I grew up in suburban south London. A family holiday to Jerusalem in 1980, when I was 11, was my first trip outside the UK. The memory of walking through the spice market for the first time remains strong. Even today, the smell of cumin takes me straight back there. That was also my first time in the desert – I remember standing on a lonely road, feeling the hottest sun I’d ever felt, seeing the longest views I’d ever seen.
I’m lucky enough to have spent half a lifetime since then living, working and travelling in the Middle East and beyond – as far as Antarctica.
Home is a quiet street near a coffee factory in north Oxfordshire.
I write for the BBC and other media outlets around the world.
My book Nine Quarters of Jerusalem: A New Biography of the Old City (London: Profile Books; New York: Other Press; 2022) reassesses histories and outlooks on Jerusalem as told through stories of the communities that live – and have lived – inside the city’s walls. Jonathan Dimbleby called it “original and illuminating” and Raja Shehadeh said it “reveals the Old City of Jerusalem better than any other book written about the city.” It was named ‘Book of the Week’ in the Observer and a ‘Book of the Year’ in the Telegraph.
I also present and produce documentaries for BBC radio, including for Radio 4’s environment strand Costing The Earth and the World Service history slot Witness, and have reported many times from around the world for the BBC’s From Our Own Correspondent. My documentary from the Falklands on the tension between minefield clearance and environmental conservation was chosen for BBC Radio 4’s “Pick of the Week”, as was my documentary examining the history of political resistance as expressed by women of colour through poetry.
My book Quite Alone: Journalism from the Middle East 2008-2019 gathers together some of my travel, feature journalism and news reporting. I published it independently, mid-lockdown, in 2020.
I’ve written and edited many guidebooks for the travel publisher Rough Guides, and have spoken at literary festivals and public events in Britain and around the world, including at the Royal Geographical Society in London. In 2022 I made a 15-stop speaking tour of the US coast to coast, including talks for bookstores, universities, cultural institutions, worship communities, literary festivals and the US government. Travel firm Cox & Kings asked me to lecture for “Art Tours of the Holy Land”, run by them for the Royal Academy of Arts, and I have devised and led various Middle East travel itineraries. In 2016 AITO shortlisted me for Travel Writer of the Year.
I am a member of the National Union of Journalists and the Society of Authors.
BBC, Financial Times, Guardian, Times, Observer, Independent, CNN, Jerusalem Post, Open Democracy, Esquire, Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph, Spectator, Prospect, New Lines, Jerusalem Quarterly, The Author, National Geographic Traveller, Aramco World, Adventure.com, The National (UAE), This Week in Palestine, Jewish Chronicle, BBC Wildlife, Wanderlust, High Life, CNN Traveller, Sunday Times Travel, Geographical, Gulf Life, Jazeera, and others
• Hurricane Bells (2018, R4)
• Lines of Resistance (2017, R4)
• South America in the South Atlantic (2017, WS)
• Exploding Penguins (2017, R4)
• Farming Penguins (2017, R4)
• Escape from the South Atlantic (2016, WS)
• The Mars of the Mid-Atlantic (2016, R4)
• Back to the Ice (2016, R4)
• The Naked Diplomat (2015, WS)
• Sandhurst and the Sheikhs (2014, R4)
• From Our Own Correspondent (2011-present)
• Nine Quarters of Jerusalem: A New Biography of the Old City (2022)
• Quite Alone: Journalism from the Middle East 2008-2019 (2020)
• Rough Guide to Jordan (7 editions 1998–2019)
• Rough Guide to the Italian Lakes* (4 editions 2006–2015)
• Rough Guide to the Cotswolds (3 editions 2011–2018)
• Rough Guide to Switzerland (4 editions 2001–2010)
• Rough Guide to England (3 editions 2011–2018)
*Awarded the International Prize for TV and Communication in Europe “Tau d’Oro”
Interviewed for broadcast and streaming media worldwide, including: BBC News TV, BBC Radio 4, BBC 5 Live, ABC Australia, Sky News TV, NPR, Times Radio, Talk Radio Europe, World Radio Geneva, Radio New Zealand, and many more.