Middle East Tapestry represents the final installment of my thirty-plus years living and working in the Arab and Muslim worlds. The previous works, Masr and At the Margins, covered outlying areas of the region, including Egypt, South Asia, and West Africa. This book marks a return to the central lands of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula, including Saudi Arabia and Yemen, with lengthy excursions into lands to the north, chiefly Jordan and the West Bank.
The title, Middle East Tapestry, was chosen after careful consideration of several alternatives. The term "Middle East" simply seemed the best descriptor of the area inhabited by the world's nearly four hundred million Arab Muslims and makes up in familiarity what it may lack in definitional precision and nuance.
The word "tapestry"--technically, an elaborate piece of textile work with pictures woven into the warp and weft--was also carefully chosen. It more generally describes "an intricate combination of things or sequence of events, not necessarily related," that seemed to answer to the complexity of the area I am describing: "a tapestry of cultures, races, and customs." Indeed, there is hardly a thing in the history of the area that is not intricate or complex.