By: Charles Glass
This is a powerful and insightful narrative of a journey - once violently interrupted and here resumed - through one of the most compelling regions on earth. In the late 1980s, Charles Glass set out on a literary and spiritual ramble from Alexandretta in southern Turkey for Aqaba, the first Turkish garrison conquered in 1917 by T.E. Lawrence and the tribal irregulars of the Arab revolt.
He never reached his destination: his journey came to a brutal halt when he was kidnapped and held hostage for three months, a story told in his previous book, "Tribes with Flags". Now he reverses the journey, marching north along the path of the Levant's last successful invasion, by the Arabs of the Hejaz and Britain in 1917, since which time the region has been divided into Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan. He traverses the Jordanian desert to the Iraqi border with Bedouin guides, explores modern Israel and revisits the scene of his captivity, confronting the men who kidnapped him.
He visits the Israeli settlements and the Arab towns on whose land the settlements were constructed; he speaks to Israeli conscripts and Palestinian demonstrators, to old family chieftains and the Israeli Sabra aristocracy, to priests, rabbis and mullahs, politicians and assassins, torturers and tortured. Glass believes that the only way to understand this complex region of the world, which so many different peoples desire to possess so intensely, it is to walk its ancient paths, listen to its people, explore its ruins, eat its food and examine its manuscripts. The result is an exceptionally interesting book, whose beautifully lucid prose and sophisticated grasp of the interpenetration of past and future compel one's delighted attention at all times.