The Iranian Haircut Police

The Iranian Haircut Police

If you’ve got a penchant for a spiked up punk rocker head of hair or even an 80s style mullet, you may wish to take heed if hanging out in Tehran this summer and and wishing to pop in to the local barber to keep yourself in trim.

That is because The Guardian have this week reported that the authorities in Iran have banned “Homosexual” and “devil worshiping” haircuts in a move seen as somewhat of a trend where each summer they crack down on anyone donning haircuts or or clothing seen as imitations of western lifestyles.

Seen as more of a moderate leader compared to his predecessor, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has been critical of such crackdowns which are seen more of an enforcement of Islam than an implementation of the law. However the head of Iran’s barbers’ union Mostafa Govahi has threatened the revocation of licenses to any barbers who are styling their clients with such ‘banned’ looks. He has also added that barbers across Iran had been given a list of ‘appropriate hairstyles for men. And that ‘Haircuts that show symbols or signs of devil worshipers or those adopted by homosexuals are banned’ (however giving no details on what kind of style these are exactly).

So if you’re out and about in Iran this summer with any kind of nonconformist styles on the street, remember you may feel the force of the annual crackdown and be marched off to the nearest barber with their ‘approved’ list of styles!

If you want to find out more about traveling in Iran, check out our destination guide!

 

Iran is a notoriously tough place to exist freely as a homosexual. Illegal and punishable by death it ranks as a serious no-go country for any gay travelers.

 

Exploring Russia’s Ice Trains with Zay Harding

Exploring Russia's Ice Trains with Zay Harding

It’s the second leg of our Tough Trains series – we’ve tackled Bolivia with Zay Harding, travelling from Brazil’s Pantanal to the Pacific coast of Chile bringing you snapshots from some of the most beautiful terrain in South America taking in the local Llamas, the majesty of the Andes and more.

Our next stop is Russia’s Ice Trains!

Russia’s trains travel along 85,500km of track, crossing 11 time zones.  In the cold and often brutal Russian winters, these trains persist against the freezing weather, travelling into Siberia and beyond.  We travel from the capital city of Moscow and head north to Stalin’s cruellest and most ambitious project – the Rail-Road of Death – before ending on the world’s most northern railway.  With average temperatures around -20/-30 degrees and ice at every turn, there’s nothing easy about Russian trains.

Check out Zay’s photo diary taken on the road while filming Russia’s Ice Trains:

@globetrekker A quick stopover in #Moscow and I'm off to #Siberia. Should be there in 3 hours.

A quick stopover in #Moscow and I’m off to #Siberia. Should be there in 3 hours.

 

Looking over Russia's famous Trans-Siberian Railway, the longest train line in the world! #globetrekker #TSR #tyumen #siberia #russia #prettyamazing

Looking over Russia’s famous Trans-Siberian Railway, the longest train line in the world! #globetrekker #TSR #tyumen #siberia #russia #prettyamazing

 

Simple shot from out my window. I feel like I'm in an #AnselAdams picture. #GloriousDay #tyumen #siberia #russia #globetrekker

Simple shot from out my window. I feel like I’m in an #AnselAdams picture. #GloriousDay #tyumen #siberia #russia #globetrekker

 

Walkway up to the beautiful #TobolskKremlin and #StSophiaAssumptionCathedral #tobolsk #siberia #globetrekker #russia #friggincold

Walkway up to the beautiful #TobolskKremlin and #StSophiaAssumptionCathedral #tobolsk #siberia #globetrekker #russia #friggincold

 

 

@globetrekker #Tobolsk is the historical capital of #Siberia, built at the confluence of 2 rivers that stay frozen NINE months of the year! I saw MAC-TRUCKS driving across the ice today! #crazycold

#Tobolsk is the historical capital of #Siberia, built at the confluence of 2 rivers that stay frozen NINE months of the year! I saw MAC-TRUCKS driving across the ice today! #crazycold

 

 

Saw these cute homemade Siberian Cat dolls sitting in a cafe window. Almost thought they were real! #catsofinstagram #siberia #russia #craftycats

Saw these cute homemade Siberian Cat dolls sitting in a cafe window. Almost thought they were real! #catsofinstagram #siberia #russia #craftycats

 

It just started snowing! I swear I feel like I'm in a winter wonderland dream here!

It just started snowing! I swear I feel like I’m in a winter wonderland dream here!

