The Latest: 36.1 | Destinations

Samia Rahman explores potential directions of travel; Hafeez Burhan Khan waxes lyrical about his wanderlust; Robert Irwin joins European travellers to Muslim lands; Saimma Dyer explores inner dimensions; Chandrika Parmar looks for directions in disaster stricken areas; Zainab Rahim watches ‘Baghdad Central’; the last poems of Abdel Wahab Yousif, the young refugee who died crossing the Mediterranean; and our guide to ten synthetic wonders.

During August 2020, a rubber boat packed with forty-five African migrants sank into the Mediterranean Sea shortly after setting off from Libya on its way to Europe. On board, was a young Sudanese poet, Abdel Wahab Yousif, twenty-nine years of age, known affectionately amongst the young generation of African poetry fans as Latinos.

Although the Western imagination tended to locate the strangest and most improbable marvels in India and points further east, the Arab lands provided enough of the marvellous and the strangeness for medieval European pilgrims, traders, adventurers and spies to be going on with.

As the years passed, my connection to God diminished as I was exposed to a dogmatic, rigid and fear-inducing Islam. At my daily madrasa lessons I learned how to read and recite Arabic, but not to understand it, a peculiarity of South Asian culture I was to learn later in life.

The word destination has a polysemic power which invites thoughts from distant domains. In an ordinary sense it is a place one has to reach. But destination as metaphor packs layers of meaning.

Creativity and innovative thought have been essential tools for the flourishing of human culture and civilisation. But originality, imagination and pioneering cultural products require serious effort and hard work. So why not simply copy others or just buy the signs of sophistication.

My first ever trip abroad was to Bhopal in India, to visit relatives. I was 21 years old, skinny, long-haired and ready for adventures. I travelled alone and by the time I returned home, three months later, I was a changed man.