Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Russell McGuirk was educated at Phillips Exeter Academy and Johns Hopkins University, where he studied Modern University. He has travelled widely throughout the Middle East and North Africa. He lived in Egypt, working as a teacher and as a journalist for The Egyptian Gazette, and is the author of Colloquial Arabic of Egypt . He also loved and worked as a translator in Saudi Arabia for nine years. He moved to London in 1983, where he ran his own translation company, Arabic Translation Associates. He is married has two sons.