 

@globetrekker With special permission, after a 26 hour train ride north into the Arctic, I have arrived at one of Russia's biggest gas fields. It is WAY colder than it looks here! #toughtrains #russia #crazycold

With special permission, after a 26 hour train ride north into the Arctic, I have arrived at one of Russia’s biggest gas fields. It is WAY colder than it looks here! #toughtrains #russia #crazycold

 

Back in the 1960's this was the very site that the first exploratory drilling hole struck an OCEAN of GAS!!! Still today, 90% of Russia's gas supply comes from this finding. #globetrekker #toughtrains #gasfields #russia

Back in the 1960’s this was the very site that the first exploratory drilling hole struck an OCEAN of GAS!!! Still today, 90% of Russia’s gas supply comes from this finding. #globetrekker #toughtrains #gasfields #russia

 

Snow plow trains run 24/7 so passenger trains such as this one can run regardless the extreme weather. BTW, it's -20 C (-4 F). No problem! #globetrekker #toughtrains #russia #crazycold

Snow plow trains run 24/7 so passenger trains such as this one can run regardless the extreme weather. BTW, it’s -20 C (-4 F). No problem! #globetrekker #toughtrains #russia #crazycold

 

The Venice Carnival: Ten Experiences Not to Be Missed

The Venice Carnival: Ten Experiences Not to Be Missed

To one side of you stands a cloaked man, cheering jovially, to the other a woman resplendent in sequins and satins and feathers, dancing to the beat of the music; and beyond – thousands of similarly masked revellers. Where are you? Venice, of course, at its most vibrant and theatrical and romantic of world carnivals.  Author and seasoned reveller – Hannah Fielding shares her top ten Carnival experiences to add to your ‘must do’ list.

Top Tips for Venice Carnival

  1. Book tickets for one of the many Carnival balls – with themes from burlesque to masquerade to enchantment, there’s a party to suit all tastes.
  2. Visit Ca’ Macana, the shop of the best mask maker in Venice. All masks are handmade, and the artistry is exquisite. Buy for yourself one of the classic Carnival masks, such as the Colombina or the Bauta.
  3. Sample a Carnival speciality from one of the street vendors whose wares perfume the air such to make your stomach rumble. The cakes are divine, especially the warm and sweet frittelle Veneziane filled with zabaione cream.
  4. Watch a local beauty pageant winner zip-wire from the Campanile bell tower in the traditional Volo dell’Angelo (Flight of the Angel).
  5. Visit the Arsenale to take in a historical show, live music concerts, street artist performances and, it’s promised, ‘dancing fountains’!
  6. Head to St Mark’s Square to see the parade for the daily Best Masked Costume Competition (enter yourself, if you’re so inclined; the theme is ‘La Natura Fantastica’).
  7. Drink in the romantic atmosphere in St Mark’s Square as you watch sultry tango dancers perform on the Gran Teatro stage.
  8. Brush up on your art history with a free guided tour and talk at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection art museum. This year’s Carnival exhibition is ‘The Empire of Light’.
  9. Embrace the last vestiges of winter with ice-skating in the Campo San Polo. Costume optional!
  10. Join the throngs alongside the Grand Canal for the closing event of the Carnival: a water-borne procession of costumed Venetians on decorated boats and classic gondolas. Be sure to take a camera – this is one spectacle you’ll want to record. (more…)

Ukraine: A Martyrs Shrine in London

Ukraine: A Martyrs Shrine in London

statue-of-st-volodymyr---Ukraine---SmallWest London has a sizeable Ukrainian expatriate community . The statue of St. Volodomyr, who founded the country in the 10th century, has long been a focus for expressions of Ukrainian nationalism for expats in the British Capital. Now, with the recent and tragic killings in Kiev, it has become a ‘martyrs shrine’ with floral  tributes to those that lost  their lives growing by the day.

Ukraine, straddling Europe to the west and Russia to the east has long had a confused identity to outsiders. Witness the conflicting allegiances now being played out on the Crimean Peninsula.

One hundred and fifty years ago the peninsula was the centre of another conflict, the Crimean War, a baffling conflict, this time between Russia and Turkey, then the Ottoman Empire. The war eventually drew in outsiders, Britain and France.

