I tell stories about the East and the West that I think help both understand each other, seriously. These stories almost always connect history, culture, international relations, current affairs, and often the influences on and the interests of people who shape these stories.
I wrote two books: “Egypt on the Brink” (Yale, 2010), which luckily turned out to be an international bestseller as it was published three months before Egypt’s 2011 uprising. The book tells the story of Egypt from the fall of liberalism in the country in the early 1950s to the end of the first decade of the 21st century when it became clear to me that the then prevailing political structure will crumble.
The second book, “Islamism: A History of Political Islam” (Yale, 2017) tells the stories of the different strands of political Islam from the fall of the Ottoman Empire until now - and how and why these stories continue to have major influences on North Africa, the Middle East, the Gulf, and beyond.
I wrote and presented several BBC documentary series, including “The Making of the Modern Arab World” (2014), the BBC’s biggest series on the history of the region; “Islam Divided: Sunni-Shii”; “Sands of Time: A History of Saudi Arabia”; “Stirring a Revolution: Coffee Culture in the Arab World”; and the episode on the British military intelligence officer Gertrude Stein in the series “Minds at War”.
I wrote and presented a programme for CNN Arabic focusing on understanding current Arab and Middle Eastern affairs through presenting the past that has shaped the present.
I write regularly for Foreign Affairs magazine in New York and for al-Ahram newspaper in Cairo. My most recent series for al-Ahram Weekly /Online was on the persons, trends, and ideas that have shaped modern Egyptian culture.
I write other stories as well – ones that I think are important and merit attention. For example, reviews of books, and stories about cultures, especially when they intersect and engage with each other, harmoniously or otherwise.
My ongoing series “Know” delves into different ways of understanding ourselves and what we tend to call the Divine.
For the past ten years, I have been the political counsellor for the Arab World at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). My job is to provide the Board of Directors and management with political and political economy contexts of industries, situations, and developments that affect the Bank’s operations in the region, and to contribute to the Bank’s strategic foresight.