Addressing a full-house audience in London suburb Reading, British television personality Michael Palin told of his recent travels in Iraq as part of a UK-wide tour to promote his new documentary and book titled “Into Iraq”. With the aid of clips from his documentary and behind the scenes photographs, the 79-year-old took his audience along for an intimate recollection of his journey through the country, which began in the North, crossing the Turkish border by train, and subsequently, heading South, visiting the country’s sights of the greatest cultural and historical significance, during his 18-day trip.
Throughout, Palin expressed much surprise at what he witnessed. In particular, the unexpected positivity, observed in the happiness of the people, and day-to-day civility, despite the visible history of years of instability and war. This was at most evident when Palin showed footage from the beginning of his trip in a bombed-out suburb of Mosul, where he spoke and played with local children who had grown up among the rubble which laid since the 2003 war.
An agnostic, Palin took pride in showing the audience sites of religious significance to both Islam and Christianity. Beginning with Babylon, which, despite many artefacts being reproductions, Palin expressed surprise that the historic site had an absence of tourists. In stark contrast, “Vegas-like” were the words he described the interiors of mosque of Karbala, home to the Muslim world’s largest pilgrimages.
As his journey came to a close, he took reflections on a broad perspective on what he came to observe from the trip, and compared to his expectations. The crux was a hope for the country to define itself, as it continues to grow wealth as a result of surging oil value, and domestic political stability is done its best to be maintained, amid global instability.