Beirut isn't an obvious home for a young Australian couple, but when the opportunity arose for journalist Catherine Taylor and her husband to move to Lebanon, they didn't think twice about leaving their comfortable life in Sydney. Catherine soon fell in love with the Paris of the Middle East and became fascinated by the complexity of its people: their exuberant and loving nature seemed to belie the many dark years of bloodshed and conflict they'd endured. She set about trying to understand the region, interviewing the wives of suicide bombers, Lebanese hashish farmers, stricken Palestinians on the West Bank, female boxing contestants in Cairo, Hezbollah fighters, and even Osama bin Laden's best friend. She also witnessed firsthand the impact of 9/11 on the region. Gradually she learnt to negotiate these very different cultures with humour and more than the occasional faux pas. When she reluctantly left after several years she vowed to return. In 2006, after the violence flared up again between Israel and Lebanon, she went back to see how her adopted country and friends had coped, and how, with their remarkable resilience, they saw the way forward.
First published 2007.