The Arab-speaking world and the Middle East
I first heard Arabic spoken in Sudan and fell in love with its elegance, its logic and its conceptual bias - not to mention its challenging grammar.
I have since travelled frequently in that part of the world now increasingly known as West Asia.
For a time, I taught in El Khalil (Hebron) in occupied Palestine and while there, visited Gaza and also south Lebanon in order to write about the Irish army which at that time was serving as part of UNIFIL.
In 2005 I attended an international peace conference organised by the Women in Black and after that, travelled to Nazareth to visit an Arab-Israeli friend there.
Every time I go to Jerusalem, I meet up with an old friend, Aharon Applefeld, winner of the Israel Prize and a holocaust survivor of gigantic stature.
Over the last few years, I have travelled so often to Syria that it has become my second home.
The people of Western Sahara continue to live in exile, hunkered down in refugee camps across the border from their land, in Algeria.
Here is a piece from The Irish Times which gives an account of a recent visit to the desert…