Thursday, Jul. 21, 2011

Editor's Desk: An Islamic Odyssey

Although he did not know it at the time, when a jurist from Tangier named Ibn Battuta left his home in 1325, he was commencing 29 years of travel, visiting everywhere from the Sahara to the China coast. Yet wherever he went, Ibn Battuta found one constant: the shared culture and faith of Islam, which knit together a community around the world long before anyone had thought of the word globalization. With the Arab Spring still playing itself out and with the Islamic world steeped in both change and challenge, Ibn Battuta's travels seemed the perfect topic for our annual Summer Journey double issue. We wanted to see how the world had — and had not — changed in the years since he traversed it.

Our correspondents, as they always do with this project, leaped at the chance to get in some serious reporting. Alex Perry went in search of Somali pirates (of course, being Alex, he found some), while Lisa Abend ruminated on Spain's new identity crisis, some 500 years after al-Andalus fell. Karl Vick explored Istanbul, Aryn Baker looked at the uniquely Saudi way of dating with a bit of participant observation, and photographer Dominic Nahr captured the sand — and water — of the Sahara.

The editing of the issue was in the experienced hands of Zoher Abdoolcarim in Hong Kong and Bobby Ghosh in New York City. (Bobby did double duty, contributing a terrific piece on the rise of a moderate political Islam.) Patrick Witty looked after the photography, Heather Jones drew the maps, and the elegant design was the work of our international art director, Victor Williams. In an issue like this, it's vital that someone sets priorities and enforces deadlines — fortunately¬≠, we have Andrea Dorfman to do that for us. I'm grateful to them all.

Putting together the Summer Journey issue has always been a special time of the year for me. This is the eighth I've worked on, and it will be the last — in fact, this is the last issue of TIME International I will edit. I'm about to start a new job as president and CEO of ONE, the global advocacy group working to eradicate extreme poverty and preventable diseases. I'm proud to have been colleagues with scores of talented journalists at TIME — men and women who work flat out, often in challenging environments, to bring the news to you, our readers. And now I'm looking forward to joining your distinguished ranks.