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Community Q&A Men of Arab heritage (Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen) are naturally reserved and yet social at the same time.
Hugh Miles: While writing my previous book, “Al Jazeera – How Arab TV News Has Challenged the World,” I had to travel all over the Gulf and North Africa.I soon realised it would make more sense to be based somewhere in the region than to commute back and forth from London every few weeks.I wanted somewhere central and accessible both to Europe and all the countries in the region.I love big cities so Cairo seemed like the obvious choice.Cairo does not suit everyone – it’s crowded and terribly polluted – but I found it fascinating.It is the cultural heart and soul of the Arab world, where Arab trends start and I just wanted to soak it all up.
The fact that you can live so well in Egypt compared to the cost of living of London certainly contributed to that decision!
I started working freelance for Western newspapers and magazines, covering everything from terrorism to the arts.
I was on the point of leaving and then unexpectedly I met an Egyptian girl and fell in love.
Dating an Arab Muslim girl is not easy and I soon realised that I would have to find a clever way to spend time with her if we were not going to fall foul of conservative Egyptian society. The stories I heard around the card table taught me much about the lives of young women in the Egyptian megalopolis and I felt privileged to glimpse what is normally the hidden half of Arab society.
I wanted to write about the cards sessions in a newspaper, but I knew it would not be possible as strictly speaking what I heard was not news. Jonathan: Does the continuation of that traditional practices such as wearing veils, symbolize the failure of secularisation that the Egyptian government has tried to implement since Nasser?
Hugh: Women have always worn veils in the Middle East, even before there were any Muslims.