Did I really see the Taj Mahal? Of course, I did. After all, I have the memories, the photographs, the companions to prove it.

Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq (1805/06-1887) ended a long life full of jokes and paradoxes with a final farewell jest.

In March 2017, students of Edwardes College in Peshawar won admiring reviews for their production of Antigone by Sophocles. The young actors enrolled at this late-Victorian foundation – now affiliated to the University of Peshawar – live in a province of Pakistan where the tragedy’s backdrop of fratricidal strife, family division and murderous combat between clashing sources of authority could hardly feel more urgent.

After the ‘reconquest’ of Spain by Christian rulers, millions of Muslims and Jews who had lived in the Iberian peninsula for many centuries converted, more by force than choice, to the new monopoly religion of these lands. However, their customs, their rituals, their languages – and above all their food – proved impossible to eradicate.

It is a characteristic of the city of strangers, the global metropolis, that it throws disparate people together and asks them – often without much external support – to forge a community out of coincidence.

In almost all its historic iterations, utopia for some implies dystopia for others.

During the spring and summer of 2016, the Turner Contemporary gallery in Margate on England’s North Sea coast hosted a new work by Yinka Shonibare MBE. Born in London but raised in Nigeria, the artist now uses the royal honour – which lends a ritual afterlife to a defunct imperial system – as part of his professional title. Pride, or parody?

This morning, a stiff breeze was blowing from the Persian Gulf. It often does, with a welcome cooling effect. Outside the restaurant windows, though, half a dozen human figures swung perilously in the gale as they inched down the building. External window-cleaning at 150 metres can never count as a relaxing job.

During my sixth-form years, I studied Ancient Greek for the first and last time. It played no part in my A-level curriculum.