This excerpt from Lonely Planet’s Oman, UAE & Arabian Peninsula guide provides a selection of travel literature to get you in the mood for your trip.
There are some wonderful publications about the Peninsula, covering every kind of subject including history, the Bedu and wildlife. Here are some highlights.
Arabia Through the Looking Glass, by Jonathan Raban. Raban’s observations on expatriate life in the region are as valid today as they were when he visited during the oil boom of the 1970s.
Arabian Sands, by Wilfred Thesiger. As much an anthropologist and ethnographer as traveller, Thesiger, in this classic book, records the nomadic life of the Bedu before the discovery of oil changed the region forever.
A History of the Arab Peoples, by Albert Hourani. This comprehensive and insightful history, written with the author’s characteristic sensitivity, is a must for anyone keen to understand the peoples of the Peninsula.
The Merchants, by Michael Field. Possibly the best single overview of life, business and culture in the Gulf.
Orientalism, by Edward Said. This seminal discourse on the nature of the relationship between Arab lands and the West examines the stereotypes behind the mythologised view of the region in Western literature and media.
The Prize, by Daniel Yergin. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this book is an epic history of oil.
Seven Pillars of Wisdom, by TE Lawrence. This account of the Arab campaign of 1915–18 is widely regarded as the most evocative description written about Arabia and the foundation of the modern Peninsula states.
Travels With a Tangerine, by Tim Mackintosh-Smith. This readable set of extracts from the journals of Ibn Battuta, a 14th-century Arab Marco Polo, traces his journeys across the Arab world.
More travel literature reading lists for other destinations can be found here.