Sunday, June 08, 2008
On this day:

The Review, reviewed

This week's review has plenty to ponder over. Pankaj Mishra, in his now regular column, raises his bat to 'Joseph O'Neil's beautiful new novel Netherland', set in New York, which 'so skilfully uses cricket's particular morality to dramatise geopolitical as well as interpersonal conflicts'.

Elsewhere Jhumpa Lahiri is accused of failing 'to challenge the inadequacies of this elite America - the latent racism that underpins it - and, as a result, Unaccustomed Earth isn't a truly provocative or innovative American book'. However, the Guardian's editor in the main section lavishes her with praise.

The first volume of Amitav Ghosh's trilogy is set on a ship amidst the Opium Wars of the lat 19th century and discover the uses of a spatula mundani in Tony Horowitz's account of America post-Columbus and pre-Jamestown.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008
On this day:

Summer Time

It's June. It's raining. Radio 4's trying to convince me that olive trees are growing in the south of England. Whatever.

Saturday, May 31, 2008
On this day:

Towering Silence

I remember when my dad told me that Freddy Mercury was a Zoroastrian. In the naivety of youth I had believed them to be an extinct entity. I remember him telling me in pretty much the same breath about their highly idiosyncratic funeral rites as practiced in Mumbai, home to 50,000 of the world's 200,000 Zoroastrians. Needless to say I felt as if one of my lower limbs were being well and truly tugged.

The practice of dokhmenashini, the Zoroastrian method of handling their dead - carrying the body to the Towers of Silence, circular structures of stone, placing the corpse in the open and allowing encircling vultures to scavenge the body thus completing the cycle - is now under serious threat as the vulture population plummets due to the use of anti-inflammatory drugs in cattle!

Read more here.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008
On this day:

Nike does cricket

Monday, May 26, 2008
On this day:


The excitement cranks up another level in anicipation of the forthcoming Russian-made Genghis Khan bio-epic.

Check it out in the magic of HD here.

(Ab)original Menu

Last weekend we were treated to a meal at Behesht, an Iranian restaurant in West London. Somehow the establishment appears to have escaped scrutiny from Human Rights Watch and the UN. A cursory glance at the menu exposed a brutal practice that would embarrass even the most bigotted Australian in the Outback.

Both aubergine-based dishes on the menu, Baba Ghassan and Mirza Ghassan, were described as containing grilled Aborigine!

Monday, April 14, 2008
On this day:

The Jesus Minaret

The Jesus Minaret, Umayyad Mosque, Damascus ©Tauseef Mehrali 2008

Close Encounters

During our recent trip to Damascus we bumped into John Wreford, a freelance photographer living in the Syrian capital. His most recent project was to capture images for The Pigeon Wars of Damascus, the forthcoming title from Marius Kociejowski. An image of his also graces the frontcover of the Bradt guide to Syria.

Thursday, April 10, 2008
On this day:

Levantine Journey

Just returned from a burst of as-siyaahah wa az-ziyarah in Syria & Lebanon. The weather was beautiful (although a little on the cold side at night), the food was great (especially the street-side shawarmas) and the people wonderfully warm and welcoming. In fact we integrated so well that I was being mistaken for an Iraqi (a compliment?!) and The Digressive Mind for a Syrian!

We decided early on that our bargaining strategy in the souqs would be based on us pretending we weren’t from London but from Pakistan in a bid to drive down shopkeepers’ prices. This worked well with me creating a mythical Lahore existence for myself until we encountered an Orthodox Catholic shop owner who’d spent a month in Lahore (fortunately 12 years ago) which really put my powers of confabulation to the test.

Damascus still holds an understated charm and exudes a deeply engrained sense of history and holiness, despite the authorities' best efforts at wiping out the city's heritage (without even the pitiful Saudi excuse of ideology). Fifteen feet below today's street level lies the same earth that Persian kings, Roman legionaries and Byzantine emperors once trod upon. The Umayyad mosque typifies Damascus' absorbing of history: it was built over a Byzantine church which itself was constructed over a Roman temple to Jupiter!

We made it to Beirut too where in the southern suburbs you can order Katyusha fruit juice cocktails whilst being overlooked by portraits of Sayyed Hassan Nasrullah!

Retrace our steps here.