2 April 2011 20 Comments

Married to Mohammad:Marguerite van Geldermalsen’s Writing Life interview

In the southern desert of Jordan, the ancient Nabateans carved their city, Petra, out of the red-rose rock. Later the caves were home to tribes of Bedouin. And to a young backpacker from New Zealand who fell in love with a Bedouin man. Marguerite van Geldermalsen met Mohammad in the late-Seventies and for the initial […]

11 November 2010 4 Comments

Jerusalem: Just the facts

U.S. President Barack Obama criticized Israel’s plans to add 1,000 housing units to Jerusalem neighborhoods in the area of the city conquered by Israel in 1967 this week. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded that “Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Israel” and he intends to build wherever he likes. What kind of […]

11 March 2010 10 Comments

Why I love clogged Arab toilets better than Amazon Kindles

As I travel the Middle East to research my Palestinian crime novels, I love to come upon a stinking squatting-toilet, its evacuation hole bubbling with dark, sinister turds and the air strong with the scent of barely digested, unhygienically prepared lamb kebab. I adore such a khazi on sight, because no one cleaned it up […]

22 February 2010 0 Comments

Book of A Lifetime: The King Must Die

The Independent has a regular feature in which it asks authors to write about a book which changed their lives somehow. Last week the London newspaper asked me to write the piece. Here it is: In early 1999, King Hussein fell sick on his return from cancer treatment in the US. I was Middle East […]

25 June 2009 0 Comments

Stranger than zinc bars and literary fiction

Foreign correspondents are always more enthusiastic about Beirut than about Amman. Just like critics prefer “literary” fiction to crime novels. It seems to me they’re both wrong, and for the same reasons. Visiting reporters always rave about Beirut. Mainly because there’s a very un-Middle Eastern nightlife there. Zinc bars. Beautiful girls in spaghetti-strap tops beside […]

1 March 2009 0 Comments

The Middle East and the Art of Non-catastrophic Thinking

When things look bad in the Middle East, foreign correspondents and diplomats and local politicians tend to forecast every catastrophe up to — and sometimes including — the end of the world. I generally have a more relaxed approach. Why? Because of Mary Renault. I discovered Renault in a used bookstore on a rather ratty […]

20 July 2007 0 Comments

"Quick, woman, go and get the Koran!"

I have never been a religious man. Which is why I’ve always wondered why so many Palestinians want me to become Muslim. I’ve been asked, quite formally, to accept Islam on three occasions during the course of my reporting from the Middle East. Two of them I consider to have been somewhat pro forma queries […]