1 Mar 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
An interesting combination of travelogue and history. A memoir of an English man in his mid-twenties living in Iran and visiting Afghanistan, and discovering a culture he never expected. The contradictory nature of Iran is explored with Ferdowsi's Shahnameh (an epic poem about Persia's ancient kings written about 1000 years ago) as its axis; through his understanding of the Shahnameh, and its importance to Persians, he comes to better understand Iran itself as well as Iran's place in the Middle East.

A wonderful read and, as an Iranian it is a true representation of the current culture and way of thinking in Iran today...
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Jubber writes Drinking Arak..., 2 Dec 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Drinking Arak off an Ayatollah's Beard (Paperback)
It is an interesting insight into a part of the world simplistically written off but whose cultural links go back before western europe made any sense. Jubber's book reveals how the Iraneans still hold onto their heritage eventhough it isn't immediately evident in the street. a wonderful read and, according to an Iranean, it is a true representation of the current culture and way of thinking in Iran today
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Eye opening, 5 Dec 2011
This review is from: Drinking Arak off an Ayatollah's Beard (Paperback)
If you want a different view of Iran and Afghanistan, I strongly recommend this book. Not many other countries can have been discussed at such length by so many people who have not been there. This is different. The full immersion of the author into these fascinating places makes this book eye-opening and attitude changing. Real and compelling personal experience is combined with erudite and engaging cultural and historical references to bring these complex countries to life. The book achieves the perfect balance between travel writing and history, and between expressing the joy of the traveller and the sensitivity of the passionate observer.

This would not normally be "my type of book" - but it really did open my opens to some cultures I had largely ignored. I have even given copies to friends as gifts - something I am always wary of doing - but I was happy to make an exception in this case.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fresh window into Persia, 2 Nov 2010
By 
S. Zacharias "5telios" (Athens, Greece) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Drinking Arak off an Ayatollah's Beard (Paperback)
I was curious on being given this book to see what Nicholas had come up with. I was expecting another "From the Holy Mountain" by another Dalrymple, but was very much pleasantly surprised by the book as I read it. Over the days I was reading the book, whenever I had to put it down, I was urging the author on, not to allow the story to lose its interest and vitality. The comparison with Dalrymple's book, for me, is unavoidable - both authors are public school brits following an ancient text in lands that were overrun by Islam many centuries ago. The key difference is one of the manner in which each author chooses to lead the reader through this world: Dalrymple disapproves and frowns on the Islamic world intruding into his Roman / Christian Mediterranean, whereas Jubber is happy to embrace and present all sides of the Persian kaleidoscope.

Jubber's love for the culture and people of Persia flows from every paragraph, making the texts interesting and lively as he shares his own great knowledge with us using only a few literary tricks to keep the pace moving along. These, while noticeable, do not impair the enjoyment at all. I will definitely be looking for an edition of the Shahnameh to read first-hand about the heroes and villains dotting the story.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Drinking Arak off an Ayatollah's Beard
Drinking Arak off an Ayatollah's Beard by Nicholas Jubber (Paperback - 3 Jun 2010)
9.90
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews