email contact

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

The Travel Bookshop

Last night the event at the Travel Bookshop was well attended and, as I understand, well received. This has had much to do with the participation of Alex Harvie, writing and publishing consultant (, good friend and ardent fan of Iran, who with her insighful questions, gave a great lift to the event. I thank her once again for everything she's done for the book.

The Travel Bookshop is a small specialist bookshop in Notting Hill (it features in the film by the same name, starring Hugh Grant; in fact while the talk was on, a group of Spanish tourists were taking photos of the front of the bookshop).
I liked the way books are shelved under geographical areas rather than genre, so together with travel maps and travelogues about, say, Greece, one also finds Louis de Bernieres Captain Corelli's Mandolin.

For the first time, the Travel Bookshop hope to upload photos and an edited recording of the talk on their website.

Many thanks to everyone who came along on a rainy spring evening.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Next event

The SOAS event went very well on Monday, so now we are on to the next one at the Travel Bookshop on Tuesday 30 March.

All the information is on the website at, and click on Events and talks.

Hope to see you there.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Book Launch on Monday 22 March 2010

looking forward to seeing many of you on Monday.

Here's the announcement:

Sofia A. Koutlaki author of
Among the Iranians - A Guide to Iran 's Culture and Customs
will be giving a talk and signing copies of her book

at 7pm on 22nd March 2010 in Room B202, Brunei Gallery Building , SOAS
(Thornhaugh Street, nearest tube station Russell Square)

Admission Free – All Welcome
For further information: T 020 7239 0360 E

Friday, 19 March 2010

Last Thursday of the year

Yesterday was the last Thursday of the year, traditionally a day when Iranian families visit the graves of their dead, or otherwise especially remember them.

Last night, a very dear Iranian friend and neighbour in London brought round to our flat a plate of Iranian halva to mark this occasion of rememberance. One is meant to eat at least one spoonful of halva and offer a Fatiha prayer for the dead. As the Iranians say, physical distance is not important, the closeness of the hearts is what matters.

Indicentally, during the weekend of 20-21 March a Noruz celebration is organised at the Great Court of the British Museum, offering a variety of activities for families. The event is free, and it is on from 11 am until 4.30 pm. If previous years are anything to go by, this should be a day to remember.

SOAS Book Launch

We arrived in London last Tuesday for the promotion of the book.

Here's the info on the first event next Monday.

Sofia A. Koutlaki author of
Among the Iranians - A Guide to Iran 's Culture and Customs will be giving a talk and signing copies of her book
at 7pm on 22nd March 2010 in Room B202, Brunei Gallery Building , SOAS, Thornhaugh Street (nearest tube station Russell Square)

Admission Free – All Welcome
For further information: T 020 7239 0360 E

I hope to see many of you there, and Happy New Year!

Monday, 8 March 2010

New Year Preparations

The whole of the country is now in the grip of pre-Nowruz fever in anticipation of the beginning of the New Year. This is the highlight of the year for all Iranians, who prepare for it in various ways: externally by spring-cleaning and refurbishing their homes and shops and buying new clothes and shoes and internally, by settling old scores, making friends with those they may have differences and resolving to improve aspects of their lives in the new year.

Shops are extremely busy, especially in the afternoons and weekends, and some of them remain open round the clock in the last weeks of the year.

The exact moment of the transition from the old to the new year is the result of precise astronomical calculation: Saturday 20 March, 21:02:13 Iran time, 18:32:47 GMT.

This is an extract from Among the Iranians: A Guide to Iran’s Customs and Culture, (to be released in the UK on 25 March and in the US on 1 April):

“About ten days before the New Year the women of the family soak lentils or wheat until they sprout. Then they spread them on a plate and cover them with a piece of gauze which is kept moist. Until New Year day the sprouts have grown to a height of about ten centimetres, when they are tied around with a red ribbon and become one of the main items, the sabzeh, on the New Year spread.”
When Hossein’s parents were still with us, all their children and grandchildren arrived at their house just before the change of the New Year. Maman jun put an embroidered piece of fabric on the floor in the middle of the room and laid the New Year spread on it, every object from the natural world an anchor of an abstract ideal. She put her wedding mirror and candlesticks for purity, light and joy in the New Year, took out one of her goldfish from the pool and brought it in a bowl to represent freshness and got her grandchildren to decorate some eggs in a symbolism of new life. In keeping with tradition, she had to have seven items whose names begin with the letter “s” in Persian: sabzeh (green herbs), serkeh (vinegar), seer (garlic), seeb (apple), samanou (a paste similar to halva made of germinated wheat), somaq (sumac, a sour spice used in kebab dishes) and senjed (dried lotus fruit) or sombol (hyacinth flower).

Although Nowruz is not an Islamic feast and it is celebrated by Iranians of every religion, its celebration has been fused in the Iranian psyche with the worship of the one God and Islam, so most Iranian Muslims also place the Holy Quran on the New Year spread too and read a special supplication (Du’â Sâl-e No) in Arabic.”

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Bookshop Event

Among the Iranians: A Guide to Iran's Customs and Culture will be released in the UK on 25 March.

A number of events are being organised by Publicity at Nicholas Brealey, and I will be posting info on them as it becomes available.

I will be giving a talk for people interested in travelling to Iran at The Travel Bookshop, 13-15 Blenheim Crescent, Notting Hill, London W11 2EE on Tuesday 30th March - 6.30pm talk starts at 7pm - tickets cost £3 - signed copies of the book, Among the Iranians, A Guide to Iran 's Customs and Culture, will be available.

For more information and to buy tickets, please contact The Travel Bookshop:, and click on Events and Talks, or ring them on 02072295260

I look forward to seeing you there.