An Interview with Sir Peter

This activity is based on the real story of Merhan Karimi Nasseri, who found himself unable to leave Charles de Gaulle airport in France, but became a popular subject for TV and newspaper interviews. It is a pair-work speaking, listening, reading and writing exercise for students who are at a good intermediate level or above.

David Done

Time: at least an hour.    


Merhan Karimi Nasseri, in reality, was an Iranian who arrived in Charles de Gaulle airport in France and for bureaucratic reasons, found himself unable to leave the airport, which became his home for a number of years. His nickname at the airport was ‘Sir Alfred’ because he was unfailingly polite. During his period in the airport, Merhan became a popular subject for TV and newspaper journalists who came to interview him. The story later inspired Steven Spielberg to make a movie based on his experience starring Tom Hanks: ‘The Terminal.’


  • Give the students the background story of ‘Sir Peter,’ (worksheet A).
  • Explain to the students that they are going to work in pairs. One student is a journalist, the other ‘Sir Peter’.
  • After the interview, the pair must work together to write a short article about ‘Sir Peter’.
  • The journalist has fifteen to twenty minutes to prepare questions (in note form) in order to interview Sir Peter for their magazine or paper.
  • Meanwhile, encourage Sir Peter to think about what life might be like for someone stranded at a busy airport without very much money – where would they sleep? Where would they buy food? How would they pass their time? How could they keep in touch with their friends and family? Tell them to try and be as imaginative as possible during the interview – there are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ responses. They can be as serious or light-hearted as they want.
  • Monitor the journalists, giving help, correcting and making suggestions where appropriate for some good questions for the interview.
  • Give the students a good twenty minutes to conduct the interview, at least.
  • Encourage journalists to make notes during the interview – these will be used as a basis for the article about ‘Sir Peter’.
  • Now tell the students that they have half an hour, more if you think they need it, in order to write their article about ‘Sir Peter’. This part of the activity could well be carried over to the next lesson, depending on the time available. At this stage, monitor students writing, giving help with grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc where appropriate.
  • Students read out their article to the whole class. These could then be displayed in the classroom.       

Follow-up activities

  • This activity can be extended by re-pairing the students thus allowing journalists and ‘Sir Peters’ to change place.
  • Additional writing practise could involve asking students in pairs to draft a letter from Dan to the president of Argonia, explaining his predicament and asking for help.
  • Role play: Again in pairs, ask students to imagine ‘Sir Peter’s’ first phone call from the airport to his wife Karla, waiting at home in Argonia with their seven children!
  • If you have internet access, get students to do some research on the real ‘Sir Peter’, (Merhan Karimi Nasseri), and feedback to you. There is a reference to him on Wikipedia!
  • You could also think about watching part of the movie ‘The Terminal’, (Stephen Spielberg), if you have east access to movies on dvd. Get students to critique the movie.
  • Class discussion: what would happen if all travel restrictions were lifted, thus allowing people to travel freely around the world and live wherever they wanted?
Language Level


Submitted by lukkanamam on Wed, 12/02/2009 - 04:31


To whom it may concern,

Thanks for doing such a great activity for the one who would like to practice one's English.  On my own, I really like reading and practising my comprehension a lot.  It basically helps me improve my English as well.

Have a great day,


Submitted by Federicoph on Wed, 04/20/2016 - 04:00


Hello to anyone who did this article, very good, looking forward to read more in this kind. Thank you so much, it help me in my daily teaching.

Submitted by samilehdada on Fri, 03/05/2021 - 09:26


Hello, is there an audio for this interview, please?

Submitted by Cath McLellan on Mon, 03/08/2021 - 11:53

In reply to by samilehdada


Hi Samilehdada,

There is no audio for the interview - the idea is that half the students read about Sir Peter, and then invent questions that they would like to ask him. The other half of the students pretend to be Peter, and answer the questions (they will have to use their imagination a bit). This is the interview that the students will then use to write their text.

Hope that helps,

TE Team

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