Gaziantep: Capital of Baklava

In October last year I went to Gaziantep, on the ancient Silk Road in south-eastern Turkey, to write about that sweet pastry beloved throughout the Middle East: baklava. Gaziantep is famed for its cuisine, and its baklava above all. There are some 500 baklava producers in the city – some of who have been established since the 1870s – and I met a few of them to find out why Gaziantep’s baklava is considered the best in the world. Follow the blue link above to read my story.

Some of Gaziantep's famed baklava makers. © Gail Simmons

Some of Gaziantep’s famed baklava makers.         © Gail Simmons

Learn to be a travel writer in Sicily

As well as writing about places, I also teach writing about places (see the ‘Academic & Tutoring’ tab on this website for details). Even better, I teach about writing about places in one of the most beautiful places I know: Sicily. So if you would like to come to Sicily, immerse yourself in its beauty and culture and learn how to put your experience into words that newspapers and magazines will want to publish, why not come on my travel-writing holiday? I look forward to seeing you!

Me, writing about Sicily in Sicly

Me, writing about Sicily in Sicly

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Jordan: Before Petra

In April I returned to one of my favourite countries, Jordan, to write a story about its amazing Neolithic archaeology. Although most people know Jordan for Petra (and perhaps also the Dead Sea and Wadi Rum), not many visitors know that Jordan has some of the most important Neolithic sites in the world. I went to discover some of these sites, which bear evidence of the very beginning of farming and communal living. This is my story.

Photo: George Azar

Photo: George Azar

Autumn in Oxford

I’ve lived in Oxford on and off (though much more on than off) for almost 30 years, and although I know it inside out, I’m always surprised by new discoveries. This is what makes this gorgeous little city so special to me. So when the Telegraph asked me to be their ‘”Oxford expert” I was happy to oblige. As well as writing a comprehensive guide, the gig also involves regular ’round-ups’ of the city. Here’s my latest.

Cumin, Camels & Caravans: A Spice Odyssey

I was delighted to be invited to review Cumin, Camels & Caravans: A Spice Odyssey, the new book by the eminent food historian and ecologist Gary Nabhan. It’s a fascinating read for anyone interested in the history, culture and food of the Middle East and Europe, and was published in the September 2014 of History Today, the history magazine which has been going strong since 1951.

cumin

Discovering Jordan at the RGS

On 1 May this year I was invited to address an audience at the RGS (Royal Geographical Society) in London on the theme ‘Discovering Jordan’, for potential travellers to that fascinating country. Founded in 1830, the RGS has funded some of Britain’s most intrepid explorers including Darwin, Livingstone, Stanley, Scott, Shackleton and Hillary, so it was an honour to speak there, alongside Tony Howard who with his partner Di Taylor developed adventure tourism in Jordan. Here’s a photo of us both in action.

The audience at the RGS event 'Discovering Jordan'

The audience at the RGS event ‘Discovering Jordan’ © n.o.m.a.d.s.

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Londonderry & Northern Ireland with Van the Man

Having spent a few consecutive summers exploring Ireland in a campervan in the 1990s at a time before the Good Friday Agreement initiated the peace process in the north of the country, it was great to be back last summer for the Daily Telegraph.

So much had changed: in the 1990s the border between the province, which then was punctuated with checkpoints and watchtowers, is now completely open, and the only hint that we’d crossed between the North and the Republic was the miles turning to kilometres on the road signs.

Our campervan had changed too, but one thing remained the same – the soundtrack to our trip, never more apt than in his own country: the great Van Morrison.

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