Middle East

Barnaby Rogerson on the making of the Middle East


Barnaby Rogerson (Photo by Tom Bunning, October 2014) The Arab conquest was a decisive event in the history of the Mediterranean, but it is also one of the least understood. Today this region is plagued by endless conflicts and proxy wars between nations that can look more similar than different to the outside observer. Its greatest internal fault line is the split between Sunni and Shia Islam —...

We are staring into the abyss


I never imaged I would see a massive crowd chanting “Gas the Jews” on the streets of Sydney. Or the leader of an academic union representing sessional faculty at McMaster University — CUPE Local 3906 — celebrating the largest massacre of Jewish people since the Holocaust, and then doubling down on it in the face of criticism.  If you’re a member of that union, the very least you can do is...

There is no moral equivalence for atrocity


I try to avoid politics on my blog. My focus is travel, culture and books. But I’m unable to tear myself away from the scenes of barbarity making their way out of Israel through Twitter, and sites like Bari Weiss’s Free Press substack. There’s one video I can’t get out of my head.  A young girl is yanked by her hair from the back of a Jeep by a man with a pistol who shouts “God is great”...

Rebecca Lowe: Cycling through the Middle East’s fractured mosaic


Rebecca Lowe In 2015, Rebecca Lowe set out on a year long cycling trip from London to Tehran, passing through the Balkans, the Levant and North Africa, crossing over to the Arabian Peninsula and ending in Iran. The Syrian civil war was raging, and Western newspapers were filed with stories of conflict and crisis, the sort of images that have come to dominate our impressions of the region we’ve...

Palmyra — Syria’s Desert Treasure


Palmyra sits far out in the desert, an oasis within what is now the war torn country of Syria. When I went there in 2009 it was a rather forlorn place: a town of date palm plantations existing on the margins of the known world. But from the 1st to 2nd century, this desert oasis stood at the crossroads of civilizations, and the traces which remained preserved an art, architecture and religion...

Is This The World’s Stupidest Hobby?


Have you ever dreamed of living in the middle of an artillery firing range? Then Malta in summer is for you. Whereas the military might lob a few shells over for a couple hours a week, here you can be treated to a nonstop bombardment, varying in intensity between dull monotony to cataclysmic barrage, with a brief break between about 1am and 8am. I can still recall my first experience with the...

Bet You Didn’t Know THAT About Camels!


I’ve done a number of expeditions by camel — both dromedary and Bactrian. And I like to think I’m fairly well read in the lore of this noble beast. Well, I learned a pile of new camel facts yesterday when I cracked open the cover of Camel by Robert Irwin. This is a fascinating read for anyone who is the least bit curious about the natural world. Irwin doesn’t just discuss the camel’s unique...

Days Between Mirages


Certain skies have the power to sharpen eyesight. It is the map maker who actually creates the world, and in a landscape devoid of features, cartography turns inward. Far below the walls of Dier Mar Moussa, the sands stretched out like a hazy veil beyond the perpetual present; beyond even remembering. Such a landscape brought to mind the Temptations of St. Anthony. Exiled voices. Delirious days...


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