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Baghdad Without a Map and Other Misadventures in Arabia

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3.97  ·  Rating details ·  3,341 Ratings  ·  182 Reviews
Tony Horwitz has a keen eye, a wicked sense of humor, and gall in almost suicidal measure. In an era when every American in the Middle East is a potential hostage, he entered Beirut under a rain of artillery shells, attended the Ayatollah's tumultous funeral in Iran, and met Muammer Qadiffi in Libya. This extraordinary travel adventure is fascinating, funny, poignant and f ...more
Hardcover, 274 pages
Published March 1st 1991 by Dutton Books (first published 1991)
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Julie Christine
Jun 21, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Julie Christine by: Brendan
This was written during the two years that Tony trailed his wife, journalist and writer Geraldine Brooks, to her various posts in the MIddle East, 1988-1990. Given that these vignettes are 20 years old, the book might seem anachronistic and nostalgic, but Horwitz's observations remain relevant. It's hard to find places where much has changed since his travels: Khartoum is still a dangerous wasteland, Cairo is still chaotic, Beirut remains beautiful but ravaged, Israelis locked seemingly forver i ...more
Courtnie
Feb 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can strike 'see the cradle of the world' off my bucket list. In all honesty, it was only there as a fanciful thought in the first place. Experiencing the sands of the ancient, seeing the ruins of Babylon, touching the wailing wall, being jostled in an open air market steeped in centuries of tradition? Sounds pretty inspiring.

The reality is that I'm not made of the brave, and my adventure gene doesn't function as well as it did when I was much younger. Even then, I was only cautiously excited a
...more
Bob
Jan 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's hard not to give a book by Horwitz 5 stars. The only reason this lacked a star was because I'd read his other books and, in this early work, he hadn't quite found his voice yet. You see glimpses of what will develop over the years ahead, but this one is slightly unpolished.

My fear early on was that, frankly, this would make me a racist against folks from the Middle East. It paints such a grim, dark, hopeless picture of the societies there that, not only did I vow I'd never travel to the reg
...more
Melissa
Dec 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I binge read this in an effort to finish it in 2015. I had ten pages left at midnight but I'm still counting it!

Such priceless information on some fascinating countries in the Middle East. A look into several cultures, with their struggles, danger, and hopes. I found the book Bill Bryson-esque, though not as laugh out loud funny. Witty, yes. I underlined like crazy and looked up information constantly while reading it, keeping in mind that it was written in the 1990s and a lot has changed since
...more
Victoria Kostenko
The first time I read this book was in the 9th grade and fell in love with it. Already an avid lover of the Middle East, Baghdad Without A Map brought a lot of the stark reality of the average person intertwined with great humor. This book is a very easy and enjoyable read, highly suggested if you also want the 411 on social behavior and how "westerners" should act. You'll laugh till you cry and even learn some great curse words in Arabic!
Cynthia Varady
Jul 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite-books
In 1991, then aspiring journalist Tony Horwitz traveled to the Middle East, following his journalist wife, Geraldine Brooks, who had been stationed in Cairo there as a foreign correspond. Horwitz decided to go freelance, traveling across Arabia in the hopes of breaking a story that would make him a household name. He did manage to get a few front page articles, but what he brought back in manuscript form was delightful, sadistic, full of beauty and pain. In short, Baghdad Without A Map is an ama ...more
Siobhan
May 13, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, 2009
I am a huge Tony Horwitz fan, so it’s not surprising that I liked this book. He is an entertaining, facile writer.

That said, the quality of writing in this book is not as good as the others. It seemed a tad flat to me. That’s unfortunate because, given the topic, this may be his most important book. Other Horwitz tomes deal with looking at the past in fresh ways. This book offers an intriguing look at a very troubled spot in the present.

Although the style of the writing isn’t as good as Confede
...more
Sean B
Mar 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first read this book for a class I took my senior year in high school. That was back in 1996. I still have this book on my bookshelf. At least once a year, I still take it down to read a couple chapters or more. Every time I read it, I rediscover a part of the book that I find hilarious. How many books have you read can make you laugh ten years later? Few if any I imagine.

This book is what inspired me to go to Yemen. After reading the 2nd and 3rd chapters (both of which are in Yemen), I knew I
...more
Maria (Ri)
This was a compelling, though very difficult, read for me. I have visited the Middle East twice (Beirut, Lebanon and Bursa, Turkey) to attend international peace camps for children. Both times I was struck by the deep seated hatred even those attending a peace camp hold for others in the Middle East. I had so much trouble understanding the continued hatred for a group of people for hundreds and hundreds of years just because that is what you are taught. When does the cycle end?

