Unsteady odyssey: A travel writer seeks a tonic in the world of Islamic prohibition

Barney Thompson in the Financial Times:

ScreenHunter_120 Feb. 24 16.01A few pages into The Wet and the Dry, somewhere between a Milanese bar and a Lebanese vineyard, Lawrence Osborne outlines the purpose of his “drinker’s journey” to a group of Arabs watching him work his way through a series of martinis. “I say I am taking a few months off to travel and wander, drinking my way across the Islamic world to see whether I can dry myself out,” he writes. “… I am curious to see how non-drinkers live. Perhaps they have something to teach me.”

If they do, Osborne is an unwilling pupil. Rather than experiment with Islamic prohibition, the novelist and travel writer lurches from one bout of boozing to another, from long lunches with winemakers in the Beka’a valley to the fabled bars of Beirut, to an Abu Dhabi hotel room where he wakes up fully clothed and wet through, piecing together the escapades of the previous night second-hand (“Don’t you remember passing out in the pool?”).

And so on – to a brewery in Pakistan, the nightlife of southern Thailand and the faded grandeur of the watering holes of Cairo. It’s as if Osborne has set out not so much to engage with the world of prohibition as to subvert it all by himself. The very notion of a Muslim alcoholic, he says, “gives me hope that the human race can be saved”.

More here.