“The genesis of this project was our invasion of Iraq in 2003. I was a 21-year-old student backpacking in Egypt, Israel and Jordan, just as the war was finishing. A terrorist blew himself up and the Jordanian border was closed, so I ended up hitchhiking into Baghdad.”
“It’s steeped in history and mythology but it’s also misunderstood – and it’s usually in the news for all the wrong reasons. By approaching a place as a journey rather than a correspondent, I thought it might be nice to show not just the doom and gloom but some of the human stories as well. People think of camels, terrorists and deserts, but actually there’s a lot more to it.”
“I was about three miles away from the frontline in Damascus. You can hear the bombs going off yet there are people having a cup of coffee or a glass of wine; people get on with their lives. Even now, all the tourist shops are open. There’s no one shopping but it gives the shopkeepers a sense of hope; every morning at 7am they open the stores, they hang their carpets out, they sit there and nobody ever comes.”
WHICH PLACE STRUCK YOU MOST DURING YOUR JOURNEY?
“Lebanon was beautiful. I ended up having lunch with Hezbollah and they were lovely.”
Arabia by Levison Wood, Hodder & Stoughton, £25