Living with intent, social engagement, learning, growing, giving
For several years now I have been reading to the theme of the Middle East and making regular trips of my own to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, UAE, and Qatar. I do recommend reading to a theme when one intends to spend time somewhere. I went to the extent of learning some basic Arabic too. All of the reading and the language lessons have me invaluable insights into a proud and complex part of the world.
From the local library I read the travel memoir of Henry Hemming called Misadventure in the Middle East: Travels as Tramp, Artist, & Spy. From the first page I thoroughly enjoyed the book right until the end. Hemming is an affable and insightful writer who obviously thought carefully about how to package his memories before publishing the book.
This great book follows Hemming and his friend Al from Slovakia, Austria, Turkey, Iran, Dubai, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Israel over a period of 12 months. The two artists graduated from university and set out soon after the 11th of September 2001 to make a portrait of the Middle East. They applied for funding and were unsuccessful so they spent their combined savings on a 4WD utility vehicle who they named Yasmine.
During the 12 months Al and Henry create art almost compulsively and at times feverishly when pressed by deadlines for exhibitions in Iran, Oman and Jordan. I don’t know anything about art so I was a little reluctant to read the book until on the 3rd page Henry disarmed me with this statement:
We were painters; or you could say we were artists, but there’s something about the word “artist” that feels a bit exclusive, or makes you think of people with a language all of their own – one that non-artists wouldn’t get …
Did you enjoy reading this book? Here are some good reviews of the book:
You also may enjoy reading my reflections on some other books from the same region: