Piney Kesting

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Piney Kesting is a Boston-based freelance writer and consultant who specializes in the Middle East.

Articles by Piney Kesting

Woman of the Steppe, Pride of the Nation

Woman of the Steppe, Pride of the Nation

Born in 1893 in a village near Kazakhstan's border with Russia, Akkagaz Doszhanova in 1922 became the first woman from her homeland to graduate from a medical university in the Soviet Union. Over the decade that followed, she advocated for women’s access to education and health care, as well as famine relief and rural health care, until her death from disease, perhaps contracted in the course of her profession, at age 39. Pioneer, role model, heroine—these are the words used to describe her in Kazakhstan today. Yet her legacy was almost another casualty of Soviet purges of the late 1930s. Only now are her descendants and historians uncovering her story.

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For the Love of Reading

For the Love of Reading

From its first read-aloud in Jordan in 2006, We Love Reading has become one of the world’s most-recognized nonprofit organizations encouraging reading among children. Behind its success stand more than 7,000 local volunteer “reading ambassadors”—mostly women—in 61 countries and its founder, a scientist whose own four children inspired her. 

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Tashkent’s Underground Masterpieces

Tashkent’s Underground Masterpieces

In Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, the subway system offers more than practical travel. Called Toshkent Metropoliteni, or the Metro for short, it also transports passengers on a symbolic journey through Uzbek history. Each of its 29 stations was designed by an individual artist, and together they honor a pantheon of cultural heroes—writers, composers, scientists and more—as well as historic resources such as cotton and almonds. As breathtaking as they are informative, each metro station is a chapter in a story told in tileworks, murals and mosaics amid elegantly thematic lighting and architecture.
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The Borderless World of Kahlil Gibran

The Borderless World of Kahlil Gibran

Arriving penniless in Boston from Lebanon, Gibran Khalil Gibran—whose name a schoolteacher misspelled “Kahlil”—grew up to become one of the early 20th century’s most inspiring writers. The story of his against-the-odds rise is one of not only pluck and talent, but also luck and mentors, whose little-known stories are shedding new light on the complex biography of a man whose poetry and prose speak today as richly as nearly a century ago.

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The Legacy of Arabic in America

The Legacy of Arabic in America

The eighth most-studied language in US schools and universities today is Arabic. That would please Edward E. Salisbury of Yale, who in 1841 became the country’s first full professor of Semitic languages—nearly 200 years after North America’s first Arabic class was offered at Harvard.

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Ambassadors of Art

Ambassadors of Art

When the Museum of Art at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, hosted “Phantom Punch,” it marked the fourth show in a multi-year, multi-city exhibition tour of the United States by an eclectic group of some two dozen artists from Saudi Arabia, where over the past decade, a once-marginal contemporary art scene has become one of the world’s fastest-growing creative movements. Thought-provoking, socially engaged and at times whimsical and even satirical, the works vary from painting and rubber stamps to sculpture, assemblage, photography, video, calligraphy, performance and installation pieces. All share what one curator calls as “an honest need for explanation, an exploration of the world we live in and a desire to understand.”
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