Authors, Poets, Presenters and Musicians
Always a keen linguist, Diana Darke's interest in the Middle East began when she made a late decision during her first year at university to switch from German and Philosophy to Arabic. After immersing herself in Arabic grammar texts over the summer, she joined the second-years reading the Koran, and a passion was born.
She went on to specialise in the Middle East for over thirty years, living and working in a range of Arab countries as an Arabic translator and consultant for both public and private sectors. Author of 16 acclaimed guides to the region, including Bradt's Eastern Turkey, Northern Cyprus and Oman, she is well known as an authority on Syria, contributing to the Sunday Times, the Guardian, the Financial Times and the BBC.
She first knew Syria in 1978 whilst based at an Arabic language school in Lebanon. Three years into its own civil war, travel within Lebanon was severely restricted, so she spent most weekends and language breaks exploring neighbouring Syria in her battered Citroën 2CV.
Syria has always been her favourite Arab country and in 2004, with a commission to write Bradt's Syria guide, she set off on a series of research trips round the country. Little did she know that it would lead not only to buying her Damascus house, but also to a revival of her interest in Arabic philosophy and literature, to completing an MA in Islamic Architecture and even to starting a PhD focussing on the residential Ottoman architecture of Old Damascus.
With her house in use as a refuge for displaced friends since September 2012, her links with Syria are deep and ongoing. She has been back numerous times since the revolution began and remains actively committed to helping Syrians achieve a better future.