The Crimea is no stranger to East West Tensions. For several centuries it was part of the Ottoman Empire.  But by the mid 19th century The Ottoman empire was in decline.  Under the pretext of exercising its right to protect all Orthodox Christians under Ottoman rule, Russia occupied the Ottoman provinces of Wallachia and Moldavia in 1853.  The Turks, counting on the support of Great Britain and France, rejected the Tsar’s offer and declared war on Russia in October, 1853.

To find out more about the Ottomans, read our study guide by notable historian Julian Davidson.

Skulls of Sacrificed Aztec Victims found in Mexico City Metro

Skulls of Sacrificed Aztec Victims found in Mexico City Metro

The skulls of three people sacrificed to the Aztec gods in Mexico City have been discovered by construction workers building a new metro line in the city.

The Aztecs who ruled the city before being toppled by Hernan Cortes and his Conquistadors in 1521, ritually sacrificed human victims on top of the great pyramid in the city which was then known as Tenochtitlan.

It appears the three skulls unearthed by workers, of two young men and a women, we’re part of a giant skull rack. Such racks, which could contain hundreds of skulls, we’re displayed as part of the sacrificial altar at the top of Aztec pyramids.  Skull racks usually displayed the severed heads of captured warriors from rival groups, who were sacrificed as an offering to the gods. Few of them have actually been excavated.

The Aztecs sacrificed humans captured in battles in the belief that they would satisfy their pantheon of gods.

Holly Morris: Why stay in Chernobyl? Because it’s home.

Holly Morris: Why stay in Chernobyl? Because it's home.

Chernobyl was the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident and, for the past 27 years, the area around the plant has been known as the Exclusion Zone. And yet, a community of about 200 people live there – almost all of them elderly women. These proud grandmas defied orders to relocate because their connection to their homeland and to their community are “forces that rival even radiation.”

Holly Morris tells the stories of these women, called the Babushkas of Chernobyl who live in  the radioactive Dead Zone surrounding Chernobyl’s Reactor No. 4. This is a community of elderly women, defiantly clinging to their ancestral homeland. While most of their neighbours have long since fled and their husbands have gradually died off, this stubborn sisterhood is hanging on — even, oddly, thriving — while trying to cultivate an existence on some of the most toxic acres on Earth. Holly first came across these resilient women while filming in Ukraine

Why they chose to live here after the disaster, defying the authorities and endangering their health, is a remarkable tale—about the pull of home, the healing power of shaping one’s destiny and the subjective nature of risk.

Inspired by the people they met in Chernobyl, especially those who have chosen to stay in the ‘Dead Zone’ despite the health warnings, Holly Morris and Director of the Ukraine show Anne Bogart have launched their campaign and brand new film venture www.thebabushkasofchernobyl.com

Watch Holly explain more about the film in this fascinating Ted Talk:

 

 

9/11 Memorial & Museum

9/11 Memorial & Museum

The new 9/11 memorial and museum on the site of the Twin Towers in New York is nearing completion.

Situated in a newly planted park in the shadow of the soon to be opened Freedom Tower, the memorial takes the form of two giant water features constructed on the site of the foundations of each tower.Water cascades down the sides of the features and then falls into darkened square chasms in the centre.

Embedded on the viewing platform railings on the perimeter of all four sides of each feature are the names of more than 3,000 victims of 9/11. Visitors are encouraged to leave flowers , notes and other mementos.

It remains unclear for now how much it will cost to enter the 9/11 museum but visitors to the 9/11 Memorial are able to for free. However, visitor passes must be reserved in advance on the website.  You can enter the Memorial and also visit a nearby museum which features accounts of 9/11 and relics which include buckled and distorted blown out aircraft cabin window frames.

National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center
One Liberty Plaza, 20th Floor
New York, NY 10006
Tel: 212.312.8800

For information about visiting, email: reservations@911memorial.org, or call 212.266.5211; TTY: 212.266.5212.
For general information, email: info@911memorial.org.

9-11-Memorial-Museum-by-Wally-G-Flickr-creative-commons

 

9-11-Memorial-by-Becksta-flickr-creative-commons

 

9-11-Memorial-by-Tara-Dulva-Flickr-Creative-Commons

 

 

National Geographic Celebrates 125 Years of Awe-Inspiring Photo-Journalism

National Geographic Celebrates 125 Years of Awe-Inspiring Photo-Journalism

“Jaw-dropping… arresting… breathtaking…” are just some of the adjectives associated with National Geographic and to celebrate 125 years in the business of visual story-telling, National Geographic has delved deep into their archives and pulled out some truly stunning photographs – some of which are instantly recognisable and other which have had a profound impact on our history.

