Osama bin laden

The least familiar stretches of Nile prove the most interesting

It’s one of the most tantalising travel images in the world — a felucca floating along the Nile at sunset, its lateen sail spread aslant to catch the wind. It takes us back to the beginnings of ancient Egypt, when the need to manage Nilotic flooding and the imperative to trade along the river’s course were the motors of civilisation. Even 2,500 years ago Herodotus was fascinated by the ease with which the Egyptians had learned to cultivate the soil with its waters rather than with laborious ploughs — which, some speculate, had given them the leisure to build pyramids in the down months. Of course many authors have been

Barack Obama was decidedly a man of action as well as words

Well, it’s quite the title, isn’t it? It tends to invite comparisons. The first one that occurred to me, though, was that the original Promised Land guy managed to get all the important stuff down on two stone tablets. His would-be successor doesn’t have quite that gift for compression. As he semi-apologises in the opening pages (he feels bad about it, but not bad enough to do a ruthless edit), this memoir was originally envisioned as a 500-pager. A Promised Land is just north of 700 pages, and there’s another volume to come. That speaks of a certain self-regard. Then again, Barack Obama has a good bit to be self-regarding