I do things with words, mainly English and Arabic
So, this morning I’m hopelessly over-excited. Bradt have just forwarded me a review of an advance copy of the forthcoming Bradt Guide to Palestine. And the review is by Matthew Teller, ‘award-winning travel writer, specialising in the Middle East’. And he has some very nice things to say, the kind that make even a Monday morning with the tail-end of a hurricane seem like a bright and sunny place. Like:
Irving knows her stuff, and has covered the ground intimately. It is refreshing (inspiring? simply bloody wonderful?) to have the Green Line respected in a guidebook. After decades of one-way traffic in terms of travel priorities, travel narratives and travel coverage, Irving reverses the flow. Jerusalem coverage is East Jerusalem coverage. People are front-centre, with homestays featuring prominently and sustainable tourism emphasised. Irving gives informative first-hand accounts of places that not only don’t appear in other guidebooks, but which most other specialist writers (this one included) have never even heard of. I showed her account of Bethlehem to a friend who lives there: after one paragraph he was saying “I never knew that”.
What’s even more interesting is that the last chapter – titled “Palestinian Communities in Israel / Palestinians of 1948″ – includes coverage of Nazareth, the Golan (fascinating to compare the two books’ approach), Haifa and elsewhere. This is as much a guide to Palestinians as to Palestine. But it dodges the romantic, armchair-traveller feel of, say, Palestine: A Guide, thanks to an informed journalistic style which is partial but not tub-thumping, and a wealth of practical info on independent travel. It’s a breath of fresh air.
After the lurking fear that my editor’s words ‘it’s going to print tomorrow’ inspired (‘Oh my goodness! What have I left out! What have I done wrong?’), this is a huge reassurance. Now, about that hurricane…