October 14, 2011
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Insights Speakers
Guest Blog: Eamonn Gearon – Insights Speaker – Author, Historian and Arabist
Rudyard Kipling once wrote, “The desert produces her own type of man exactly as the sea does.” And he should know, because not only did Kipling make a number of Trans-Atlantic journeys – the quintessential English author lived and wrote for some years in Vermont – but he also sailed down the River Nile, musing on the Sahara that marks the river’s edge.
There is no reason why lovers of the desert and lovers of the sea should not come together. In fact, who said the two were mutually exclusive? It may surprise some of Cunard’s guests to learn that one of their distinguished speakers is a man who has spent most of his adult life living in and travelling across some of the driest parts of our planet; he has also recently discovered a love of ocean voyages!
The Greater Middle East – that is everywhere from Kabul to Casablanca – has been my home for almost 20 years. For all sorts of reasons life in the region can be exasperating, but it is never dull.
In years gone by, I have lived in the Sahara with the Bedu, and spent long periods engaged in solo camel-powered expeditions in the Great Desert, hundreds of miles from another living soul. More recently, I spent the whole of the Egyptian revolution in Midan Tahrir, the epicentre of events.
This is why I get as much pleasure as I do from speaking with people about both the history of the Middle East and the contemporary situation: it is an ever-changing landscape. It is especially important, if one wants to try to understand the Middle East today, that one begins with at least some knowledge of its past.
In many ways the Arab World is no different to any other part of the world – being full of good people who want to provide for their families – but it has a global importance that means we cannot ignore it. This is obviously truer now that it has been at any other time in recent history.
It has been a revelation to me just how fun it is giving lectures at sea. My first voyage by sea took place only this March. (I am not including the annual ferry crossing of my boyhood, which journeys took me home to Ireland and marked the start of summer: they were, however, in another class altogether.)
That voyage was also on “Queen Mary 2”, when my wife and I sailed from Dubai to Southampton, via the Suez Canal. That name has always had a special resonance for me, since my father was there with the British Army in the 1950s.
And so it is that I look forward to setting sail from Southampton on 16 October, and introducing my fellow guests on “Queen Mary 2” to the Sahara and the wider Middle East, even as we sail west!
Watch my author interview and learn more about “The Sahara” here: http://www.eamonngearon.com/