By John Ure
John Ure has travelled with the Bedouin of the Arabian peninsular, the Moors and Tuareg of the Sahara, migratory pastoral tribes of southern Iran, and the Mongol horsemen and Tartar descendents of relevant Asia. He additionally writes of the eccentric Europeans who sought out nomads - exiles from excessive society, like girl Hester Stanhope and the Hon Jane Digby; adventurers Richard Burton and T. E. Lawrence; and, wonderful figures like Vita Sackville-West, Freya Stark and Bruce Chatwin, and oddities - a tetchy Consul Abbot in Persia, or missionary girls within the Gobi wilderness. frequently stranger than the unique peoples they visited, John Ure brings them to lifestyles with practised ability and humour.
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It was fortunate for his successors that those notebooks survived their drenching, as they served as an inspiration for later travellers. Less fortunate was his overt support o f the Bakhtiari and their II Khan, and his active involvement in their cause; this was to be an enduring factor in the suspicion o f successive Shahs o f any contact between the Bakhtiari and the British - a suspicion that was to make further contacts always difficult and sometimes impossible. S O difficult and fraught with hazard was contact with the Bakhtiari that very few British travellers (or indeed travellers from elsewhere) attempted it for most o f the rest o f the nineteenth century.
Poet, intimate friend o f Virginia Woolf, creator o f Sissinghurst gardens and wife o f Harold Nicolson. T h e idea o f travelling across southern Persia (as Iran was still known) did n o t c o m e to h e r out o f the blue. Harold Nicolson was posted to the British legation in T e h r a n and - although she firmly declined to share his diplomatic life abroad with him - she was attracted by the idea o f traversing a wild tract o f country virtually unknown to her compatriots, and seeing something o f pastoral nomadic life.
B u t having o n c e encountered the Bakhtiari, like so many o f his later compatriots, he became totally fascinated by a people to w h o m migration was a necessary way o f life. T h e twice-yearly challenge of crossing the moun tains between the coastal plains and the high summer pastures around Isfahan appealed to his sense o f challenge and adventure - even when his maps and notebooks were soaked in crossing the Karun river. It was fortunate for his successors that those notebooks survived their drenching, as they served as an inspiration for later travellers.