It's Springtime for Sufis

Below the snowline violet crocuses and wild strawberries are bursting through the turf of Kosovo’s alpine meadows. Under the tree line opportunist hellebores and purple primroses are reaching for the sun before an all-enveloping tree canopy obscures light to the woodland floor. Snow is slowly melting on the mountaintops, feeding streams to the valleys below – where the rich biodiversity of above is equally reflected in Sufi rituals in the plains below.
There are more than sixty active Tekkes of seven Tarikats (Sufi lineages) in Kosovo: the Kaderi, Rufai, Saadi, Shazeli, Nakshibendi, Sinani and Halveti with an eighth, the Melemi Tarikat, waiting in the shadows. Each Sufi Tarikat occupies it’s own niche, but relates to the same family – Sunni Islam – not as a severed limb, but as a Sufi branch – one with choice, a way in and a way out, without hidden surprises.
Natural symbolism enriches their lexicon:
“We are Muslims and like other Muslims, we are in the same sea. Others swim, we prefer t…

Freedom at 4am: Misadventures in Afghanistan

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Freedom at 4AM is a true life tale of cultural clash in Afghanistan: from the political to the personal, from the spiritual to sexual. Set against a backdrop of history, geopolitics, religion and misadventure this immersive story climaxes with a unlikely call to prayer under life threatening circumstances...

"A powerful, sharply observed story of Marc Perry's experience working for an NGO in Kabul. He vividly conveys the underbelly of seediness and corruption of internationals; working in the shadows of violence, and death. Very readable - once the reader started, difficult to put down".
Donald Reeves MBE.

I was honoured to be one of the first people to own a copy and to read it. It was compelling, terrifying, eye-opening and heart-breaking. I’m extremely proud to know and to have worked with such a talented and brave journalist.
Lottie Gross, Editor, Rough Guides. 

What impresses me is that you’re fair to Afghans and Afghan culture, even as…

The Brits in Kosovo

On Saturday the 12th of June 1999, in a shoe factory on the outskirts of Skopje, General Sir Mike Jackson received a telegram from the Queen; it read:
"I have nothing but admiration for the way in which you have carried out your duties over recent weeks during this difficult time of preparation and improvisation in caring for the refugees. I have no doubt that much greater pressures now lie ahead as you prepare to move into Kosovo as part of KFOR with the eyes of the world on you. I am confident in your ability to rise to these challenges and I am proud of every one of you, as are your families and friends who watch and wait. My thoughts and prayers are with you all."
And rise to the challenge they did, but you don't need to take my word for it.
It's exactly ten years since the British had any sort of substantial presence here in Kosovo yet from my window in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs the Union Jack can still be seen flying along side the Stars and Stripes. Today t…

Following in refugee footsteps

Three years ago, from a roadside in Kabul, I witnessed one of many refugee camps clinging to the outskirts of the sprawling city. The people inside were the survivors of another freezing winter in which young an old alike had frozen to death due to the hard choices between buying wood, food or clothing. They were the ‘internally displaced’ of southern Afghanistan, fleeing from fighting in Helmand between Taliban, local groups, and troops from my own country. Without means of provision, without employment, without hope and without freedom of movement, they, like the many others, were confined to scratching out a survival as best they could. Without security, and concerned about how justifiably unwelcome and Englishman might be, the nearest I got to the camp was to briefly walk to the circumference, where a group of kids were gleefully playing with a plastic yellow duck in a dirty open sewer. The innocence of children, who know no better than to keep playing is something I would see aga…

British Authors on Ottoman Tolerance

There is a famous routine in Monty Python’s The life of Brian that might be equally applied to the Ottoman Empire:

Q: So, what have the Ottomans ever done for us?
A: Coffee drinking. They give us that, and algebra.
Degree granting universities, the camera...
Preservation and translation of ancient Greek philosophy and other major contributions to the age of enlightenment...
Q: Well, all right, all right, apart from coffee drinking, algebra, degree granting universities, the camera, preservation and translation of ancient Greek philosophy and other major contributions to the enlightenment, what did the Ottomans ever do for us?
A: There was religious tolerance, what about religious tolerance? 

When reading certain Christian religious histories of the Balkans today one could be forgiven for thinking that the days of the Sultans were only filled with decline, decay, darkness and the unbearable burden of the ‘Ottoman Yoke.’ While recognising human suffering – and all empire building dyn…

Greek Street Views on #Brexit

Only eight months ago the people of debt-ridden Greece were asked to vote in their own EU referendum. Their issue was whether to accept a bail out deal offered by the so-called Troika. Their question: “Should the draft deal put forward by the EU, ECB & IMF, be accepted?” Was not as straight forward as the one facing the British public: "Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?"
But stakes were portrayed similarly – as a knife-edge decision between being in or out of the EU. If Greeks voted NO the threat was they would be cast adrift with a return to the Drachma or, at the very least, a German engineered time-out from the union. Despite a NO vote of 60%, rejecting the terms, the Government of Greece accepted tough fiscal conditions and stayed in the EU. So what would an-albeit unscientific sample of Greeks think of the Brits leaving?
Marc Perry traveled to Northern Greece to find out:

The Genisis of a Jewel

Kosovo's Geological journey from the Proterozoic to the prehistoric and beyond. 
Kosovo’s high circles of surrounding mountains, fertile plains and central spine of low rolling hills have been built over eons of geological time. Not only did significant geo-tectonic events define the distinct geographic dominion that is today’s Kosovo but they also laid down the resources that have sustained numerous waves of competing armies and empires with expanding interests. The oldest rocks in Kosovo are concentrated in the North East with scatterings isolated in smaller pockets elsewhere. Their geogenic journey started 1000 – 570 million years ago when the earth was gripped, like a snowball, in the most severe glaciation on geological record. Strata formed by ice and fire would lay down the continental bedrock of Kosovo, only to be drowned out millions of years later.

240 to 66 million years ago, when dinosaurs dominated life on earth, Kosovo was, for the most part, under water. Metallic ores…