The life and last days of Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was killed during a Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya:
It’s curious that a kid from California who grew up knowing nothing about the Arab world would come to devote his career to the Middle East and North Africa—as opposed to, say, Asia or Scandinavia or even no particular place. A European woman named Henriette, who met Stevens in Jerusalem in 2003 and had a ‘fantastic, turbulent’ on-and-off romance with him for nine years, tried to explain it to me.
‘After we had become a couple,’ she said, ‘I asked Chris when was the first time he noticed me with interest. He told me that it was at the dinner party where we first met. He said that he had liked the way I smelled. Chris was a sensualist—he applied all his senses in experiencing the world. For people like us, the Middle East is tantalizing. The smell of coffee with cardamom, and of apple tobacco burning in water pipes; the color and touch of carpets and fabrics; the sounds of the muezzin call to prayers and the energy of crazy urban traffic and large desert landscapes. The warmth of its people and the sound of their music and language. If you combine that with analytical curiosity invested in understanding the long history of the region and the complex dynamics of its current politics, the Middle East is a place you can’t resist. It is not only an intellectual endeavor—it makes you feel fully alive.’