South

South

On 13th January 2016 I’m due to fly from London to Cape Town, alongside a BBC TV crew and BBC presenter Peter Gibbs. There we’ll join the RRS (Royal Research Ship) Ernest Shackleton, for a two-week voyage south across 2,500 miles of the roughest seas in the world, to reach the British Antarctic research station Halley in the…

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The churches of Dubai

The churches of Dubai

When I knew I would be stopping over in Dubai on a recent trip, I began casting around for story ideas. I wouldn’t be there long. Food? No, kind of done it. Old Dubai? Well, maybe, but what, on a short trip? I’d never yet made it to the Hindu temple which I knew stood…

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Halley. Back to the desert.

Halley. Back to the desert.

I’m going back to the desert. The cold desert. This was the tweet that started it all, one evening back in November 2013: @matthewteller Forget the cold. It'll melt your heart. — Peter Gibbs (@PeterG_Weather) November 23, 2013 I recognised Peter Gibbs from the telly – he is one of the BBC’s weather presenters – but we’d only…

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BBC stories: hot (Doha) and cold (Antarctica)

BBC stories: hot (Doha) and cold (Antarctica)

A couple of my stories went out on the BBC’s From Our Own Correspondent programme this summer. First – a hot place. My story from Doha looked at how sudden extreme wealth hasn’t necessarily been a wholly positive experience for Qatar and Qataris. Radio 4 audio here starts 17’27” (a slightly edited version went out on World Service…

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Sandhurst and the Sheikhs

Sandhurst and the Sheikhs

THE CHASE: My half-hour documentary for BBC Radio 4 on Britain’s contradictory military relationship with allies in the Gulf was broadcast August 27th, 2014. Full audio here or here, related article here.   BACKSTORY: On March 5th last year, 2013, while discussing possible ideas for the BBC Radio 4 commissioning round, I sent an independent production company,…

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BBC Wild Arabia

BBC Wild Arabia

After the epic that was David Attenborough’s Africa series, which ran on BBC TV in the UK recently, their next big nature extravaganza is Wild Arabia – due later this month on BBC2 in the UK (episode 1 airs 9pm on 22nd Feb, I believe). The three-part series was filmed over almost two years in…

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How to kill a brand

How to kill a brand

Google has bought Frommers. That rang a bell: an industry insider told me recently that Penguin quietly tried to sell Rough Guides to Frommers a couple of years ago, but “wanted too much” for it. Ho-hum. Travel publishing is in a really tricky place. Now I’m not an industry analyst, and I’m not in travel…

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A Wadi Runs Through It

A Wadi Runs Through It

Late in 2010, a US magazine editor gave me a tip about an environmental scheme in the Saudi capital Riyadh that was up for a major international prize, the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. They were keen for me to do a story. The scheme – which has transformed Riyadh’s main Wadi Hanifah watercourse from…

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Tracks of my tears

Tracks of my tears

I couldn’t resist the headline, sorry – even though I’m not crying and it means I’ve had two consecutive posts headlined with ‘tears’. Thrilled and delighted this weekend to have another piece on BBC radio’s From Our Own Correspondent, after ones earlier this year on Saudi Arabia and Cairo. This time I’m talking about Jerusalem’s…

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From (Not) Our Own Correspondent

From (Not) Our Own Correspondent

Very chuffed today to have a piece from Cairo’s Tahrir Square on the BBC World Service radio programme From Our Own Correspondent – click on this link to hear it. The piece as aired was edited slightly and cut down to fit the running time. Here’s the original, as submitted. My favourite Cairo graffito of the…

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Top Gear, sour grapes

Top Gear, sour grapes

It was last January – Jan 2010, that is – when I first heard that a BBC researcher from Top Gear was interested in having a chat with me about a Christmas special they were planning, where the three presenters – Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May – would drive across the Middle East….

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Oman Air: “the challenge of being first”

Oman Air: “the challenge of being first”

Oman Air is quietly working wonders. From a standing start in 2007, when Oman pulled out of the then-multicountry Gulf Air to focus on developing its own national carrier, the airline has gained a reputation for excellence, even while facing down competition from the ‘big three’ Gulf carriers, Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways. Peter Hill,…

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CNN’s error of judgement

CNN’s error of judgement

CNN has fired its Senior Editor of Middle East Affairs of twenty years’ standing, Octavia Nasr, after she tweeted this: Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah. One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot. The reference is to Fadlallah, a prominent Lebanese Shia cleric, who died on July 4th. Nasr…

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Journalist as communicator

Journalist as communicator

Acknowledgement for a worthy award-winner. Yesterday Jeremy Bowen, the BBC’s Middle East editor, was presented with the Charles Wheeler Award 2010 for achievements in broadcast journalism. Amid the screech of grinding axes that characterises much coverage of events in the Middle East, Jeremy Bowen has, to my mind, always maintained a calm, old-school approach to reporting –…

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Red Dead

Red Dead

Ferociously busy at the moment, ahead of a trip next week – I’ve got several stories I want to blog about, but only time now to post this BBC news report from Jordan by Natalia Antelava about the plans to build a Red-Dead Canal, linking the Red Sea to the Dead Sea, and thus (a) providing…

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Excess Baggage

Excess Baggage

Chuffed and delighted to have been invited to appear as a studio guest on this week’s Excess Baggage, the Saturday-morning travel show on BBC radio’s speech network Radio 4 – recorded, thankfully, instead of going out live, as it usually does. All rather nerve-wracking, but I was on to talk about the plans for rail in the…

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Frankincense and camel-jumping

Frankincense and camel-jumping

I settled in last night to watch the BBC’s new travel series The Frankincense Trail, in which presenter Kate Humble lugs a sack of frankincense fresh from the tree in Dhofar, southern Oman, all the way along the ancient trade routes across Arabia to the Mediterranean port of Gaza (or tries to). I had high…

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World’s five-star airline?

World’s five-star airline?

Something’s been bugging me about Qatar Airways. If you’ve ever watched any of the global English-language rolling news channels – chiefly CNN International, BBC World News or Sky News (all of which keep me company in hotel rooms around the world) – you couldn’t fail to have seen an ad or a sponsor’s message from…

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Congrats Aleem!

Congrats Aleem!

Just wanted to acknowledge the fact – a few weeks late, sorry – that BBC journalist Aleem Maqbool won the Gaby Rado Memorial Award at the 2009 Amnesty International Media Awards last month, for his reporting from Gaza after taking over the BBC’s bureau there following Alan Johnston’s kidnap. I was going to link to…

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