Zaatar Days, Henna Nights

Last Updated on May 2, 2019

Zaatar Days, Henna Nights: Adventures, Dreams and Destinations across the Middle East by Maliha Masood

Born in Karachi, Pakistan, Maliha Masoodmoved to Seattle, Washington with her parents when she was 12 years old. After college, she took a job in Seattle’s booming dot-com industry, but several years of working behind a desk left her desperate for a change of scene.

What to do?

She bought a one-way ticket to the Mideast.

Compelled to explore her Islamic roots as well as satisfy her wanderlust, Maliha embarked upon a year-long overland trek, from the streets of Cairo, BeirutDamascus, and of course Turkey—but hardly on the beaten track.

She landed in Cappadocia after a long bus ride from Syria, and was soon on the road for points even farther east: mysterious Nemrut Dagi, for one.

Her name and her passport, filled with stamps from Arab countries, almost got her into trouble with the law in this area that’s sensitive to foreigners who don’t seem to be tourists or engineers, but luck was on her side. Soon she was on her way westward to Konya to pay her respects to Rumi.

Her passport and money stolen by another backpacker in Kas, she makes her way to Bursaon a pilgrimage to the first capital of the Ottoman Empire, and finally arrives in Istanbul. Her experiences there are far, far from those of a normal tourist, and reveal an in-depth portrait of Turkish cosmopolitan society.

Zaatar Days, Henna Nights offers a street-savvy take on the contempory Muslim world seldom seen on the evening news. This is a story of discovery and faith, of making bonds and breaking sterotypes, and of finding oneself where one least expects to.

A graduate of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, Maliha (mah-LEE-hah) has worked internationally in human rights policy and conflict resolution. She’s also an emerging playwright and the founding director of Diwaan, an Islamic cultural institute.

Want to know how Turkey fits into the modern Mideast? Ms Masood’s intriguing book is a good place to start.

Zaatar Days, Henna Nights: Adventures, Dreams and Destinations across the Middle East by Maliha Masood
Emeryville CA: Seal Press (Avalon Publishing Group), 2006
ISBN 978-1-58005-192-7, 299 pages, US$15.95

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