Few lives reflect their times as much as the life of Abdel Bari Atwan. Born in a refugee camp in Gaza in 1950, he left aged seventeen and has since become one of the world’s foremost commentators on the Middle East.
In this revealing memoir, Atwan recounts with humour and honesty his extraordinary journey. He depicts both the horror of camp massacres and the unexpected consequences of Britain’s involvement in the region – such as when a British paratrooper fell from the sky with his sizeable parachute and everyone in his mother’s village got new silk trousers.
Alongside the trials and tribulations of displacement, Atwan relates the culture shock of moving to 1970s London and shows London’s famous Edgware Road in an entirely new light.
Atwan shares his many extraordinary encounters, including tea with Margaret Thatcher, a weekend with Osama bin Laden, intimate meetings with Yasser Arafat, and the row between Colonel Gaddafi and the Shah of Iran that earned him his first journalistic break.
But his is also a touching, personal story, never more so than when he describes taking his British-born children to meet his family, who still live in a camp surrounded by barbed wire.
About the Author
Abdel Bari Atwan is a Palestinian writer and journalist. The former editor-in-chief of the London-based daily al-Quds al-Arabi for twenty-five years, he now edits the Rai al-Youm news website – the Arab world’s first Huffington Post-style outlet. He is a regular contributor to a number of publications, including the Guardian and Scottish Herald, and is a frequent guest on radio and television, including regular stints on the BBC’s Dateline London.
Atwan interviewed Osama bin Laden twice in the late 1990s and has cultivated uniquely well-placed sources from within the various branches of al-Qa‘ida and other jihadi groups, including IS, over the last twenty years. His books include Islamic State: The Digital Caliphate, The Secret History of al-Qa'ida and After bin Laden: al-Qa'ida, the Next Generation, as well as a memoir, A Country of Words: A Palestinian Journey from the Refugee Camp to the Front Page.
'A penetrating insight into the world as seen from the point of view of someone born and bred a Palestinian refugee in a Gaza camp ... Atwan's authentic voice and sharp, descriptive writing brings alive a lifetime spent deep in the travails of the Middle Eastern tragedy.'
Polly Toynbee, Guardian
'Atwan's enthralling memoir charts his meteoric rise form the shoeless urchin in the 1950's to cultured commentator whose opinion is now sought all over the world ... A skilful raconteur.'
'A Country of Words traces [Atwan's] life in greater detail while also offering chapters on the Israeil/Palestinian conflict, London, and his fascinating interviews with Osama Bin Laden and Yasser Arafat.'
The Middle East in London
'A remarkable Palestinian memoir, exceptional because of its abundance of compassion, humour and humility.'