The ultimate conversation and a cheerful topic for the new year.
'Dead Bomber: Blessings be upon you…
God: Cut that out, I’m good. There have been so many of you people blowing yourselves up, I decided to interview you personally. But this is not something I normally do. Why are you doing that?
Dead Bomber: Eh, we thought that’s what you wanted.
God: You thought what? Are you insane? Why would I want you to blow yourself up? And kill other people on top of that? It’s in all religions, ‘Don’t Kill’. Number one. The first thing. How can you miss it?'
February: Travels in the land of the infidels: The island of Britannia
What would happen if a medieval Arab traveler and explorer (like Ibn Battuta) visited Britain today and wrote about it in his traditional style? Find out here.
'Although long in decline, legend has it that Britannia was once a mighty power and that it was known as ‘the empire upon which the sun never sets’. This proved to be a rather ironic description as I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of sunny days I enjoyed in a full decade there. Nevertheless this old legend still influences the self-regard of the Britannians, some of whom still believe it’s their duty to administer the entire globe.'
March: The 1,500 year old schism fueling the clash between Russia and the West
What would it sound like if we wrote about the conflict between Russia and the West like analysts talk about the Middle East? Discover obscure ancient rivalries that don't make it into the media today.
'The conflict could be traced back to the 451 Council of Chalcedon, during which the great rift between Christianity’s major wings began. At its heart was the debate over the use of unleavened bread when performing the Eucharist, a rite derived from the Last Supper when Jesus broke bread with his disciples during a Passover Seder. Western Christians preferred unleavened bread, whereas Eastern Christians opted for leavened bread. The debate has escalated over the centuries and is particularly difficult to resolve today as no one is quite sure what unleavened bread is but nobody wants to admit that they were wrong.'
May: The Alternative Guide To Lebanon
Back in May, everyone was talking about Amal Alamuddin and George Clooney getting engaged and everyone was trying to learn more about Lebanon. Ever the helpful person, I wrote this guide/photo-essay to introduce Lebanon to the world.
'Religion plays a very small role in public life in Lebanon and most of its citizens aren't interested in religion. The only religious buildings that could be found in the country are ancient and are rarely visited except by tourists.'
July: The Caliph and His Psychiatrist, Exclusive Transcript
My biggest scoop of the year. A few days before the leader of ISIS and self-proclaimed Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made his first public appearance wearing a black turban and robe combination, I predicted his costume in this imagined conversation between him and his shrink so accurately that it even freaked me out.
'Psychiatrist: Let’s start from the beginning; has anything changed in your life recently?
Caliph Ibrahim: Has anything changed in my life? Are you kidding me? We have announced the caliphate!
Psychiatrist: The what? The caliphate? Are you serious?
Caliph Ibrahim: Do I look like someone who jokes? Don’t you follow the news?'
October: Qassem Suleimani Iran’s Shadowy Commander Who Has No Shadow
In another big scoop, I managed to predict a flood of articles in English-language media about Iran's legendary military commander Qassem Suleimani. After I wrote the post no less than ten articles were published about Suleimani in major media outlets, all using the word 'shadow' in the title.
'It is also said by the same Western analysts who have been following Iran’s shadowy behind the scenes intelligence scene for decades that Suleimani’s reflection doesn’t appear in the mirror, which official Iranian media attribute to his legendary modesty. To add to the mystery, Suleimani doesn’t cast a shadow as a result of an old war wound he got while stationed at the frontline during Iran’s long conflict with Iraq in the 1980s.'
See also in this year's highlights: Unprecedented images of Western people looking just like you and me and We Give the Scottish Independence Referendum the Middle East Expert Treatment
As ever, thank you for reading the blog and continuing to share my posts on social media. I am immensely grateful.