Thursday, April 01, 2010

Baghdad without a Map and other Misadventures in Arabia

By Tony Horwitz

When Tony Horwitz was just starting out as a writer and reporter he went to the Middle East because he hoped he would find lots of stories to write and sell and thus earn a living. He did that but he also learned a lot in the process. And at times he hated being there yet he also found himself drawn back again and again.
Based in Egypt, Tony traveled to various places in the Middle East, observing, writing, selling stories, reporting on news-worthy events. His travels took him to Yemen where he chewed qat and drank soda pop with Yemeni men; to the Persian Gulf where shipping was being fired on by both Iran and Iraq to take a ride on a boat through the danger zone; to Baghdad where the tyrant ruled; to the Iran-Iraq war front with other reporters to view the progress of the war; to Israel, where he said he was treated the most rudely of any Middle Eastern country; to Libya to investigate Qaddafi's pharmaceutical factory that the West said was a weapons factory; to Khartoum, one of the most depressing places on Earth & to the refugee camps of Southern Sudan where the native Dinka were being driven to destruction by their Arab neighbors; to Beruit where the boat he was riding in narrowly missed being sunk a mortar shell; and to Tehran to witness the Ayatollah's funeral where he discovered that despite the Ayatollah's oppressive religious regime that has deprived people of the most basic human liberties, that the religious tyrant was a greatly beloved hero and saint to his people. The Middle East, a land of contradictions and confusion, of intemperance, intolerance, desperation and hatred.

I really enjoyed this book. After reading it, any thought or wish I ever might have had to visit anywhere in that region of the world have completely vanished. Portrayed in this book it is a dangerous place where people live by ancient, outlandish rules, and where breaking those stupid rules can result in death. Or if they are not oppressed with their ancient, male-dominated religion, they are oppressed by the tyrants they choose to rule over them and oftentimes they are oppressed by both religion and tyrants. This book certainly paints a vivid and frightening picture of life in the Middle East. Reading about it is a lot nicer than going there, it seems.

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