In a couple of days we will be flying to Jordan to hike the 650-kilometer Jordan Trail. Priority before visiting a country: Reading books and buying books to read during our trip in that particular country, in this case Jordan. What a joy!
Jordan Guidebooks & Phrasebooks
I can now count in Arabic, and say the essential stuff such as hello, goodbye, thank you, and ask where the toilet is 🙂
I love the sound of the language and am eager to learn more.
But apart from guidebooks I am always searching for other books on the country I’m about to visit. Here’s my list for Jordan, books I have read or will be reading on the trail that give insight into Jordan’s and/or the Middle East’s history, culture, and society.
Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life, by Queen Noor
Written by King Hussein’s fourth wife, Queen Noor (Lisa Najeeb Halaby) talks about her life with the king in the 1970s-1999, which provides insights into Jordan’s turbulent years.
Seven Pillars of Wisdom, by T.E. Lawrence
Probably better known through the film Lawrence of Arabia, this biography details Lawrence’s experiences during the Arab Revolt of 1916–18, when he was based in Wadi Rum as a member of the British Forces of North Africa. With the support of Emir Faisal and his tribesmen, he helped organize and carry out attacks on the Ottoman forces.
Arabian Sands, by Wilfred Thesiger
A British explorer and travel writer, Thesiger was born in Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) and educated in England. In the spirit of T.E. Lawrence, Thesiger spent five years exploring and wandering the deserts of Arabia.
The Desert and the Sown; Travels in Palestine and Syria, by Gertrude Bell
Early 20th century, the British writer, archaeologist, and political analyst traveled to Persia and felt drawn to the Arabian world. This book traces Bell’s 1905 sojourn through Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine. It’s an inspiring portrait of a woman who overcame the barriers of her generation, as well as a piece of history that offers insight into current events in the Middle East.
On my list is the movie Queen of the Desert (2016), which is based on this book.
The Land Beyond: Thousand Miles on food through the Middle East, by Leon McCannon
From Jerusalem, the Northern Irish writer and film-maker followed a series of hiking trails, among which through Jordan, that trace ancient trading and pilgrimage routes and traverse some of the most contested landscapes in the world.
Travels in Syria and the Holy Land, by J.L. Burckhardt
John Lewis Burckhardt (1784-1817) was an explorer of the Middle East who traveled widely in disguise as a Muslim. This work gives a view of Arabian life and manners and includes his account of his ‘rediscovery’ of the ancient city of Petra.
Other bucks by Burckhardt
Geza Vermes is the world’s leading Dead Sea Scrolls scholar, who translated the scrolls into English. In this book he relates the controversial story of their discovery and publication, revealing cover-ups, blunders and academic in-fighting, but also the passion and dedication of many of those involved.
Petra: The History of the Rose City, One of the New Seven Wonders of the World, by Charles River Editors
This book looks at the history of Petra from prehistoric times to the end of the Crusades, as well as the city’s ‘rediscovery’ in the 19th century and how it has entered the world’s imagination since then.
The Source, by James Michener
While focused on the origin and history of Israel, the territory of what now is Jordan is part of this history, e.g. through its shared biblical history. One of my favorite historical sagas by Michener.
The Haj, by Leon Uris
Centers around Palestina, this story splendidly narrates the tale of the Middle East, of competing rulers often held back by ancient tradition.
On my Wish List
Unable to buy for my Kindle and unable to buy as second-hand paperbacks on Amazon (international shipping doesn’t work?), I hope to find these books in Jordan (or somewhere else).
- Our Last Best Chance: A Story of War and Peace, by King Abdullah II of Jordan (non-fiction)
- South of the Heart: A Novel of Modern Arabia (also known as The Great Thirst and The Arab), by Hans Ruesch
- Sweetest Night by Mounis al Razzaz (novel)
- Pillars of Salt, by Fadia Faqir (novel)
- Married to a Bedouin, by Marguerite van Geldermalsen (memoir)
Three novels (trilogy,) by Abdulrahman Munif:
Which leaves me the question:
What book (or movie) on Jordan do you think we should add to our list? Please share in the comment section below. Thanks!
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