Holly Williams travels throughout the Middle East covering the region for CBS News. And after she recently reported — between volleys of gunfire — on the Mosul offensive while embedded with Kurdish forces, we knew we needed to learn more about this stoic journalist. Via email, Williams shared a story of the hospitality and generosity of the people she’s met, writing, “Today we were filming with some Kurdish fighters in a village they’d just captured from ISIS, and I complimented one of the officers on a scarf he was wearing. As we were leaving the village, he sent one of his men running out of their camp to our cars to give me the scarf as a gift. How amazing is that?!?” And when Williams answered our “5 Questions,” the word “amazing” pretty much sums her up, too.
1. What are three foods you crave when you’re in the field?
I’m actually fine as long as I have coffee in the morning. I love Middle Eastern food, which is handy. But I am one of those people who is pretty much ALWAYS hungry, so we carry a stash of snacks in our cars. I’ve also had some of the best meals of my life on the front line. I have a wonderful memory of sitting on a hilltop here a couple of years ago with a group of peshmerga [Kurdish soldiers] and eating fantastic chicken biryani with them.
2. When you’re on assignment in a high-conflict area, what do you do to relax?
I work with a wonderful group of people. Not only are they talented professionals, they’re also good company. It’s important, because in this job you actually spend a lot of time just waiting for stuff to happen. Last year, some of us were cooped up in a Shiite militia camp here in Iraq for four days waiting for an embed. We had no internet, and only patchy phone coverage. We passed the time playing charades and word games.
3. What is a location that you’d love to visit — either on assignment or for vacation?
I spent 12 years living in East Asia but never visited Laos. I’d love to see it.
4. Who is your dream interview subject, living or dead?
Elizabeth I (to be clear, I mean the first one, 16th century) because as a woman leader, at a time when the world was even more wary of powerful females than today, she had a carefully crafted public image. And yet we know so little about the woman behind the image.
5. When did you know that you wanted to be a journalist?
I thought it would be an amazing job when I was at high school, but never imagined for a second that I would actually be able to break into the industry.