Justin Marozzi

Justin Marozzi is the author of Baghdad City of Peace, City of Blood

Men, step away from the trainers

What is it with men and trainers? Or rather, men of a certain age and trainers. I’m still trying to banish the horror-show image of Rishi Sunak wearing Adidas Sambas in No. 10 in an interview to promote his tax policies. Has western civilisation really come to this? Are we destined to succumb to rubber-soled

Could Iran shift to dynastic rule when Khamenei dies?

Who will rule Iran after Ali Khamenei? The question is being asked with increasing frequency and concern as the Supreme Leader approaches his 85th birthday amid rumours of ill health, and it will be raised again on 1 March, when Tehran holds elections to the parliament and the Assembly of Experts, the body which will

How dangerous is the Sunni-Shia schism?

In 2014, with the Middle East convulsed by the murderous, self-styled Islamic State, a Daily Mail reader wrote a letter to the editor which began: ‘Are you confused by what is going on in the Middle East? Let me explain…’ Aubrey Bailey went on to describe the dizzying complexity of diplomatic relationships thrown into turmoil:

A shocking claim about the Baghdad bombings of 1950 and 1951

Avi Shlaim’s family led the good life in Baghdad. Prosperous and distinguished members of Iraq’s Jewish minority, a community which could trace its presence in Babylon back more than 2,500 years, they had a large house with servants and nannies, went to the best schools, rubbed shoulders with the great and the good and sashayed

In Kyiv, tech start-ups are thriving

What better cocktail to try in Kyiv than ‘Lesya Ukrainka’s Dream’? Born in 1871, Ukrainka was a fierce feminist, poet, titan of Ukrainian literature and the angel-faced symbol of independent nationhood. In this time of war, writers like Ukrainka and Taras Shevchenko, the great 19th-century poet persecuted by the Russians, a man who has come

Here be dragons, dog-headed men and women growing on trees

I have to confess that this book sat on my desk for several months. The words ‘Harvard University Press’ cast a strange and unsettling spell which prevented me from even opening it. Let’s be honest: academic presses are not always synonymous with rollicking reads, nor indeed are academics. They can ask an awful lot of

My 6,000-mile adventure of a lifetime

‘Oh, you’ll hate it, Julia. It’s men talking about cars all the time. Really, really boring. You drive all day, it gets incredibly hot, you’ve got no air-conditioning and then – if and when you make it to your hotel – the men start talking about cars again. It’s awful. Never again.’ This is not

How to tether your camel and other useful tips

Here’s a treat for Christmas: a bona fide literary treasure for under a tenner. And a handsome little hardback, too, which you could certainly squeeze into a stocking. On Travel and the Journey Through Life is an anthology of one-liners and observations on travel, from the high-spirited and romantic to the moody and downright cynical.

The Nazi influence in Egypt

The law of supply and demand is a powerful thing. In the aftermath of the second world war there were many thousands of suddenly underemployed German and Nazi rocket scientists, jet engine technicians, military leaders, chemical engineers, propagandists and other specialists on the international market. While many were snapped up by the Americans and Soviets,

Edward Said — a lonely prophet of doom

It had been billed as a clash of the Titans. Boston, 22 November 1986: two giants of their field slugging it out in the circus, a shootout at the scholars’ corral. The atmosphere was electric. Here was the long-awaited confrontation between Edward Said, professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, and Bernard Lewis,

Is there anything left worth joking about?

Here are a couple of books that seek to tackle the difficult issue of comedy on the front line. One deals with an increasingly toxic global cultural war; the other plunges into the battle to take on jihadists by laughing at them. In their different ways both ask the same questions: what’s funny and what’s

In just eight years Selim I became ‘God’s Shadow on Earth’

Faber must take a rather dim view of British readers’ historical awareness these days. This is a biography of one of the greatest Ottoman sultans in the empire’s 600-year history, yet the publishers cannot bring themselves to mention his name in the book’s title. Perhaps they thought Selim I was too obscure, and maybe they’re

A legend under siege

As rousing death-and-glory speeches go, it is one of the best. With a besieging Roman army only hours from storming the mountain stronghold of Masada, where 967 Jews were making their last stand in around AD 73, the rebel leader Eleazar Ben-Yair gathered the men together and called for a mass suicide. He told them:

Istanbul Notebook

‘It’s official. Turkey is a banana republic!’ My friend Mustapha, a serial entrepreneur, sends me a flurry of doom-laden WhatsApp messages on hearing the news that Istanbul’s mayoral election is being re-run. One of them is a cartoon of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan standing in front of the national flag, crescent turned into a banana.

Full of eastern promise

Most of Hollywood’s Arabian Nights fantasies are, of course, unadulterated tosh. The Middle East, wrote the American film critic William Zinssner, is transformed into ‘a place where lovely young slave girls lie about on soft couches, stretching their slender legs… Amid all this décolletage sits the jolly old Caliph, miraculously cool to the wondrous sights