Hello Dubai: Skiing, Sand and Shopping in the World’s Weirdest City by Joe Bennett

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Boom town, modern marvel, commercial hub, where middle-east meets wealthy west, playground for tourists, crawling with ex-pats, built by Indians, owned by Arabs, Dubai has risen from next to nothing to an awful lot in little more than thirty years. How? And can it go on? Has it sold itself to the corporate dollar? Is it anything more than a mall in the desert? Will the sands return? Joe Bennett goes to find out.

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A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby

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A classic of travel writing, ‘A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush’ is Eric Newby’s iconic account of his journey through one of the most remote and beautiful wildernesses on earth.
It was 1956, and Eric Newby was earning an improbable living in the chaotic family business of London haute couture. Pining for adventure, Newby sent his friend Hugh Carless the now-famous cable – CAN YOU TRAVEL NURISTAN JUNE? – setting in motion a legendary journey from Mayfair to Afghanistan, and the mountains of the Hindu Kush, north-east of Kabul. Inexperienced and ill prepared (their preparations involved nothing more than some tips from a Welsh waitress), the amateurish rogues embark on a month of adventure and hardship in one of the most beautiful wildernesses on earth – a journey that adventurers with more experience and sense may never have undertaken. With good humour, sharp wit and keen observation, the charming narrative style of ‘A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush’ would soon crystallise Newby’s reputation as one of the greatest travel writers of all time.
One of the greatest travel classics from one of Britain’s best-loved travel writers, this edition includes new photographs, an epilogue from Newby’s travelling companion, Hugh Carless, and a prologue from one of Newby’s greatest proponents, Evelyn Waugh.

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Inside the Kingdom by Robert Lacey

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Saudi Arabia is a country defined by paradox: it sits atop some of the richest oil deposits in the world, and yet the country’s roiling disaffection produced sixteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers. It is a modern state, driven by contemporary technology, and yet its powerful religious establishment would have its customs and practices rolled back to match those of the Prophet Muhammed over a thousand years ago. In a world where events in the Middle East continue to have geopolitical consequences far beyond the region’s boundaries, an understanding of this complex nation is essential.
With Inside the Kingdom, British journalist and bestselling author Robert Lacey has given us one of the most penetrating and insightful looks at Saudi Arabia ever produced. More than twenty years after he first moved to the country to write about the Saudis at the end of the oil boom, Lacey has returned to find out how the consequences of the boom produced a society at war with itself.
Filled with stories told by a broad range of Saudis, from high princes and ambassadors to men and women on the street, Inside the Kingdom is in many ways the story of the Saudis in their own words.

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Elvis Is Titanic: Classroom Tales From The Other Iraq by Ian Klaus

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In the spring of 2005, Ian Klaus, a twenty-six-year-old Rhodes Scholar, traveled eight hours from Turkey, via broken-down taxi and armed convoy, to reach Salahaddin University in Arbil, the largest city in Iraqi Kurdistan. Elvis Is Titanic is the poignant, funny, and eye-opening story of the semester he spent there teaching U.S. history and English in the thick of the war for hearts and minds.
Inspired by the volunteerism of so many young Americans after 9/11, Klaus exchanges the abstraction of duty for an intimate involvement with individual lives, among them Mahir, a rakish Kurdish pop star whose father, an imam, disapproves of music; Ali, an Anglomaniac professor of translation devoted to the BBC, with whom Klaus has a public showdown over Hemingway; and Sarhang, Klaus’s bodyguard, whose interest in American history is excited by Mel Gibson’s performance in The Patriot. Among the Kurds, a perennially oppressed but seemingly indomitable people, Klaus encounters both openhearted welcome and resentful suspicion—and soon learns firsthand how far even a trusted stranger can venture in this society. With assignments ranging from Elvis to Ellington, from the mysteries of baseball to the aperçus of Tocqueville, Klaus strives to illuminate the American way for charges initially far more attuned to our pop culture than our national ideals.
These efforts occasion Klaus’s own reexamination of truths we hold to be self-evident, as well as the less exalted cultural assumptions we have presumed to export to the rest of the world. His story, as full of hope and discovery as he finds his students, offers a slice of life behind the headlines.

Down The Nile: Alone In A Fisherman’s Skiff by Rosemary Mahoney

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When Rosemary Mahoney, in 1998, took a solo trip down the Nile in a seven-foot rowboat, she discovered modern Egypt for herself. As a rower, she faced crocodiles and testy river currents; as a female, she confronted deeply-held beliefs about foreign women while cautiously remaining open to genuine friendship; and, as a traveller, she experienced events that ranged from the humorous to the hair-raising – including an encounter that began as one of the most frightening of her life and ended as an edifying and chastening lesson in human nature and cultural misunderstanding.
Whether she’s meeting Nubians and Egyptians, or finding connections to Westerners who travelled up the Nile in earlier times – Florence Nightingale and Gustave Flaubert among them – Mahoney’s informed curiosity about the world never ceases to captivate the reader.

The Bookseller Of Kabul by Åsne Seierstad

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Two weeks after September 11th, award-winning journalist Åsne Seierstad went to Afghanistan to report on the conflict there. In the following spring she returned to live with an Afghan family for several months. For more than twenty years Sultan Khan defied the authorities – be they communist or Taliban – to supply books to the people of Kabul. He was arrested, interrogated and imprisoned by the communists and watched illiterate Taliban soldiers burn piles of his books in the street. He even resorted to hiding most of his stock in attics all over Kabul. But while Khan is passionate in his love of books and hatred of censorship, he is also a committed Muslim with strict views on family life. As an outsider, Seierstad is able to move between the private world of the women – including Khan’s two wives – and the more public lives of the men. And so we learn of proposals and marriages, suppression and abuse of power, crime and punishment. The result is a gripping and moving portrait of a family, and a clear-eyed assessment of a country struggling to free itself from history.
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Fast Times In Palestine by Pamela J. Olson

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Pamela Olson, a small town girl from eastern Oklahoma, had what she always wanted: a physics degree from Stanford University. But instead of feeling excited for what came next, she felt consumed by dread and confusion. This irresistible memoir chronicles her journey from aimless ex-bartender to Ramallah-based journalist and foreign press coordinator for a Palestinian presidential candidate.
With dizzying speed she finds herself attending Yasser Arafat’s funeral, sharing a holiday dinner with a suicide bomber’s family, tour-guiding Israeli friends around the West Bank, dating a Palestinian from a conservative Muslim village, being held at gunpoint and injured by a stun grenade, and witnessing the 2005 Disengagement from inside the Gaza Strip.
The gripping narrative focuses not only on violence, terror, and social and political upheavals but also on the daily rounds of house parties, concerts, barbecues, weddings, jokes, harvests, and romantic drama that happen in between. From idyllic olive groves to Palestinian beer gardens, from Passover in Tel Aviv to Ramadan in a Hamas village, from rooftop parties in Ramallah to militant rallies in Nablus, the book is packed with suspense, humor, and unforgettable characters. Its seamless blend of travelogue, memoir, and narrative journalism ramps the average American up to a sophisticated, multi-faceted understanding of the Israel/Palestine conflict.
Funny, gorgeous, shocking, and galvanizing, Fast Times in Palestine challenges the way we think not only about the Middle East but albout human nature and our place in the world.
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