The man who once commented that, “Today’s media, is like a feral beast” informed us that he recognised “the importance of magazines like Enigma which have readership more varied than newspapers like the Financial Times.” Currently Special Representative of the Quartet and once Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair has travelled to all ends of the earth. And last month he paid another visit to Cairo. In this Enigma exclusive, Blair shares some of his top travel tips and most memorable jet-set experiences with Gabriela Asquith.
How often does your job take you out of the country?
Every week I find myself being taken from one side of the world to the other because of work.
How did you get away from the trials and tribulations of life while you were Prime Minister?
I usually got a chance to take a quick break and a breather. Of course unwanted attention came with the job, so the places I chose were generally (and still are) the ones where I could retreat from the eyes of the public as much as possible. The last place I went to was the sandy shores of Borneo – I love anywhere that has sunshine and privacy.
Tell us about your favourite childhood travel memories…
As a boy, my family and I used to travel a lot to the South West of France and stay in a beautiful area called Mourenx that had breathtaking views of the Pyrenées. We would take a flat for a week or so in a gorgeous French house.
What are your must have travel accessories?
It would have to be my BlackBerry, which is public enemy number one for my family while we’re on holiday. A book would be the other must have. I always have two on the go. One is always a serious book that will be about theology or religion, so currently I’m reading one about the Prophet written by a British author. For my second book, I choose between either a thriller – one of my favourite writers being Lee Child – or a P.G. Wodehouse novel. Early in my political career when I first met Michael Foot (the venerable elder of British Labour Party Politics) he told me how delighted he was to find a politician who read Wodehouse.
What are your favourite destinations to visit with your family?
Well, we go on holiday two to three times a year – a couple of weeks during the summer and a week during the winter and Easter breaks. It has to be somewhere where there’s sun, sea and sand. For that reason I like Barbados a lot, but the last few years we’ve been on holiday to the Far East. The Middle East is also top of our list and we have just ‘discovered’ Oman.
What is the most glamorous trip you have ever been on?
We went on the most fantastic safari in South Africa where we were sharing the dawn with the great cats.
If you were given the chance to live in any country of your choice, where would it be? Apart from Britain of course…
Of course Britain would be my first choice. I have also become immensely fond of the Middle East because of its culture and the warm climate and people; my dream would be to have the time to sit down and learn Arabic. Palestine is a particular attraction of mine. In addition to this I adore Africa – it has this special quality of light. I especially like Sierra Leone, which probably has the best natural beaches in the world, while Liberia and Rwanda are both undeniably beautiful. It’s great, because when I was Prime Minster I never had enough time to really get to know a country, and now I have the chance to do so. Just the other day I was in Guiyang, a rural community in China, on a climate change programme where I saw different faces of society that I would never have been able to see as Prime Minister.
Which one trip would you be willing to do all over again?
The year that Cherie and I got married, we went to Chiang Mai. I would love to go back and spend more time exploring the beaches and temples of Thailand.
Any travel disasters you’d like to share?
While I was Prime Minister, I was on a visit where I was to be met by a Guard of Honour, but during the flight there someone spilt soup all over my jacket. When I arrived in the country, one of the British Embassy officials was summoned onto the plane to greet me. Alastair Campbell had to ask him to lend me his suit, as he was the same size as me. So there we were five minutes before stepping off the plane with this official stripping off his suit for me so I could attend the ceremony suitably dressed.
Have you had much chance to tour around Egypt?
As everyone knows, my family love holidaying in Sharm El Sheikh, but I have also visited Luxor and El Gouna. I find the Egyptians charming; they are incredibly warm and friendly.