I’ve been going on non-stop about this book on Twitter for the past couple of days now, but I really loved it and I think it’s really an important read for anyone involved in any sphere of Middle Eastern relations, even as a navel-gazer.
MacFarquhar, who grew up in an expat compound in Libya, writes about his long experience in the region as a reporter and as someone who is constantly amused, amazed, and frustrated by movements there.
He focuses on Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon as he intersperses apt analysis of the region with his experiences over 20 years of reporting for the New York Times and other publications from Cairo, Riyadh, Beirut, and Jerusalem (although Israel is not at all the focus of this book and only comes up tangentially.)
Reading this book is like having Turkish coffee for hours with a(n amazingly Arab-speaking) friend who is both knowledgeable and amiable and has all the right contacts to give you a behind-the-scenes look at how news is made and how journalists work, as well as a broad strokes view of how politics in the region work from the outside in.
Highly recommended read that I am recalling today as I read about the matzav between Israel and Lebanon.