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War zone survival book combines practical tips with captivating narrative.

Journalists, NGO workers and adventurers setting out to work and travel in the region's newly minted conflict zones can add a new weapon to their arsenal of survival gear: "How to Avoid Being Killed in a War Zone," a survival guide for conflict zones by journalist and Al Jazeera English producer Rosie Garthwaite.

Packed with tips from her own experiences reporting from Baghdad and Basra in the aftermath of the war, and wisdom from an array of veteran journalists, NGO workers and security experts, "War Zone" is a must-have guide for anyone setting out on a dangerous assignment.

Garthwaite began working on the book after learning that her friend and colleague, Al Jazeera English reporter Sherine Tadros, had gone in to cover Israel's 2009 War on Gaza with scant knowledge of how to survive the dangerous situations she eventually found herself in.

"There was no book for me to give her, so I had to do it myself," Garthwaite told Daily News Egypt.

In writing "War Zone," Garthwaite drew upon considerable knowledge and experience gleaned from a year spent in the British Army, an extended period working for the Baghdad Bulletin, Reuters and other agencies in Iraq in 2003, and travels to global danger zones as an Al Jazeera International reporter and producer. Her commitment to journalism is what drives Garthwaite into danger zones to report.

"Being a journalist allows me to bring the unknown stories of the people I meet to the world. I always hope that in the choices I make and the investigations I carry out that I can try to make a difference," she said.

The book contains in-depth information, everything from how to hotwire a car and what foods can be eaten in the wild to first aid and how to stay safe in the midst of a riot. A section on surviving kidnapping features first hand advice from Garthwaite's colleagues who survived to tell their stories.

Practical advice is interspersed with entertaining and edifying anecdotes from danger zone experts like Hoda Abdel Hamid and Jane Dutton Hamid of Al Jazeera, veteran journalists John Simpson and Jon Snow, and Samantha Bolton, formerly of Medicins Sans Frontiers.

"War Zone" offers a rare look at the daily realities of life in a place like Baghdad: finding running water for a shower, staying fit in the absence of a gym or safe roads, what to wear, where to live, and, crucially, when to get out.

These tidbits of personal experience are what make "War Zone" much more than just a survival guide. Aside from providing vital practical tips, the book offers fascinating insight into how individual personalities function in and react to life in conflict areas. The war zone veterans quoted from the book do not constitute a single personality 'type'; each person has their own way of coping with the stresses of daily life and work, keeping themselves grounded, and dealing with inevitable feelings of alienation upon their return home.

Garthwaite emphasizes the key role that one's own personality and circumstances play in war zone survival, and prescribes a strong foundation of preparation in conjunction with a healthy dose of local insight in addition to close attention to one's instincts as key to survival. For example, blending in to your surroundings by trying to look like a local is a good survival tactic - unless, like Garthwaite in Baghdad, you are blonde, speak no Arabic, and can't seem to keep your veil over your hair.

Other top tips from the author include listening to locals, ("they always know best"); reading ("a book you read today could save your life tomorrow") and, finally, buckling up ("the roads are the most dangerous places in conflict areas").

Pithy and humorous, "War Zone" is a worthy read for those headed out to the field and those sticking closer to home alike: the book's combination of serious survival advice and human experience is practical, exciting and, above all, entertaining.

Rosie Garthwaite.

Daily NewsEgypt 2011

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Publication:Daily News Egypt (Egypt)
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Aug 1, 2011
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