This piece was originally written in 2020, for the yearbook in the village where I grew up. It’s about moving home, and building new ones.

Buildings in Baghdad’s historic old city. Credit: Lizzie Porter

How many ways can you build a home? In my case, four, at present. There is my calm, mid-century second-floor flat in Beirut, Lebanon, which I share with my dear friend Leila and our dogs Freddie and Bunduq (‘hazelnut’ in Arabic). That home was badly damaged in the enormous chemical explosion that ripped through the Lebanese capital last summer. The blast tore out the elegant old window frames, and left the brown wooden door in…

I am publishing this piece in an attempt to preserve one account of the events of August 4 2020 in Beirut, the Lebanese capital. That evening, one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history destroyed swathes of the city. The blast wasn’t caused by a missile strike, but by thousands of tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate left abandoned at the city’s seaport. Senior Lebanese officials were aware of the stockpile, but did little to dispose of it before it was too late.

The motivation to publish this account is driven in large part by a frantic urge not to…

My swan song to Beirut, through running.

I have pounded these streets over and over, and I think I know every smell and sound and colour. The salty sewage as the corniche pans out beside the seafront opposite McDonald’s at Ain el-Mreisseh. The illuminated balloons, touted by wandering sales children, providing an alternative to the failed street lamps. The swoosh of the sea. The cordoned-off stretch, smashed by a storm last winter, which no one has come to fix.

The young men slouching on the seafront railings, waiting out displacement and war and conscription and unemployment next to the waves…

Some Arabic books.

This article was born of the many requests I get for advice about learning Arabic as a non-native speaker. It is definitely not meant as an exhaustive or expert guide to learning this rich, complex and diverse language. It is not a grammar guide (sorry for the disappointment — I know you were all champing at the bit for one). It is not a magic bullet — it won’t replace the frustration or anger you will probably feel at some point when, like me, you fail to grasp a concept, or a phrase, or pronunciation. It is simply some thoughts…

Today is the start of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week in the USA . I’m going to use this opportunity to clear up a few myths about eating disorders, namely anorexia. This is not because the others aren’t important, but because I don’t have experience of them. I’ll also provide links to some informative fact-based pieces, and some articles I’ve written in the past about suffering and recovering from anorexia nervosa. I have always shared my experiences in the hope that they lead to better quality information and understanding. I hope that they provide a window that allows sufferers to…

The problem with breaking off to “fix” burnout

Resting means that underlying fears and sadnesses come to the fore.

I have walked a long way on tarmac, and my feet ache. I’ve been forced to confront the uncomfortable.

I decided to take time out from my work as a journalist and foreign correspondent. The duration remains unspecified, as I don’t know how much time is necessary – or how much I can stand. After working non-stop, I had exhausted myself. …

I’m writing this piece in light of the many requests I receive for advice on how to work as a freelance foreign correspondent, particularly in the Middle East, and the realities of working in a perversely unstable and stressful yet rewarding career. It is partly culled from advice I have given to those who have approached me, from my social media posts on freelance journalism, and from my own mulling over of advice other wiser, more experienced correspondents have given me.

I hope it will prove useful for anyone thinking about taking a similar route. I focus on the Middle…

إنني أزور المدارس في الدوحة من أجل أن أشرح للطلاب عن فوائد تناول الفاكهة والخضار، ولكنّ الأطفال ينظرون لهذا الأمر نظرة دونية، حيث أنهم يعتبرون الفاكهة والخضار غذاءً للفقراء فقط، وذلك لأن هناك أنواعاً من الخضار مثل الخيار أو الجزر تُعتبر رخيصة جداً.

تصدر هذه الكلمات عن غانم السليطي، وهو يجلس على مقعد خشبي أمام “أيفرغرين أرغانيكس”، المقهى الذي يقدم الطعام النباتي فقط، والذي أسسه السليطي في عام ٢٠١٦ في عاصمة قطر الدوحة. يوجد بجانب هذا الرجل — وعمره ٢٦ سنة — حاسب محمول “ماك بوك” وكوب عصير أخضر. بدأ السليطي في مهمة تغيير عادات الأكل وأنماط الحياة في وطنه.

الكيكة هي واحد من الانواع المتعددة من الاكل المتوفرة بشكل واسع في الدوحة. تصوير: ليزي بورتر

To work as a freelance journalist, learning to hustle is part of the job

This piece was originally presented orally at Hakaya’s “Lesson Learned” storytelling night in Beirut in November 2018.

When I was 15 years old, I worked at the newsagent’s in the English village I grew up in.

Every Saturday morning, it was my job to stack the newspapers, keep the chocolate bars piled high, and nod and smile at various stories of village gossip — roadworks here, sheep breeding there, that sort of thing.

There, I learnt some basic rules of selling.

If The Guardian was not…

This is the first piece I have published in Arabic. It is certainly not an advanced report, and is a basic summary of a couple of articles on the state of corruption and its links to Lebanon’s poor infrastructure. The point is more that it is written in Arabic — something that I aim to keep up (although this may be much easier said than done). With thanks to my teacher Rima for her style and grammar corrections.

سيركّز هذا النص عن الموقف المقدم في المقالة التي نشرها المركز اللبناني للدراسات عن ظاهرة الفساد في لبنان ونتائجها السلبية من حيث…

Lizzie Porter

Journalist based in Iraq.

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