Author Archives: francishobson

Trumpeter: Iran and the West

For close to two and a half thousand years, Iran has been a great nation. Five empires, from the Medians to the Safavids have risen and fallen, at their height stretching from Libya to Eastern Europe to India. It is telling that though Arab armies dominated a strip of land from west Africa to the Indonesian archipelago, Iran has never long been ruled, aside from by the brief Mongol occupation, keeping its own language, Farsi, and its own Shi’ite form of Islam. Iran is a fiercely independent Nation; it remained a truly independent country until the Shia safavids fell and the new powers of Britain and Russia began imperial jockeying for power. For a long period Iran ceased to be a real state, becoming a theatre in which European, and later American, proxies (political parties, militias and kings) could vie for power, trade and influence. Iran proves that there are few things more troubled than a great nation fallen. Pride is a hard thing for people to let go of.

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Frank’s Travels: Sidi Ifni to Laayoune

So, there I was, in the back of a van uncomfortably spluttering its way toward Sidi Ifni with six Moroccans and an Australian backpacker called Pete. We sat nervously perched on side benches, the windows were blacked out but shafts of light cut the must from the driver’s cabin. It had the air of a troop truck, busing its uncomfortable passengers to the impending front. We arrived in a town that did little to undo this apocalyptic sensation; it felt like it had been abandoned in the wake of a gas attack.

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Frank’s Travels: Roof Tops And Rent Boys

If you have ever seen cattle hounded, bewildered through through the steel gates of a market, you may be able to better envisage my second arrival in Marrakesh. Easter holidays in Spain and France had begun and the hotels had filled themselves with droves of holidaying tourists (I, of course rather snottily, view myself as not a part of this ogling rabble, but instead label myself a “traveler”). My advances toward establishments were met with uniform and numerable “complets.” It was one of those occasions when even the most pioneering attempt at appearing not to be worried or confused fails. With failure came a good dozen (why do I say good? none were good.) rather unappealing offers of, among other things, rooms. Two of these included “girls” in the equation, given later events this would have been a favorable prospect. Continue reading

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Frank’s Travels: The Storm Before The Calm

Still reeling from physical meltdown but not willing to spend any more time enduring the now frozen hustle of Fes, I continued south. I missed the sea, I always miss the sea; an anthropological archetype resurfacing perhaps. But anyway, before i get bogged down in another glut of verbiage periphery to the point, I shall get to it. I was tasked with finding a place to visit on the coast that was not Essaouira (I’ve already been), not Asilha (too far north) and not Agadir. It was thus that I came to be in El Jadida.

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Frank’s Travels: Cramps And Cold Sweats

It is a strange coincidence that, in this country, whenever I have been heading south I have been ill and whenever I have gone back north I have got better. Were I a superstitious man, I would take this as a sign and stop my gradual quest toward Mauritania and head back north to the welcoming arms of Chefchaouen. Being either too rational or too addled by fever to put two and two together, I continue into the ever more barren south, ever more ridden by the war being raged inside of me.

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Trumpeter: The EU – An Ode To Joy

First I would like to apologise for this being a day late – losing my baggage in a coach station outside Marrakech has consumed my time. 

I have always disliked anniversaries, feeling that if  something is good, its goodness speaks for itself flag.jpgregardless of any arbitrary landmark. So, the fact that the European Union is fifty does not matter much, what it has achieved in those years however, does; it has achieved far more than people often give it credit for. Indeed the EU may, in future generations, be seen as the most important positive development in Europe since the Enlightenment. If that process two hundred years ago spawned the ideas of individual liberty, constitutionalism and liberal democracy, few institutions have proliferated the implementation of them to quite so spectacularly as our Union.

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Frank’s Travels: “Next time, BANG, SHOT”

NEW! A Hashmark correspondent’s adventures in Morocco:

There are benefits both to traveling alone and to traveling in company. There is, however, only one way to describe the transition from one to the other: unpleasant. First comes denial. Unable to come to terms with the lack of companionship and irked by that dead end that comes directly after finishing something and discovering that you have no idea what to do next, I paced, worried and feverish. I then replaced my friends with a book, finishing “Earthly Powers” by Anthony Burgess in three days, thinking of little else in the process. Having completed that, a sense of excited acceptance came over me, gone were the days of shakes and obsessive pen chewing. This change was helped along by the reemergence of this trips buddy from Canada: Guy, with whom I share not only a language but also a propensity for making distasteful jokes about the overweight Spaniards, who have flocked here over the past few days in droves. With acceptance has come adventurousness, no longer tied down by the tepid and tame Pascoe or the fun but reclusive Duncan, I have begun taking large hikes up around the “horns” that surround this little town, jutting up from its sides like a broken bone from a leg (an analogy that will become relevant as the story continues). Continue reading


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