The National Geographic Society and was launched in October 1888 as a non-profit dedicated to funding science and exploration across the planet and in 125 years the iconic brand synonymous with dramatic, impactful imagery and outstanding journalism has grown to over 60 million readers worldwide, a popular TV channel, and a website which receives a monthly footfall of 27 million visitors!

National Geographic has always been a place for firsts.  Creating the first ever photo of the night sky in the Northern Hemisphere, creating the first underwater colour photographs, and now for the first time as part of their newly designed photo-sharing platform, the magazine is inviting  all photo enthusiasts to submit photos and participate in a digital assignment for the magazine. So what are you waiting for? Get over to Your Shot for your chance to be featured!

And for those armchair enthusiasts out there, visit the Magazine’s brand new photo-blog, “Proof,” which promises to be a provocative and eclectic look at the world of National Geographic photography.

Photography is a powerful tool and form of self-expression,” said Chris Johns, editor in chief of National Geographic magazine. “Sharing what you see and experience through the camera allows you to connect, move and inspire people around the world.

We at Pilot HQ couldn’t agree more and wish 125 more years of brilliant photography from one of our favourite photographic trailblazers!

Zaynin Kanji

Postcard from Crete: No Job, No Money, No Problem!

Postcard from Crete: No Job, No Money, No Problem!

The Greeks are an entrepreneurial lot.

Despite the Global Financial Crisis (GFC ) and its supposed devastation of the Greek economy, on a recent trip to Crete I found little evidence of malaise. Despite the scarring of pretty well every public building with the graffiti of protest  (this must must be the graffiti capital of the world) I found the economy buzzing and the Greeks as eager as usual to do a deal.

Graffiti in Crete by andrew Mitchell - Flickr Creative commons

The historic harbour front at the northern city of Chania, buzzed with Friday night partying as young Cretans celebrated the end of the week. The front of house men at harbour-side  fish restaurants enthusiastically, almost aggressively, beckoned  passers-by to try the fresh catch of the day. Beware The Fish Scam. At 50 Euros a kilo the fish here is more expensive than London, Berlin or Paris. The locals say it’s because it’s fresh. Maybe it is, but at 30 Euros a portion I think I will stick to the frozen stuff.

Chania

Elsewhere, perhaps shopkeepers emphasise an underlying strain, and a hint of desperation when closing a deal.  Bargaining is  mandatory, particularly for more expensive items.  Discounts of 20 per cent or more are possible particularly when paying cash. One still gets the feeling that Cash is King here, encouraging what has always been a terrific black economy.

But the  cash machines purr away 24/7 dispensing Euros. The problems in nearby Cyprus, another Greek enclave, seem remote. The only sign of torment: getting into the banks themselves!  Multiple doors, screens and devices, protect wary bank workers who eye you suspiciously, and a little fearfully as you try to enter. “I only want to change some British  pounds“, I say, almost, apologetically.

The quality of the merchandise is higher than in the past and the variety of souvenirs  demonstrate the continuing and evolving craftsmanship and creativity of the Cretans, reflective of myriad cultural influences borne of invasion… Roman, Arab, Venetian and Turkish layered on top of their own  indigenous Hellenic and Byzantine heritage.

But this is still Greece in high summer, and the Greeks are as friendly and relaxed, and often, as chaotic, as ever. I love the complimentary restaurant desserts  and the raki, but I wish they would clear the plates from the table beforehand.  No London or New York restaurant efficiency here.

Raki and Watermelons by Estelle Broyer - Creative Commons

On our last night I treated myself and my  family to a night in a quality boutique hotel. The experience seemed to echo the state of the country: exquisite craftsmanship showcased the wondrous heritage of the building and its surroundings, just as  the hospitality and helpfulness of the staff did justice  to the originality of the complimentary breakfast with its emphasis on first class quality produce and ingredients. But when I went to bed in our beautifully  designed  and well appointed loft apartment the air conditioning didn’t work properly and I had to sleep on the floor. It was the height of summer. Something still needs to be fixed.

A T shirt in the local souvenir shop I spied on the way out of town summed it up: ” The Greek Crisis: No Job, No Money, No Problem“.

greek-crisis