The Arab world was hugely influential on one of the bestselling authors of all time.

The late British novelist Agatha Christie — known as the “Queen of Crime” — was a woman of extraordinary talent. By the time of her death, aged 85 in 1976, she had written 66 detective novels, including the widely acclaimed “Murder on the Orient Express” and “Death on the Nile.”

It generally took this prolific writer around three to four months to write a novel. “There’s nothing like boredom to make you write,” she once said. A peculiar quote from someone whose life — full of adventurous journeys and emotional ups-and-downs — was anything but dull.

In her early thirties she was travelling with her first husband Archie, who was an army officer. Archie was sort of working and they were almost in a quasi-ambassadorial role. However, Archie’s infidelity led to the couple parting ways in 1928.

Christie made her way to the Middle East aboard the iconic luxury train connecting Paris to Istanbul. “I thought: It’s now or never,” Christie later reflected on this bold decision. “Either I cling to everything that’s safe and that I know, or else I develop more initiative, do things on my own.”

Going to Iraq, which back then was very different, on your own on the Orient Expressis was impressive. 

As evidenced by her titles, “Murder in Mesopotamia” and “They Came to Baghdad”, the sights and sounds of the Middle East made a huge impact on Christie.

In a way, her time in the Arab world helped launch her comeback after things had gone horribly wrong with her marriage. “How much I have loved that part of the world. I still love it and always shall,” she said of the region.

Her second  marriage to archaeologist Max Mallowan further intensified her interest in the Arab world. The pair met in Iraq, married quickly in 1930, and over the next 18 years went on archaeological digs in Syria and Iraq, both custodians of rich civilizations. 

Such expeditions were challenging, not least because of the region’s hot weather and lack of air-conditioning, but Christie was up for it. 

Death on the Nile

One of Christie’s most famous Arab-related novels, “Death on the Nile,” was inspired by her journey up the Nile on board a steamer in the winter and was published in1937.

The plot follows Belgian detective Hercule Poirot as he investigates the murder of a socialite on a Nile cruise aboard the SS Karnak. It’s an unusually descriptive book. You get these quite powerful descriptions of the Nile and the Pharaohs. Her biographer believes that “Death on the Nile” was the start of an evolution in Christie’s writing.

Though written decades ago, Christie’s books still resonate and capture the public’s imagination and hearts even today. 

Based on article in Arab News

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