Jordan: travel books to read before you go

This excerpt from Lonely Planet’s Jordan guide provides a selection of travel literature to get you in the mood for your trip.

Travels in SyriaJohann Ludwig (also known as Jean Louis) Burckhardt spent many years in the early-19th century travelling extensively through Jordan, Syria and the Holy Land, disguised as a pilgrim and compiling a unique and scholarly travelogue detailing every facet of the culture and society he encountered along the way. The result is Travels in Syria and the Holy Land, which documents his ‘rediscovery’ of Petra.

The Desert and the SownThe redoubtable Englishwoman Gertrude Bell wrote a few memoirs about her travels in the region in the early 20th century, including the somewhat dated and light-hearted The Desert and the Sown, though it’s mostly concerned with Syria.

Seven PillarsTE Lawrence’s classic Seven Pillars of Wisdom is one of those books that most people have heard of but few people have read. That’s not altogether surprising given its long-winded accounts of skirmishes on horseback. Nevertheless, Lawrence documents the Arab Revolt of 1919 with ‘colour and flair’ if not without partiality; he is at his most inspired when describing the desert scenery of Wadi Rum.

Kingdom of the Film StarsAnnie Caulfield’s Kingdom of the Film Stars: Journey into Jordan is an entertaining, personal account of the author’s relationship with a Bedouin man in Jordan. Similarly, Marguerite van Geldermalsen’s Married to a Bedouin is a sympathetic account of bringing up a family in the ancient city of Petra.

Walking the BibleWalking the Bible by Bruce Feiler is an engaging travelogue that follows Feiler’s travels through Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Territories and Jordan, searching for the physical roots of the Bible. Feiler shows considerably more empathy for people and places in Israel and the Palestinian Territories than those of the Arab world, but writes well on the archaeology of the Holy Land.

More travel literature reading lists for other destinations can be found here.