Travel is a humbling experience, say eminent writers at SIBF 2022

Travel is a humbling experience, say eminent writers at SIBF 2022

Writer Pico Iyer and historian Dr. Hamad bin Saray dissect the value of both adventure and stillness in enhancing our world views   

Sharjah, November 11, 2022

“Travel is the way to discover other people and cultures and it is through that journey that we come to respect, understand and appreciate our differences,” said two respected authors during a stimulating conversation at the 41st Sharjah International Book Fair at Expo Centre Sharjah.

British-Indian novelist Pico Iyer and Dr. Hamad bin Saray,  an eminent Emirati writer of history, heritage and travel, recounted some of their interesting experiences and encounters, from different perspectives.

Iyer highlighted the importance of travel and novel experiences in the modern world which enables us to see different places through the internet. “It is only by encountering something first hand that you can capture its nuances and  complexities. Getting the world through screens is actually a distortion, a simplification. We have the world at our fingertips, but we know so little about our neighbours now,” noted Iyer.  

He added: “In our grandparents’ days, we were aware that we knew very little about the world. But today, we have the illusion of knowledge, which can be more dangerous.”  

Dr. Bin Saray pointed out that learning ancient languages could help understand the world and help us communicate better. The historian and linguist who can read varied languages such as Aramaic, Syriac, Palmyrian, Latin and Greek, said: “If you start reading old inscriptions, you start seeing the world from the point of view of those people who wrote them.”

He also highlighted the Gulf region’s ancient relationship and trade routes with India. “One of the most important trade routes went from Mesopotamia through the Gulf to India and back. There is a magic about India and our long and ancient relationship with the country, through the exchange of goods and knowledge,” said the eminent writer.

Iyer, an acclaimed travel writer, observed that in the fast-paced digital age, it is imperative to go back to being slow and still. “It is a journey that we can take only within ourselves,” he said. “I wrote The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere that touches on this overlooked aspect of travel. The faster the world goes, the more important it is to be slow.”

Both writers agreed that travel can inculcate deeper values in us. “Travel humbles us because we realise how little we know about each other. But I’m all for sitting at home and reading, which is also a wonderful way of travelling around the world,” concluded Iyer.


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