This book brought
...more
Bridget
Apr 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
What a lovely book this was! Simply a joy to read. I was wary at first because it's a good twenty years old (when he talks about the Persian Gulf War, he means the one between Iraq and Iran), but really, how much has changed in the Middle East when it comes to stuff like baksheesh and run-down infrastructure? The parts I loved best were the parts about places I've lived and traveled, but really, the whole book is fascinating. It reminded me of Robert D. Kaplan Lite - all the quirky travel experi ...more
Kimmie
This isn't the type of book I would normally pick out for myself to read-it was a book club pick. I like to venture out and try new things, but this book was not for me. The writing was good and all, but the subject matter and the fact that there is really no plot-I just couldn't get into it. It's not my type of book. I do think people who like reading non-fic and/or travel memoirs would probably really enjoy this book. But at least now I can say I've read a non-fiction because it will probably ...more
Jared
May 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up not knowing anything of the author - it turned out to be one of the better impromptu book purchases I have made this year.

Tony Horwitz's account of the Middle East in the late 80s and 90s reads like a long exposé in the Sunday Times. Wonderfully enjoyable for anyone with even a shallow interest in the region. The book does not go too deeply into any one topic - I.e. politics or socioeconomic issues - but is informative enough to make it worth your time.
Kennedy
Jan 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, favorites, 2009, own
Fascinating!

I loved this book. Despite speaking of experiences from 20 years ago, I felt the book showed a lot of relevant-to-today culture. If you like Bill Bryson's books, I think you'd like this one as well. It was so informative about a important region of the world, but humorous and easy to read! I just loved this book!
Angie
Mar 12, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book gave an interesting insider look into Arab countries and gives good insight into the state of these nations and how they became so dysfunctional. Reminded me why I have no desire to visit this area of the world.
Cynthisa
Dec 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book for its look at the Middle East: compelling yet tender, frank yet kind. An excellent read and a must for anyone planning to travel to that region of the world.
Stephen
So your wife is on extended assignment in Cairo, and you’re a freelance journalist without a regular gig. What do you do? Why not wander around northern Africa, the Arab world, and Iran whenever an opportunity presents itself – chasing stories, even when they led you into dark mountains where grenades and AKs are cheaper than a week’s worth of the local narcotic? Baghdad without a Map presents anecdotes from Tony Horowitz’s time spent in Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Jordan, Yemen, and Iran, mixing ...more
Koby
Dec 18, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Most of my knowledge of the Middle East comes in snapshots. I've been having difficulty connecting 1950s Iraq to the current political climate. This book didn't quite give the bridge in knowledge that I was looking for... but it did give me another set of snapshots to expand my picture of the region.
In keeping with that, this writing was equal parts light and engaging; in particular, I enjoyed the chapter on Tehrani bourgeois. But this book was largely an introductory piece, not a full explanat
...more
Judy
Nov 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tony Horwitz has a sharp eye and a sharp pen. I love his writing and observations. This book is slightly out of date politically but I am sure he is still spot-on culturally. He visits to all of the Middle Eastern hot spots and with humor, profiles them as no one else has done.
Carrie Browder
Absolutely in love with this one. Opened my eyes to all the travels & great adventures just waiting for me to embark on -- all through the medium of great travel writing.

Horwitz's writing style is superbly smart and wickedly humorous.
keith koenigsberg
A British journalist, Horowitz spent years covering places like Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Sudan, etc, and these travel pieces capture a lot of the color of those places: he writes with humor and compassion, wit and authority, navigating the east/west cultural divide and exposing the pomposity on both sides. An excellent book, highly recommended.
Melinda
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was written during the two years that Tony trailed his wife, journalist and writer Geraldine Brooks, to her various posts in the MIddle East, 1988-1990. Given that these vignettes are 20 years old, the book might seem anachronistic and nostalgic, but Horwitz's observations remain relevant. It's hard to find places where much has changed since his travels: Khartoum is still a dangerous wasteland, Cairo is still chaotic, Beirut remains beautiful but ravaged, Israelis locked seemingly forver ...more
Enriqueta
Feb 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I am a huge Tony Horwitz fan, so it’s not surprising that I liked this book. He is an entertaining, facile writer.
tea_for_two
Mar 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, travel, 2012
This is the third Tony Horwitz book I've read, and I've loved every one of them. Baghdad Without a Map is Horwitz's account of his two years as a free-lance journalist in the Middle East. Unlike his later books, Baghdad Without a Map has less of a narrative arc, and instead is more of a collection of anecdotes grouped by country. As a journalist stationed with his wife in Cairo in the late 80s, Horwitz visits weapon markets in Yemen, refuge camps in southern Sudan, bombing in Beirut, the Ayatoll ...more
Kimm
Sep 22, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My Thoughts on Baghdad Without a Map


