Category Archives for People


Our Genial Host

Canals, Amsterdam.

I like X immensely. He’s our host in Amsterdam, largely because I misread his advert and thought we were renting his entire flat, and in his jovial, cycling, unfazeable way, he’s about as Dutch as they come. “You know,” X remarks on our first evening, à propos of nothing in particular. “I think the person […]


On Thin Ice – Talking Child Marriage in Nepal

Ice and water in the glacier lakes at Gokyo, Nepal.

On Thin Ice Everest Base Camp the Lazy Way: Day 18 “Nir,” I open, tentatively. We are on the last-but-one night of our trek, insha’allah, sitting in the cold of the village of Phakding, where we stopped on our first day, so, if I’m going to ask Nir any personal questions, I’m going to ask […]


Old Friends and Dog Collars

Tel Aviv Museum of Art

It’s a strange and wonderful thing meeting up with a friend you haven’t seen for a while. Ten years, in this case. There’s that mild anxiety. Will we have things to talk about? Will the conversation flow? The more neurotic worries… Will we even recognise each other? (Umm, yes, obviously.) And, of course, the age […]


Gelato in Jerusalem

Gelato in Jerusalem

“Ooh,” Zac says. “Now I need to make a decision. Waffle or gelato. Waffle or gelato?” “No, you don’t,” I say. “This place does both!” We’ve been randoming around downtown Jerusalem, a place, at least in the wealthy Jewish West, that’s not short on gelato parlours (apart from anything else, it allows the kosher restaurants […]


French Conversation

Tubing in yellow ring

The resort beach at the far end of town has some rather fine windsurfing on offer, and I figured that, with the water relatively warm and the wind relatively low, here would be a good place for Z to learn.. So, of course, did Z. Until he got there, obviously. “WOW!” says Z. “Banana boats! […]


The Friday Photo: Bedouin Girl

Little Bedouin girl with her great-grandfather in a village near Petra, Jordan.

This is Anoud, 2, with her great-grandfather, Mohammed, 93, looking at a picture of him in his British Army uniform from World War II. They live with our guide Shadi and 20-or so other relatives in one of the villages to which the Jordanian government moved the Bedouin of Petra. Anoud is a happy little […]


Voices from Post-Revolutionary Egypt 7: The Working Mother


I sits with her daughter, her son and her daughter-in-law in the shade of a Nubian mudbrick dome, looking out over the expanse of Lake Nasser, created after Egypt dammed the upper reaches of the Nile. We are drinking the Egyptian hibiscus called karkade. I is in her late 40s, early 50s, and, after a […]


Voices from Post-Revolutionary Egypt 6: The Taxi Driver


We screech to a halt in heavy traffic – a car has accelerated across our path. A overtakes the other driver, blocks him in, and yells his feelings out of the window, before pulling back onto the highway at speed. Other drivers, used to this sort of thing, veer around us without hooting noticeably more […]


Voices from Post-Revolutionary Egypt 5: The Businessman


A round, amiable man, J is in his 40s, and runs a business in Dahab, Sinai. He has a small son who lives with his mother overseas: his family background is Coptic Christian, but he last attended church for his son’s christening. J laughs. “Yes!” he says. “I have been to Saudi Arabia. It’s quite […]


Voices from Post-Revolutionary Egypt 4: The Guide


S is 40, and worked as a dive master before he started guiding tourists: he was married in his 20s but it didn’t last. Compact and muscular, he wears shades, designer stubble, jeans and a T-shirt, topped, often, with a traditional Arab scarf. S taught himself English and the word “yani” punctuates his speech as […]