Tag Archives: islam

Jerusalem is a Dizzying Disneyland of Religion

IN A SINGLE AFTERNOON, it is possible to see what some claim to be the sites where Jesus was crucified, where the ancient Jewish First and Second temples once stood, where the Prophet Muhammad ascended into Heaven, and the tombs of half the characters from the New and Old Testaments. Perhaps anticipating the plausibility of […]

The People Around the Taj Mahal

SOMEWHERE BETWEEN THE TAJ MAHAL AND AGRA FORT there is a quiet little town—quiet by Indian standards—and somewhere therein live quiet people, normal people, people not out to get your money or impress you with Mughal legends but rather who are interested in speaking to you. These are friendly people, too polite to be easily […]

Stories Left Behind in Borneo

FROM BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN TO KUCHING, crossing all of Sarawak and most of Brunei, was more an experiment in bus patience than intense jungle adventure. V and I are not wild rainforest trekkers (can I use “jungle” and “rainforest” interchangeably like that?), though we did venture out into the bush once in Miri, which was […]

10 Fun Facts About the Sultan of Brunei

THE SULTAN OF BRUNEI is a mythical sort of guy, inescapable and aloof, both everywhere and nowhere in his country. His portrait hangs in every restaurant, his photo often in the newspaper, his face on at least one TV station at any given time. But public appearances are rare, and his notoriously expensive palace (pictured […]

Brunei, of Slums and Sultans

AN IRISH BACKPACKER ASKED ME, in the Kuala Lumpur airport the other day, where I was headed. “Brunei,” I told him. He didn’t hear me. “Phucket?” No, Brunei, I repeated, on the jungle island of Borneo. He looked confused. “Never heard of it,” he said. “What country is it in?” Brunei is accurately and often […]

Postcard from the Oriental Hotel: George Town, Then & Now

AN ISLAMIC NEIGHBOURHOOD was holding a garage sale in the middle of downtown George Town, Malaysia back in February. V and I spent close to 30 minutes rummaging through the stock, eventually leaving with just one item: a postcard of the very hotel we’d checked into the previous day, the Oriental. It was uncanny. I […]