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January 05, 2012

My brother John Redwine, the mountain climber, the Arabist...

January 05, 2012

January 05, 2012

By Adam Redwine, for The Arab Digest

“The mountains are my sanctuary,” he replied when our mother asked if he had been attending church recently; and so they had always been. He had fallen in love with the challenging climbs and majestic views as a college student in Montana, where he had moved as a young man seeking adventure away from a childhood among the rolling hills of western Iowa. His love of mountains never dimmed, driving him to climb extensively in Yosemite and Zion National Parks, climb the nose on El Capitan, summit six of the seven Grand Tetons in one day, on-site classic routes in Stanage, Mont Blanc and Wadi Rum and establish new routes in Morocco, Lebanon and many other countries.

His formal education got off to a rocky start; after being thrown out for insufficient academic performance his first semester, he had to personally ask the dean to be reinstated. It wasn’t until he began taking classes in politics and international studies that he hit his stride. A Rotary Club scholarship allowed him to live in Morocco for two years to study the Arabic language and the complex nature of Middle Eastern affairs. The intellectual challenge suited him as well as any mountain and he threw himself into his subject. While visiting friends and family in the US, he was always looking out for Arabic speakers to polish his skills.

After living in Morocco, on the periphery of the Arab speaking world, a move to Lebanon promised to put him in the center of the action. Indeed, shortly after moving there, he found work translating for the international press during the 2006 Lebanon-Israel war. A friend from that period remembers him trying to open a bank account in the formal classical Arabic of his schooling; another recalls, upon meeting him years later, wondering how a local Lebanese had managed to master English so fluently. His mastery of the idioms and accents of various regional dialects of Arabic was widely regarded and many assumed the language was his mother tongue.

He spent the next decade traveling extensively across the world but mostly through the Middle East and North Africa. He found wide variety of work, mostly with news outlets and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). When called for, he was willing to put himself in danger to get the job done; reporting from Tripoli during the hectic days leading to the toppling of the Qaddafi regime. Though often desperate for work, he refused to take employment with the private security forces the US military has used throughout the region. In explanation, he cited the safety concerns, but many believe he had deeper moral qualms with those outfits.

After all, his passion for mountain climbing was no safer and ultimately led to an untimely end at the age of 33 with a two-month old baby and beautiful wife left behind. His search for the peace of the mountains took him far and wide, but he was laid to rest back among the rolling hills of Iowa, next to our grandparents and less than a mile from our brother’s home.

(John Redwine passed away in a tragic accident on one of Lebanon's mountains on the 19th of December, for the full story, click here)


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