I first began reading Baghdad Without a Map well over a year ago. For some reason, I ended up setting the book down with about a quarter of it left to read. Not really sure why I did that and for the longest time, I was convinced that the book was a bad read and I wasn’t able to finish it. Thus, it sat neglected on my TO FINISH shelf until the last read-a-thon came long [book bloggers readathon:]. I was determined to get that book off my back once and for all.
...more
Marianne
Sep 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Baghdad Without A Map is the first book by American journalist and writer, Tony Horwitz. This book describes Horwitz’s experiences with the locals in various Middle East countries during his years there as a free-lance journalist. Horwitz accompanied his wife, Australian journalist and author, Geraldine Brooks when she took on the job of Middle East Correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, and he wrote sometimes on spec, sometimes as a stringer. Experiences he describes include chewing qat, bu ...more
Lisa
Jul 03, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ahhh, the good ol' days, when the Middle East was just a chaotic region of civil war-makin' Third World countries that loved and admired the American people, although not our Zionist-supporting government. This book was written in the late 1980's and he gives the word "intrepid" new meaning. Horwitz visits countries that 95% of Americans could never find on a map. The amazing result is that he managed to write a humorous, but realistic, Middle East travelogue without the now-required political o ...more
Kandyce
Jun 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i struggle with knowing how to feel and talk about this book. tony's insights into life in yemen in a time of qat and iraq in a time of war are fascinating in part because i haven't been there. i envy his ability to flit from country to country in a travel itinerary i can only dream of.

i was, however, rather turned off by his patronizing, negative descriptions of life in cairo (and maybe i would feel similarly if i had spent time in yemen, iraq, the UAE or other countries on his list). it seems
...more
Brendan
Jun 17, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lawrence of Arabia
Tony Horwitz’s 1991 travelogue, Baghdad Without a Map and Other Misadventures in Arabia, is as good-natured and readable as it is devoid of political posturing -- or, for that matter, political context or even substantial insight.

That’s the downside. The upside is that Horwitz is the tourist so many of us long to be: Armed with plane tickets to Yemen, Cairo, Baghdad, Tehran, Tripoli, Khartoum, Beirut and the West Bank, he’s unafraid to use them. Although perhaps he should be. In a chapter on fly
...more
Dave
Sep 03, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tony Horwitz might be my favorite journalist-he is so clear, fluid, and funny. This book is partly a fish-out-of-water story about Tony visiting many countries and dealing with corruption, incompetency, oppression, and fanaticism. But it's mainly about the people he meets and how they get by day to day. He doesn't seem to seek out specific Significant People to represent the country--he seems to simply talk to whoever's near him, including other journalists, people who fall asleep on his shoulde ...more
Ian
Jan 18, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Slightly shallow, but heaps of fun.

While not the ideal book for someone looking for trenchant political analysis of the Middle East, Horwitz does a great job of vividly bringing the foibles of life in the region to life. His years of meandering travels as a freelance journalist gave him a great vantage point from which to see the region. But in a post 9/11 world, it is hard to read the book without thinking about how the great gulf in cultures that makes much of the Middle East a mystery to Horw
...more
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Date of Birth: 1958

Tony Horwitz is an American journalist and writer. His works include Blue Latitudes, One for the Road, Confederates In The Attic and Baghdad Without A Map. His most recent work, published in April 2008, is A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World, a history and travelogue dealing with the early European exploration of North America.
More about Tony Horwitz...

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“The first thing you notice, coming to Israel from the Arab world, is that you have left the most courteous region of the globe and entered the rudest. The difference is so profound that you're left wondering when the mutation in Semitic blood occurred, as though God parted the Red Sea and said: "Okay, you rude ones, keep wandering toward the Promised Land. The rest of you can stay here and rot in the desert, saying 'welcome, most welcome' and drowning each other in tea until the end of time.” 34 likes
“Egyptians undergo an odd personality change behind the wheel of a car. In every other setting, aggression and impatience are frowned upon. The unofficial Egyptian anthem "Bokra, Insha'allah, Malesh" (Tomorrow, God Willing, Never Mind) isn't just an excuse for laziness. In a society requiring millennial patience, it is also a social code dictating that no one make too much of a fuss about things. But put an Egyptian in the driver's seat and he shows all the calm and consideration of a hooded swordsman delivering Islamic justice.” 8 likes
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