When a major crisis like the current pandemic happens and avid travellers like myself can no longer travel, we feel grateful for the trips already taken. My last one was to Iran. I had wanted to visit for a while, but due to family and work reasons, I could never find the time that suited us all. In the spur of the moment last October, worried that tension between Iran and the US may escalate further leading to a closing of borders, I book a last minute flight to Tehran for myself and my two sons aged 14 and 12…


It was a shocking sight, one that we have not seen before and that goes against all our established ideas: white people begging in the streets of a city in Africa. It may not be politically correct to express it in those terms, but I find no other way to be so clear. We are used to seeing indigenous people begging in African cities, or homeless people in their own towns in Europe, or African migrants in the northern hemisphere, never before have we seen white people begging in Africa. I am talking about the Syrian refugees I saw in…


We have been confined for about three weeks now. A police state has been implemented with stricter movement control and more severe penalties, even if the numbers for new contamination have gone down, showing that the quarantine measures are working. On the self-certificate we have to carry with us, we now have to specify whether we have tested positive for COVID-19 or are under imposed quarantine (if we have been in contact with infected people). We can no longer move from one municipality to another under any circumstances except a major emergency. The objective is to have nobody outside anymore…


We left Rome last week to go to our house in the countryside. It was possible to do so under the conditions imposed by the Italian government since it is our domicile in Italy. When moving, we now need to carry a self-certificate to justify the reason for our move. It is allowed under four instances: work, health reason, shopping for basic goods and return to a place of residence or domicile. Even to go to the corner shop, we need to carry it with us, just like a laisser-passer in times of war.

Our house is in the middle…


Friday 13 March: a day in Rome in the time of the coronavirus

Empty street of Rome near the Church of Sant’Andrea del Valle

8h00: wake-up

8h30: get out to Forno Roscioli (750 metres away according to Google map) to buy bread, pizza and pastry, together with my son P (age 14). Only one person at a time is allowed into the shop, everyone else has to wait outside, he waits outside too.

9h00: back home for breakfast and coffee. My youngest son L (age 12) is awake, he has breakfast too.

9h30: P has to learn a poem for school. His brother L is a bit at a loose end…


Rome is in shutdown. All the shops are closed except for food markets, supermarkets and pharmacies. Bars and restaurants were ordered to shutdown on Wednesday night, and people to stay at home as much as possible.

Empty square at the Pantheon on 13 March 2020 (©D.Magada)

What is it like to live here? We limit our outings to shopping for food, which we can still find in abundance, walking dogs (if we have a dog) and the odd sanitary walk. The streets of Rome are empty, the shutters closed, the squares deserted, we can now cross Lungotevere without paying attention to the red pedestrian light, there is not a single…


First time visitors to Iceland will be in awe at the same phenomenon: it never gets dark in summer. When experienced first hand, it is rather disorientating. My personal account of it was to wake up at 3am to open the door to my co-traveller who was arriving on a later flight, and finding that it was still light outside, not a midday brightness but a soft pre-dusk luminosity. Still light enough to spend an hour outside, me standing in my pyjamas, her talking and smoking incessantly.

Midnight in Reykjavik

It was early June in Reykjavik, we were staying near the harbour, in…


In the 1970s and 80s, it was fashionable for the youth of the western world to spend months in a kibbutz during time off college. It was the communal ideal that appealed to them, the collective spirit in opposition to the competitive individualism of western societies. They wanted to reconnect with nature and be able to produce themselves the food they consumed. At the time, a kibbutz was a collective entity where members worked the land and shared the proceeds according to their needs. Private property didn’t exist.

Today, even the kibbutz have not been able to resist the global…


Tel Aviv is a good city for walking about. The pavements are wide enough to stroll at leisure, the residential buildings (even if a little run down) are surrounded by attractive gardens, the beach is never too far and the sea breeze provides some respite from the desert heat. Little is remembered today, but that was part of the masterplan when Tel Aviv was created in the 1920s. Almost a century later, life in Tel Aviv seemed pleasantly uncomplicated just as the city had been designed for, at least that was my impression as a visiting outsider. I was staying…


A major retrospective of British artist Anthony Gormley opened in September at the Royal Academy, being the first in the season of large-scale art exhibitions in London. Gormley, a mature artist with a career spanning over four decades, is best known for his outdoor installations, where man-made pieces work in harmony with the natural environment hosting them. …

Dominique Magada

Writer, author and journalist living across cultures, currently based in Rome

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