Mariusz Zawadzki was born in Warsaw in 1970. He studied computer science and mathematics and became a research assistant at Warsaw University. Later he worked as an analyst at Citibank Poland. In 2002, surprising himself, he won a fellowship from Gazeta Wyborcza, the largest daily in Poland, and later was hired as a staff reporter. He traveled many times to the war-torn Middle East and China. In the course of his adventures he was expelled from Israel as a security threat; arrested by Lebanese Hezbollah fighters as an Israeli spy; banned from entering Iran as a "slanderer"; bombed in Iraq as a passenger of a US Army vehicle; and interrogated by Chinese police as a provocateur accused of plotting bizarre street demonstration against bicycles during the Beijing Olympic Games.
In 2010 he settled in Washington, DC, as US correspondent for Gazeta Wyborcza daily. "Vacation in Basra" is a chapter of his book Nowy Wspanialy Irak (Brave New Iraq), which was nominated for the 2012 Ryszard Kapuscinski Award for Literary Reportage, the most important prize for international nonfiction published in Polish language. The other nominees include Jean Hatzfeld, Ed Vulliamy, William Dalrymple, and Wojciech Jagielski; the winner will be announced in May.