Category Archives: Middle East

The Kindness That Kills — Adventures in Middle Eastern Hospitality 1970

As soon as I came out of my office I saw him at the end of the hall. He was standing at the elevator, waiting, waiting for me, I knew. I stepped quickly back into my office and closed the door before he had a chance to turn and wave. I waited ten minutes and […]

New Takes in Old Damascus 1982

We have crossed in from the Mediterranean at Latakia, taken a wide arcing turn south and are now slowly descending over the tan steppe into mankind’s favorite oasis. And at what appear to be an hour before schedule, if schedule is the proper word for anything gliding, tumbling, stumbling or crawling into the Syrian Arab […]

The Feast of St. Joseph 1975

“Angelica. Angelica Henlein,” Kessler shouted over the phone. I was standing at a public phone in the Beirut airport. I was astonished that the phone worked, that I had the right Lebanese coins, and even more astonished that when I dialed my old friend and guide Heinz Kessler in Beirut, he simply picked up the […]

A Dig at Heraqleh 1979

Father Flanagan, the cleric portrayed by Spencer Tracer in “Boystown,” reportedly said that there was no such thing as a bad boy. I don’t know about boys, being one myself even at this advanced age, but I know a lot about ideas since I’ve had a few, and I can attest that there are assuredly […]

Up on the Heights 1974

A highway runs straight down the spine of Syria: Aleppo, Damascus, Dera’a. From Aleppo it wriggles crookedly northwest to the Turkish frontier; from Dera’a it drops quickly southward into Jordan. On its descent from Damascus the highway divides some of the most fertile land in the Middle East, a carpet of rich red earth that […]

I Think I’ll Pass on the Bulgarian Monastery 2012

I am sitting, this late November day in 2012, beside a pool in the Ritz-Carlton in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Yesterday, before I left New York, I received a phone call from my first wife. I almost didn’t pick up when the ID flashed, but since this was her first call in 40 years, I […]

Ma nuit chez les badu 1977

Every Syrian I have ever met, and you can throw the Jordanians, Iraqis and Saudis in there too, has claimed that his family was badu, Bedouin, and not all that far back either. It’s an ancient boast and has to do with, among other things, the belief that it was the Bedouin who spoke the […]

Busra–Once Sham 1972

From Suweida on the western side of the Jebel Druze the black asphalt road from Damascus heads due south along the slope line of the mountain and then slowly descends back onto the plain at the southwest corner of the Jebel. The plain, like the mountain behind us, was now black, but here and there […]

At the Tomb of the Prophet 1988

It’s 5 A.M. in Jedda when I touch down. The atmosphere here beside the Red Sea feels like the inside of a sauna, fiercely hot and dripping damp. I struggle through customs and look about for my guide. No foreigner wanders the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia unaccompanied, Zayd al-Badawi, my former tutor, philosopher and guide […]