Abbas El-Zein was born and raised in Beirut. He was twelve years old when the civil war broke out in 1975. He lived in Beirut through most of the war and, like many Lebanese of his generation, experienced shelling, car bombs, shootings and displacement. Although he came from a family of Shia religious scholars, he attended a French secular school and studied civil engineering at the American University of Beirut. He migrated to Australia in 1996. Abbas has written essays and short stories about war, identity and displacement for The New York Times, The Age, Meanjin, HEAT and Australian Book Review. His first novel, Tell the Running Water (Sceptre, 2001), is set in Beirut and tells the intersecting stories of two young men and a woman who are engaged in the war, and coming to terms with the violence around them. He lives in Sydney with his wife and their two sons and lectures in environmental engineering at the University of Sydney.