Sunday Driver at the Friday Mosque, The Road to Oxiana Revisited: A Book Proposal

“Five men left a West-end hotel last night on a secret expedition. It may prove to be the most romantic expedition ever undertaken.” — Daily Express, London, 1934

Sunday Driver at the Friday Mosque is an article that will document my travels from Jerusalem to Mazar-i-Sherif, Afghanistan, passing through Syria, Iraq and Iran. This journey is the re-tracing of a journey originally undertaken in 1934 by Robert Byron and Christopher Sykes. That journey resulted in the travel classic, “The Road To Oxiana.”

This trip will providing an exciting travel narrative through countries that have become extraordinarily important in the last years, including information on how the Iran-Iraq war, Iran’s religious revolution, Iraq’s invasion by the U.S., Afghanistan’s fight to expel the Soviets and its subsequent internecine struggles and invasion by the U.S. have effected the people involved, the United States, and some of the most important historical remains in the Middle East.

The original journey was supposed to have been taken in an experimental charcoal-burning motor car. Unfortunately, the car did not show up in time due to mechanical problems. The present-day travelers will attempt to approximate the spirit of the intended journey by traveling in the 21st century equivalent of the charcoal-burner, a DaimlerChrysler Necar 5 hydrogen fuel cell car.

Although the account of the new journey will comment on the historical and literary ground covered in “The Road To Oxiana”, it will, in fact, be a totally different journey, in a different time, undertaken by different people. Current issues and concerns will be the core of the article. It will provide an opportunity for a big picture of the Middle East. What precisely is happening in each of the areas? How do the people involved deal with their circumstances? What is the human story? The military and strategic story? The cultural one?

This is a journey in which the hardships and potential for discovery equal, perhaps surpass, the original. The current journey will pass through still-uneasy Lebanon, with its Syrian, Druze, native Christian and Muslim combatants still in occasional conflict, into Iraq, where the war and occupation are keeping the citizens of this ancient place on edge, into a newly reawakening and newly threatened Iran and into the still active theatre of Afghanistan. Each place ancient and modern, fascinating in its ruins and its ruination, its history and its history-in-the-making.

In addition to a modern geopolitical survey, the scientific and cultural value of the mission will be a painstaking cataloguing — both written and photographic — of the ruins originally commented on by Byron. What is still standing? What condition are they in? Where, exactly, are they located? The last question will be answered more exactly than previously possible using a global positioning system (GPS).

Enclosed is a detailed itinerary that indicates the scope and vision of Sunday Driver at the Friday Mosque.


This itinerary describes the intended journey. It may not be possible or desirable to stop at each location. The conditions of conflict and the political situation may occasion changes of route. At other times circumstances my require us to stop at places not on the itinerary for food, supplies or rest. However, this document is as faithful a guide as possible to our intended route.




Beirut (Beyrouth)

Baalbek – Six Columns, etc. [Heliopolis]


Damascus (Dimashq) – Ummayad Mosque


Baghdad – Ur, Arch of Ctesiphon

Khanikin (Hanaqin)


Kasr-I-Shirin (Qasr-e Sirin)

Karind (Karend)

Kirmanshah (Bakhtaran)

Tak-I-Bostan (Taq-e Bostan) – grottoes

Bisitun (Bisotun) – cuneiform inscription

Kangovar (Kangavar) – Gumbad-I-Alaviyan Seljuk mausoleum [tombs of Esther and Avicenna]


Tehran — Gulistan

Ray (Reyy) – grave tower

Veramin (Varamin) – grave tower, mosque

Gulhek (Galanduk?)



[Bandar-e Anzali]


Kazvin (Qazvin)

Sultaniya (Soltaniye) – mosque

Zinjan (Zanjan)

Miana (Miyane)

Tabriz – bazaars, Blue Mosque, the Ark / the Citadel

Maragha (Marage) – grave of the Mother of Hulagu

Tasr Kand (?, a few miles from Maragha) – Rasatkhana, 12th century tower

Saoma (?, on towards Miana)

Kala Julk (?, further on)

Saraskand (?, further)

Dash Bulagh (?, further)

Ak Bulagh or (?, near Miana)

Miana (Miyane)

Zinjan (Zanjan)


Ayn Varzan (Sarbandan?)

