In July 2015, Rebecca Lowe left her London flat on an adventure and a mission. Slowly but surely, she was pedalling towards Tehran on an 11,000km cycle across continents and cultures.
And, on Wednesday, September 19, Rebecca, a senior London-based journalist with a passion for the Middle East, will be speaking in Edinburgh about this trip as part of the RSGS Inspiring People talks programme.
Rebecca’s pedal against prejudice took place in the wake of the Arab Spring, lasting just over a year. But the trip was never designed to be a feat of athleticism or stamina; instead, Rebecca wanted to shed light on what she deemed a highly misunderstood and misrepresented area of our world. In her own words, Rebecca had embarked on a classic bummel – a meandering, wayward and sluggishly satisfying trip.
As a journalist who specialises in covering stories on the Middle East, refugees and human rights, Rebecca was – and remains – frustrated by the political legitimacy prescribed to Islamophobia, as well as the increasing fear and mistrust between East and West.
With her journey, she therefore wanted to get under the skin of the Middle East, understand the real people and stories of the region, and discover the true colour and warmth that abounds in this misjudged part of the world.
On the rationale for the trip, Rebecca said: “For the most part, it is a fear based on ignorance and misunderstanding, fuelled by the media and politicians.
“Countries in the Middle East are far from the volatile hub of fanaticism and terror many believe. They are deeply complex, diverse and rich with contradiction – and generally extremely friendly towards visitors, with a strong culture of hospitality.
“My hope for this trip was to foster a fuller, more nuanced understanding of the region by telling the stories of the ordinary people who live there – the 99.9 per cent rather than the tiny vocal minority we read about every day. The people who often live in difficult conditions under authoritarian regimes, but who wish for nothing more but to live normal, peaceful lives.”
Speaking about the upcoming talk, chief executive of the RSGS, Mike Robinson said: “I hope her amusing and heart-warming tales inspire the audience to leave their front door and embark on an eye-opening and life-changing adventure of their own.”
Rebecca will be speaking at the David Hume Tower (LTB), University of Edinburgh, George Square, Edinburgh, on Wednesday , September 19, at 2.15pm. Tickets will be available on the door or online via Eventbrite until noon the day before. See rsgs.org/events for links and further details.
The RSGS Inspiring People talks are produced in partnership with Tiso, the outdoor retailer.