A few years ago we lived in the desert – well Abu Dhabi actually so probably not so harsh as the first words might imply. My first son was born there and he learned to swim in the gulf where the sea was as warm as a bath. We went ‘dune-bashing’ and mountain-bashing, which means driving a four-wheel out into the real desert or the desert-mountains, and camped out for a night or two literally in the middle of nowhere.

In the Empty Quarter my imagination went riot when the sudden sunset left the night sky to open up revealing rivers and whirls of galaxies glittering from horizon to horizon. Then a butter coloured moon the size of a hot air balloon floated high spilling yellow light across the sands.

As the temperature dropped, I wondered what it would be like to cross a desert like this with nothing but a horse and a map in your head to guide you to the next waterhole. Someone with a desperate mission to fulfil yet marked down for death by those hunting him.

In the Hatta Mountains the wind would whirl and gust along ravines and up cliffs in odd ways. Hot and dry, it spoke amongst the cracks and ravines of ancient red stone, hinting at myths and legends told and untold.

And I wondered, could these mountains once have contained genies and ifrits? Could it have trapped travellers in its folds to be preyed on for their blood by priests of a savage god?

From these seeds my first book, The Cracked Amulet, was born.

Visiting, and perhaps even living in, a country very different from your own, can boost anyone’s imagination. Travel widens the horizons in so many ways and we are very lucky to live in a world where it is possible to visit so many disparate and interesting countries and cultures.

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