Firuzkuh / Amiriya

Samnan (Semnan)

Damghan (Damgan) – grave towers, Tarikgh Khana mosque

Shahrud (Sahrud)

Gumbad-I-Kabus (Gondbad-e Qabus) – tower of Kabus, “Alexander’s Wall”


Sabzevar – minaret of Khosrugird

Nishapur (Nesapur) – [home of Omar Khayam]

Kadam Gah (Qadamgah) – shrine of the Imam Riza

Meshed (Mashad) – tombs of Harun Al Rashid and Imam Riza

Sengbest (Sangbast) – mausoleum and minaret

Tus – mausoleum

Turbat-I-Sheikh Jam (Turbat-e Gam)



Tayabad (Tayebad)


Islamkillah (Eslam Qale)

Herat – Musalla minarets and mausoleum, Citadel of Ikhtiar-ad-Din, Gazar Gah resort, Takht-I-Safar gardens, Friday mosque

Karokh (Karuh)

Pala Piri – tomb of Seikh-al-Islam

Laman (?, A76 north between Karohk and “Morgab”)

Kala Nao (Morgab?)


Bala Murghab (Morgab)

Maimena (Maimana)

Faizabad (?, on the road to Andkhoi)

Andkhoi (Andhoy)

Khoja Duka (?, on road to Akcha) – Shibargan castle

Akcha (Aqce)

Balkh (Balh) – ruins

Mazar-I-Sherif (Mazar-e Sarif)- shrine of Ali

Tashkurgan (Hulm / Tasqorgan)

Khanabad (?, on road to Kunduz, Hanabad?)


[Sir Han – Oxus River / Amu Darya / Jihun – Hazrat Imam, hot springs at Chayab, Chitral road through the Durah pass]


Bamian (Bamyan) – Buddhas in cliff gallery

Shibar (Sibar)

Charikar (Carikar)

Kabul – Dar-al-Aman & Paghman

Ghazni (Gazni) – Towers of Victory, tomb of Sultan Mahmud

Kabul [from here Byron & Sykes are out via the Khyber and Peshwar]




[Meshed to Tehran on highway #6]

Kum (Qom) – shrine

Delijan (Deligan)

Isfahan (Esfahan) – Chihil Sutun, Maidan, Friday mosque

Julfa (across river from Isfahan) – Armenian cathedral

Abadeh (Abade)

Yezd (Yazd) – Friday mosque

{Kirman (Kerman), Jabal-I-Sang, Friday mosque, College of Ganj-I-Ali Khan, Kuba-I-Sabz}

{Mahun (Mahan) – Shrine of Niamatullah}

Abadeh (Abade)

Pasargadae (Pasargad) – Cyrus’ palace

Tahr-e Garnsid – Persepolis

Shiraz (Siraaz) -Friday mosque, College, Khatum, Hafiz & Saadi gardens with poets tomb


Firuzabad – Kala-I-Dukhtar & Kala-I-Pisa, Ardeshir’s palace, Sassanian tower



Shiraz (Siraaz)

Kazerun – Shapur

Bahramabad (?, on road)

[Return route through – Cenar-e Sahigan; Masiri; Ahvaz; Dezful; Pol-e Dahtar; Eslamabad-e Garb; Sar-e Pol-e Zahab; Qasr-e Sirin]


[Return route through Baquba; Bagdad; Ramadi / Dulaim; Rutba]


[Return route through Dumayr; Damascus (Dimashq); Dimas]


[Return route through Chtaura; Beirut (Beyrouth)]

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  1. Lee says:

    Dear Curt,
    If you ever write this article, or book, please let me know. I would really like to get it. If you post it somewhere online, please tell me.
    With care,

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