Arabic & the Middle East

Research, Briefings and Presentations

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This page contains a few selected essays (particularly What It’s Like To Know Arabic), and a few videos (episodes of History in the Making).

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Arabic & the Middle East

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is a tremendously diverse part of the world. While it contains numerous historic divisions there is also much that brings the peoples of the region together such as their languages and religions. In recent years the populations have embraced modernity in technology and custom, and this experience has sometimes worked well, for example in the Gulf countries, but hasn’t succeeded or has failed spectacularly in other countries like Syria and Libya.

Over 30 years I’ve witnessed and studied these huge convulsions at first hand in Arabic while living and working on the ground in many areas of the Middle East and North Africa. Much of what I’ve written in terms of reports is confidential and will never see the light of day. However you can watch and read some items that I’ve created over the years to try to explain facets of the region to outsiders.

History in the Making

My favourite series of programmes about Iraq’s history is undoubtedly ‘Making History’. They originally went out on various Iraqi and other satellite TV channels in 2009-2010. I don’t know who made the series but, from my knowledge of Middle Eastern history, I couldn’t have written these episodes better if I’d written them myself. They are entertaining and informative, with interesting guests and fascinating locations around this ancient country. I think what I like particularly about the episodes I include below is the lack of any ‘orientalist’ approach to the subjects: it’s studious, but also pragmatic and pacy. Whoever made them really knew what they were doing!

As I know most people visiting this site won’t be familiar with spoken or written Arabic, I’ve taken the opportunity to add subtitles in English. I hope you enjoy these episodes as much as I have enjoyed them.

History in the Making Episode 15

History in the Making Episode 17

History in the Making Episode 16

History in the Making Episode 18