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June 23, 2014Posted by Tahir in Travel

On Istanbul Time

IstanbulFor the sheer magnificence of its geography, and the layers on layers on layers, there’s nowhere like it on earth.

Perched at the cultural crossroads of north, south, east and west, Istanbul is so utterly mesmerizing that, were you to try describe it to someone in a land far away, they simply wouldn’t believe such a place really existed at all.

I first visited the city twenty years ago, and soon found myself obsessed. I’ve travelled back and forth many times since then – seeking out secret corners and alluring characters for my collection.

The most important thing about Istanbul is to take it slow.

I like to sit all day in cafés.

Take unhurried ferries.

Amble around Sinan’s mosques.

Eat baklava.

Eat more baklava.

And while away the hours, the days and the weeks in cafés – pondering grand questions.

Most of which never really had a certain answer.

One thing is for certain though: Read more

June 19, 2014Posted by Tahir in Travel

When the Ground Moves

photoFor as long as they could walk, I have told Ariane and Timur that they must travel.

The ground beneath them must be moving, I say. Because, if it is not, then they are stagnating. I have told them that it doesn’t really matter where you are going, so long as you don’t plan too much, and that you absorb the hidden details of a place…

The smell of a bread warming on a street-side stall.

The sound of a knife-sharpener calling up at apartment blocks.

The sight of three old friends sitting in the shade, comfortable in silence.

I tell them that school is important.

But, that travel is a fast track to Read more


My top 3 achievements, and my top 3 on my wish-list

Dar Khalifa, CasablancaMany thanks to those of you were able to attend my Reddit AMA live. For those who were unable to attend, I’ll be sharing a selection of questions and answers over the next couple of weeks. To view the entire AMA, please click the above link. 

Q. What are your top three achieved aspirations, and what three sit at the top of your list to do before your swan song?

I am pleased to have:

  1. Lived a decade in a Jinn-infested home in a Moroccan shantytown.
  2. Been able to write books I want to write (a rarity).
  3. Watched the sun rise at Machu Picchu

And, on my wish-list:

  1. Go into the vast Chinese cave system at TIAN XING.
  2. Cross Africa East to West.
  3. Spend a month living on an Indian pavement.

How to get a job in travel writing

TS6Many thanks to those of you were able to attend my Reddit AMA live. For those who were unable to attend, I’ll be sharing a selection of questions and answers over the next couple of weeks. To view the entire AMA, please click the above link. 

Q. It’s a dream of mine to be able to make a living off traveling and exploring like you do. What would you say is the best first step in getting a job writing about exotic locations for a magazine or travel website?


  1. Get enough money to go somewhere far away.
  2. Believe in yourself.
  3. Find a strange, quirky, moving, or downright interesting angle on a person/thing/event at that place. Try to find a news angle or what’s called a ‘peg’, which gives an editor a reason for using it.
  4. Do a blog and get a following on that – also offer guest blogs to established bloggers.
  5. Reuse good material.
  6. Offer good material to editors (web sites, magazines, newspapers etc.) in other countries which wouldn’t be so likely to be offered strange stuff. They usually handle the translating and they often pay well.
  7. Don’t give up.
  8. Remember, the more work you do, the bigger your footprint.
  9. Again, believe in yourself.
  10. Don’t ever ever ever listen to anyone who tells you to can the idea and get a ‘real’ job.
June 9, 2014Posted by Tahir in Travel

The Scent of Sweat

I don’t like danger.

I really don’t.

It’s always me who’s telling Ariane and Timur to be careful when doing the simplest thing. And, as I fret about their safety, I sometimes find myself thinking about danger — and my preoccupation with it.

But, while I bounce around the world as I tend to do, I have at times found myself staring cold, raw danger squarely in the face.

On my travels there have been so many hair-raising trips in the back of clapped out buses and pick-ups in the Hindu Kush, or on zigzag pistes through central Africa, or Latin America. And, there were those 16 days spent in a Pakistani torture jail — a tightrope walk between life and death.

And, last week, I found myself in the danger zone once again.

I really thought it was the end.

‘Game Over’, as Timur would say.

I had flown up to Delhi to Read more

June 9, 2014Posted by Tahir in Writing

Top 10 Reasons to Give Up Your Job



  1. Because you’re a slave to someone else.
  2. Because without realising it, you’re suffocating.
  3. Because you waste your life in office politics.
  4. Because you trick yourself into thinking you’re doing something worthwhile.
  5. Because you’re not free to travel, or to think.
  6. Because you hate your boss.
  7. Because the company owns you.
  8. Because you could become the greatest traveller of your age.
  9. Because you’ll blink and suddenly you’ll be ready for retirement.
  10. Because it’s worth $200,000 a year not to have a boss.


June 3, 2014Posted by Tahir in Events

Join me on Reddit! Monday, June 9th from 5-7pm UK time

Hi Reddit -- TAHIR SHAHIt’s that time again! Join me on Reddit on Monday, 9th June from 5-7pm UK time [12-2pm Eastern], and ask me anything! You’ll need to sign up for a Reddit account if you’d like to ask me questions, but it takes just a second. I don’t think you need to sign up for an account if you just want to read through the questions and answers, though.

When it’s time, head over here and ask me any questions you might have: about my books, about Casablanca, or about anything at all!

I look forward to seeing you there.

June 2, 2014Posted by Tahir in Writing

Ten Ways to Be Creative

Tahir story 129 s


  1. Sit in a café and watch the street until you think of 10 amazing ideas.
  2. Write pages and pages of random details from memory.
  3. Take 5 random objects and invent something new using them.
  4. Think like a 4-year-old child.
  5. Read three stories from The Arabian Nights before you think creative.
  6. Time yourself making numbered lists of ideas.
  7. Look at what you know in new ways.
  8. Confront danger face on.
  9. Learn from people who aren’t afraid to be thought to be afraid.
  10. Don’t ever doubt your own creativity.
May 26, 2014Posted by Tahir in Travel

Ten Things That Raw Travel Can Do



  1. Make you see the world differently.
  2. Remind you that you’re damned limited.
  3. Teach you new skills.
  4. Introduce you to wild places and extraordinary people.
  5. Get you out of your damned comfort zone.
  6. Teach you to observe.
  7. Remind you that the world is far more interesting than the place where you live.
  8. Teach you that zigzag travel is the greatest solver of problems.
  9. Give you time to plan your future.
  10. Reinforce ideas of selflessness.

Semester at Sea: An Afternoon In The Caliph's House

Dar Khalifa, CasablancaA few weeks ago The Semester at Sea ship came to Casa and I invited the students from Professor Natalie Bakopoulos’ Travel Writing class over.  They had already read The Caliph’s House in class, so they were familiar with the story behind Dar Khalifa.

They’ve posted a recap of the day on their own website, including photos of the students visiting with me. You can read more here.