Diana Darke studied Arabic at Oxford University, before beginning her professional career with the UK's GCHQ as an Arabic linguist. She went on to spend over twenty years working in the intelligence and counter-terrorism world, with both the British government and British industry, whilst living in a range of Arab countries, including Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Oman and Dubai. Along the way she authored 15 detailed guides to the region, including five on Turkey, most recently Bradt’s Oman, Eastern Turkey, North Cyprus and Syria.
In 2005 she bought a semi-derelict courtyard house in the Old City of Damascus, restoring it with the help of local craftsmen, a process which enabled her to become deeply embedded in Syrian society, and also led her back into the academic world tostudy Islamic Art and Architecture. Her book, My House in Damascus: An Inside View of the Syrian Crisis (3rd edition 2016), has final chapters describing her recent struggle to reclaim the house from war profiteers. She has been back seven times since the uprising began in March 2011 and remains actively committed to helping Syrian achieve a better future. Today she is an independent Middle East cultural expert and Syria specialist, frequently invited to speak at international events and media such as the BBC, PBS, TRT, Al-Jazeera and France24. She is also the author of The Merchant of Syria (2018), co-author of The Last Sanctuary in Aleppo (2019) and author of Stealing from the Saracens: How Islamic Architecture shaped Europe (2020). Her work on Syria has been published by the BBC website (most recently on Idlib), the BBC’s From Our Own Correspondent, The Sunday Times, The Times, The Guardian and the FT.
BA (Hons) & MA Arabic, University of Oxford
MA Islamic Art & Architecture, SOAS, London
Countries of expertise
Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Oman, Turkey
Issues of expertise
Middle East culture, society & architecture with special reference to Syria; the ongoing Syrian war; expert witness on Arabic graphology cases; counter-terrorism in the Arab world
Arabic, German, French