Monday. The phone begins to ring in my pocket as soon as I disembark in Karachi. It’s an occupational hazard here – people want to know where you are, how far you’ve got, how long it will take you to find them.

Annie was small and spare in her smart sari, with a shock of cropped curls. She was forty-one and single; she’d lived for a decade or so after partition in Karachi, and then in London.

As a boy M had often walked by the lake. It mesmerised him in winter when it was glassy and in summer when it mirrored the sun’s reddish rays.

My first chance to visit Istanbul came suddenly, in the spring of 2004. I’d be spending my forty-ninth birthday where continents converged, in a city which contained both east and west: just where life had placed me and so many others like me. A city with a body of water that was both river and sea. When we arrived, I was as anxious as a lover: or more appropriately as someone meeting an unknown partner for the first time after an arranged marriage.

I don’t remember when I first read Samiha Ayverdi’s name. Perhaps it was in a footnote in one of the numerous works of the noted German Sufi scholar Anne-Marie Schimmel, or in an article on pioneering Turkish women writers. What I did know, when I first came across a book by her in the early years of this century, was that she was a novelist and a chronicler of Istanbul in late Ottoman times, as well as a Sufi intellectual from a period when such figures weren’t remotely fashionable in Ataturk’s Turkey.

I once knew a woman who loved a swan. She loved all swans, and geese and ducks and water hens too, but most of all she loved a swan she called Satin.

Rabia of Basra lived in twelfth-century Iraq. She wrote in Arabic, but her exemplary piety made her a saint who is venerated all over the Muslim world. In her era, the mystical tradition of Islam was growing, even burgeoning

As a boy in Karachi I was taken regularly, in the company of my sisters, to see films that starred Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope, Doris Day and Debbie Reynolds.

Desert, white sand rippling, reddish sky. A figure, on a white horse, head wrapped in a scarf and covered in a hat, wearing an assortment of Western clothes: boots, jodhpurs, a short jacket.