Middle EastResources

Background reading: The Middle East

Egyptian pyramids
Heading to the Middle East? Here’s a handy list of background reading:

Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger
Wilfred Thesiger’s record of his extraordinary [1940s] journey through the parched ‘Empty Quarter’ of Arabia.”

Children of Paradise: The Struggle for the Soul of Iran by Laura Secor
Will stand as a classic of political reporting; an indelible portrait of a nation and its people striving for change. [Iran]

Chronicle of a Last Summer: A Novel of Egypt by Yasmine El Rashi
“A young Egyptian woman chronicles her personal and political coming of age in this debut novel.” [Egypt]

Circling the Square: Stories from the Egyptian Revolution by Wendell Steavenson
“The extraordinary story of the recent Egyptian Revolution as experienced by Cairo’s citizens.” [Egypt]

Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell: Adventurer, Adviser to Kings, Ally of Lawrence of Arabia by Janet Wallach
Gertrude Bell emerges at last in her own right as a vital player on the stage of modern history, and as a woman whose life was both a heartbreaking story and a grand adventure.

Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman’s Skiff by Rosemary Mahoney
“[The author] was determined to take a solo trip down the Egyptian Nile in a small boat, even though civil unrest and vexing local traditions conspired to create obstacles every step of the way.” [Egypt]

Dubai: The Story Of The Worlds Fastest City by Jim Krane
In the 1950s, Dubai’s population of a few thousand scraped a living in a near waterless desert by picking dates, diving for pearls, or sailing in wooden dhows to trade with Iran and India. [United Arab Emirates]

Eating the Flowers of Paradise: One Man’s Journey Through Ethiopia and Yemen by Kevin Rushby
Ethiopia in Eastern Africa and Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula remain two of the most inviting outposts for travelers seeking the exotic. [Yemen]

The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux
[This] strange, unique, and hugely entertaining railway odyssey has become a modern classic of travel literature.” [Europe, Asia, Middle East]

A History of the Middle East by Peter Mansfield
“Essential reading for anyone wishing to understand what is perhaps the most crucial and volatile nerve center of the modern world.

Mother Without a Mask: A Westerner’s Story of Her Arab Family by Patricia Holton
Provides a fascinating and very human insight into the lives of Middle Eastern women who are so often out of sight, particularly from Western eyes.” [United Arab Emirates]

My Michael by Amos Oz
Haunted by her dreams of two boys who disappeared from Jerusalem after the establishment of the state of Israel, Hannah gradually withdraws from her husband into a private world of fantasy and suppressed desires. [Israel]

The Places in Between by Rory Stewart
In January 2002 Rory Stewart walked across Afghanistan-surviving by his wits, his knowledge of Persian dialects and Muslim customs, and the kindness of strangers. [Afghanistan]

The Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron
“In 1933 the delightfully eccentric Robert Byron set out on a journey through the Middle East via Beirut, Jerusalem, Baghdad and Tehran to Oxiana.”

A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby
“No mountaineer, Newby set out with a friend to explore the formidable peaks of the Nuristan Mountains in northeast Afghanistan.” [Afghanistan]

Suslov’s Daughter by Habib Abdulrab Sarori, translator: Elisabeth Jaquette
Set against the backdrop of Yemeni history, [the author’s] Arabic Booker long-listed novel traces one man’s lifelong search for love and his own political ideology. [Yemen]

The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq by Emma Sky
An intimate insider’s portrait of how and why the Iraq adventure failed and contains a unique analysis of the course of the war.” [Iraq]