Notes from the field

Our work takes us all over the world. Here we share some of our more personal perspectives on some of the destinations we have visited, filed on location.


From Odessa to Ashdod – a Russian Jewish odyssey

“Why would you go to Ashdod?” The question was frequently raised by friends and colleagues on learning of my intention to visit Israel’s sixth largest city, 20 miles south of Tel Aviv on Israel’s Mediterranean coast. “To have Gefilte fish,” was often my somewhat gnomic response. more >

Harare revisited

Rather oddly, there is a poem about Shropshire in England that has always put me in mind of Zimbabwe. One of the telling lines is: “What are those blue remembered hills, what spires, what farms are those?” Anyone who has looked across into Mozambique from Zimbabwe's Eastern Highlands will appreciate that hills can be blue. And farming remains central to Zimbabwe’s destiny, for better or for worse. more >

Kathmandu bustles, while Nepal waits for a political solution

Kathmandu could probably at one point have been described as dreaming under quiet hills. These days it is hard to see traces of that past. Despite its river valley location, it is close in feel to the crowded Indo-Gangetic plain cities to its south and west, with its streets constantly masked in dust and traffic fumes. The tourist district, in the area of Thamel in the north of the city, sees a constant bustle of backpackers, travellers and climbers headed for Everest, for whom Kathmandu is the first port of call. more >

Beirut’s spirit of enterprise

The last time I visited Beirut four years ago, the city’s downtown area was bustling. Rich Gulf Arab visitors thronged this high-class shopping district. But these days, the glitzy fashion stores are struggling. Since the oil price plunged, their clientele have stayed at home. This once vibrant area now seems dead. more >

Trouble in paradise?

To a first-time visitor, the Seychelles look like a peaceful paradise. Lush green hills give way to white sandy beaches lapped by a warm turquoise ocean. The weather is great, the people are friendly and the local rum’s a treat. But things are not all that they seem. The islands have seen their fair share of foreign threats and new dangers again loom on the horizon. more >

Slovenia’s capital: more transparent, but still very discreet

If Ljubljana is anything to go by, business in Slovenia is picking up and the unconventional business practices of the past have disappeared. But while transparency is encouraged, business is still largely done behind closed doors. more >

Prague: a straightforward place to do business

A booming economy, relatively low corruption and widely spoken English make the Czech Republic an easy place to do business, but mixed messages from the government and growing Euroscepticism could discourage some investors. more >

Mongolia: Still Waiting

Under the surface, Mongolia has it all. Coal, copper, gold, iron, oil, uranium – a veritable periodic table of opportunity. When China’s voracious appetite for resources drove up the prices of minerals, Mongolia seemed an investor’s paradise: stable, democratic, but underdeveloped. But its potential still remains largely unfulfilled. more >

Crunch in Chisinau

Tents dot the square in front of the Moldovan National Assembly in the centre of Chisinau. A speaker on a makeshift podium reads a poem. People queue up in front of a poster to throw darts at the faces of the country’s oligarchs and politicians. Police officers in protective uniforms encircle the crowd. more >

In Helsinki, it’s who you know

Helsinki feels more connected to central Europe than to its Scandinavian neighbours. Nestled between Norway, Sweden and Russia, Finland is the only country in the region to have joined the Euro. more >

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