Travel
Going After Bergdahl

Going After Bergdahl

For those of you not familiar with Vietnam veteran Tim O’Brien’s 1978 novel Going After Cacciato I have two pieces of advice. Firstly, locate a copy and read it. It is as good and insightful a book on war as his better known The Things They Carried. Secondly, be prepared to find in Cacciato more than a faint echo of Bowe Bergdahl, the missing US soldier traded this week for five Taliban figures after going missing in action half a decade ago. More»

Farewell to Café Aleppo

Farewell to Café Aleppo

“So how are you leaving Armenia?” Levon asked, with a smile. After six months in Yerevan, I was soon to return home. I regretted my decision. Levon, the composite character of Syrian-Armenian refugee and kebab stall owner I had come to know during my stay, was arranging triangular Khachapuri, Georgian cheese pastries, on a baking tray. When tessellated, he grinned at his handywork, then up at me. More»

Armenia for Handsets

Armenia for Handsets

Du kap unes! (You’re in touch!) So read the adverts for Armenia’s VivaCell-MTS telephone network, one of the country’s major mobile providers. Telecommunications in the south Caucasus republic are dominated by Russian firms MTS and Beeline, which were joined in 2009 by France’s Orange. All three companies have impressive network ranges, shown in their offices as bright red arteries winding through relief maps, from Vanadzor all the way to Meghri. More»

The Mayor of Gosh

The Mayor of Gosh

The tourist season had long since left Gosh. It packed its souvenirs and memories and returned to Yerevan, squeezed into a vacuum-packed minibus. At least that’s how I got here. Gosh, a village of just over one thousand people, at the end of a small valley in Armenia’s heavily wooded Tavush Province, is known for its twelfth century monastery of Goshavank, burial place of the founder, monastic scholar Mkhitar Gosh. More»

Café Aleppo Revisited

Café Aleppo Revisited

A moustachioed face emerged from a bundle of coats and scarves. Levon, talkative as ever, is warming his hands to the festive glow of a slowly rotating Döner kebab at Café Aleppo, Yerevan. Shwarma can take a while to prepare, especially with numb fingers. Business could be better. Customers don’t hang around in the cold weather. More»

Cinema Armenia

Cinema Armenia

Nadya Sadoeva owns Dimitrov. Well, the concrete bust of him anyway. The village of the same name, formerly known as Koilasar, lies in Armenia’s Ararat Province, not far from the regional centre of Artashat. I’ve visited this region of Armenia several times over the past few months in my research into the country’s Assyrian community. More»

Transcaucasian Border Blues

Transcaucasian Border Blues

“I’ve driven to Yeraskh more times than I can count,” says Artash, Yerevan veterinarian and part time tour guide. “It always amazes me.” Mount Ararat, on one of those crisp Armenian autumn days, is visible from the city’s centre. Cynics might, and do, see it as Turkey looming over what remains of the Armenian state. More»

Marlboro Man in Yemen

Marlboro Man in Yemen

I’ve been living in Yemen for two weeks now. One of the reasons I have had difficulties adjusting to life here is because I’ve been trying to quit smoking. Few tasks are as hard in the Middle East. More»

Café Aleppo

Café Aleppo

The Aleppo Kebab Stall is a small, corrugated plastic booth slightly larger than its occupants, and only slightly narrower than the alleyway where it stands, in Yerevan. Barely avoiding the oncoming traffic, I crossed the street and squinted at the shop sign, miming the letters to myself in an attempt to decode the name. Ha-lep. Aleppo. Braving a heady perfume of cigarette smoke and shawarma, I poked my head through the window, and ordered. More»

Televisions of Berlin

Televisions of Berlin

A cathode ray tube was in my way. “What an appropriate start to my day,” I thought, as I pushed it aside, in order  to exit the building. My first day back in Berlin, after spending a couple of weeks in Stuttgart, nothing could have better signified my return home. Someone had smashed an old TV set in front of the door overnight. More»

Edible Multiculturalism

Edible Multiculturalism

“If more people eat here, they’ll be nicer to Jews.” So my father was fond of saying, whenever he’d bring my brother and I to Guys and Dolls, one of London’s first Israeli fast food joints. The hummus was excellent, the shawarma was even better. Thirty years later, London is sprawling with falafel places. More»

It's Called Comfort Food

It’s Called Comfort Food

Food is not what you normally think of while being tear gassed. In fact, it’s kind of the opposite, since the reaction your body has to the gas is to retch. If you had anything in your stomach, watch out because it might not be there anymore. I know I wasn’t thinking about food the last time I was gassed. Well, not any more than usual. More»