In March 2022, Michael travelled the length of the River Tigris through Iraq to get a sense of what life is like in a region of the world that once formed the cradle of civilisation, but that in recent times has witnessed turmoil and appalling bloodshed. It was a journey of sharp, often brutal contrasts. At one moment he would be exploring the old streets of Baghdad or the ancient ruins of Babylon. At the next he would be visiting the war-torn city of Mosul, or learning about the horrific Speicher massacre in Tikrit. Now he shares the journal he meticulously kept during his trip, in which he describes the very varied places he visited, the people he met and the impressions he formed of a country that few outsiders now venture to see.
‘For much of my lifetime Iraq has been a symbol of war and destruction. Now that a tentative peace has broken out I wanted to see what happens to a country waking from a nightmare, in a land on which the first cities in the world were built. Not only was it my first time there, it was the first time I’d seen such damage and such resilience side by side. So much desperation and so much hope. I’ve never been in circumstances quite like it in all my life. Going into Iraq was, in the best sense of the word, an eye-opener.’ – Michael Palin