Home > Mr. Q's News, Reviews > Praise for Dining with al-Qaeda, 1st edition

Praise for Dining with al-Qaeda, 1st edition

The following are excerpts from endorsements and reviews of the March 2010 first edition of Dining with al-Qaeda: Three Decades Exploring the Many Worlds of the Middle East, including in The Economist, The Guardian and Le Monde. The updated and redesigned UK paperback edition, with the new subtitle Making Sense of the Middle East, is now available if you message me directly at hughpopebooks@gmail.com.


A fascinating memoir … Pope’s exquisite photographs accompany his vivid panorama of the region.” – Publishers’ Weekly, 23 November 2009.

Deeply engaged despatches …The author is a charming writer, intensely sympathetic of the Arabic people [and] offers intimate glimpses inside the Arab world. An enjoyable chronicle of a rich life’s work.” – Kirkus Reviews, 12 December 2009.

Pope, a principled and thoughtful reporter, tramped the Middle East for 30 years in a forlorn bid to decipher its subtleties to a Western readership encased in its own prejudices … [his] sad conclusion is that all the words he wrote, and all the risks he took, had made no perceptible difference to the crude way a largely insensitive and meddling West views a dysfunctional region. But his travels have made a very good book.” – “A Golden Notebook”, The Economist, 4 March 2010.

“What a great book ! … gives us portraits of the places and people behind now cliched news events, as well as the depth, the quirks and humanity that go a long way to explaining why things happened, and why they will continue to happen. His anecdotes, probing, curiosity, humor (yes, sometimes there is humor in the Middle East), idealism and sometimes naïvité, all give a soul and face to what is too often treated as a distant, abstract and hostile.”David Byrne, singer and song-writer, formerly with Talking Heads, February 2010.

A highly informative, provocative and enjoyable work.” – Morton Abramowitz, former President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey.

A very good book, and one that raises essential questions about journalism and our understanding of the world.” – Mariane Pearl, author of In Search of Hope and A Mighty Heart: the brave life and death of my husband Danny Pearl.

A rich personal history … read Hugh Pope and laugh, cry and learn about the deeper Middle East beyond the twitchings of Twitter.” – Jonathan Randal, former Washington Post foreign correspondent and author.

Danger is often present in Pope’s stories, and his daring stories reflect his determination to break out from templates in which Middle East news … His criticisms of the invasion and of Israel may grate some readers, but those interested in the interpersonal rather than the international will enjoy Pope’s bold curiosity in meeting people all over the Middle East.” – Booklist, March 2010.

Really good fun…do pick up this book, especially if you have an interest in foreign correspondents in the Middle East.” – Issandr El Amrani, arabist.net, 27 March 2010.

“Covers not just terrorism, wars, and occupations but also sexual mores, architecture, and poetry … introspective and autobiographical, linking each story to the people he met and the places he visited.” – L. Carl Brown, Foreign Affairs, March/April 2010.

In framing the political and socio-economic characteristics of the region around his experiences Hugh Pope manages to create what most educators aspire to do in a class. Teach and inspire, without having their students notice… [a] moving and unique perspective.” – Al-Majalla, 7 April 2010.

The book is fantastic. Everybody’s got to get out there and get a copy of this book, it really is a phenomenal insight. This book you did is really cool, man. I can feel the grit. I can feel the fear you feel at different times and the confusion you feel. It’ll transport you [listeners] to a place that most Americans most people in the West will never get to go.” – Brett Winterble, Covert Radio, April 2010.


Unique…Hugh Pope takes readers beyond the customary impressions of Arabs and Islam.” – Mohammed Elshinnawi, Voice of America, 23 April 2010.

At once revealing, convincing and, um, sort of fun…[shows] the diversity of people in the region, breaking down the all-to-common stereotypes.” – Andrew Stroehlein, Reuters Alertnet, April 2010

“Dining with Al Qaeda is terrific on spice-scented bazaars, maddening border crossings, sinister secret policemen and sexual mores in unlikely places – as well as Islam, democracy and other staples. But he is also thought provoking on the difficulty of conveying the reality of the ‘dysfunctional backyard’ that is the Middle East to western, especially American, audiences who are used to a diet of infotainment and familiar, easily digestible narratives.” – Ian Black, The Guardian, 18 May 2010.

An exceptional overview [which] by example sets a noble standard: learn to communicate with ‘the other’ on the same level and eye-to-eye.”  – Adam Holm, Weekendadvisen, Denmark, August 2010.

A fascinating exploration … Raises essential questions about the practise of modern journalism and how we in the West understand our world … he illuminates the multi-layered conflict of the region in a way many scholarly books fail to do.”  – Francis Ghilès, Afkar/Ideas, 2011 edition.

Takes the reader from Cairo to Islamabad, from Istanbul to Jeddah, on the trail of crises and reporting trips. Pope tempers … contradictions with a humour that is deceptively innocent [and] seeks out the blind spots of Western curiosity.” – Jean-Pierre Filiu, Le Monde Diplomatique, March 2011.

Pope simply writes fluently of what he has observed and learnt, with a nice line in pithy summaries of people and places … While it’s highly entertaining, Dining with al-Qaeda is also an astute warning from an authoritative voice about the clichés and blind spots that distort coverage of the Middle East.” – William Armstrong, Hürriyet Daily News, 6 November 2013.

Among the handful of books that explain the road that led [to 2011’s Arab Uprisings]. This book is recommended not just for its easy readability and its rich colours [but also] as an introduction to how stories become articles … particularly impressive is his skill in presenting the various sides, for example seeing the same event from Palestinian and Israeli, or through Arab and American eyes.” – Walter Posch, Journal for Intelligence Propaganda and Security Studies, August 2013.

Hugh Pope’s deftly told account of 30 years in the Middle East recounts the region’s troubles with bracing honesty, and its charms with genuine affection. Often a page-turner, populated by a colourful cast of deeply human characters, Dining with Al-Qaeda goes beyond the day’s headlines to offer a nuanced and compelling portrait of the region. Pope brims with remarkably brave and crucial insight into the Western media’s coverage of the Middle East.” – Azadeh Moaveni, author of Honeymoon in Tehran and Lipstick Jihad.

Hugh Pope goes behind the headlines to probe the world’s most volatile and misunderstood region. Balanced, deeply informed and darkly fun, Dining with al-Qaeda is a must-read for Middle East junkies.” – The late Tony Horwitz, author of A Voyage Long and Strange and Baghdad Without a Map.

The first edition was published by Thomas Dunne/St Martins Press in March 2010 under the title Dining with al-Qaeda: Three Decades Exploring the Many Worlds of the Middle East.

Categories: Mr. Q's News, Reviews
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