‘Of all his generation’s travellers, Jonathan Raban is the most sophisticated, writing with a subtle and imaginative brilliance.’ Colin Thubron
‘One of the most humane and visionary of all travel writers.’ Jeremy Seal
Into Jonathan Raban’s familiar Earls Court neighbourhood after the 1970s oil boom came new visitors from the Arab world, dressed in floor-length robes and yashmaks. A people apart, little known, Raban wanted to get behind the myth and the rumour to discover the reality of their lives and world. His journey took him through Bahrain, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Yemen, Egypt and Jordan. What he discovered was a far cry from the camel, tent and sand dune archetypes of early European explorers. Oil wealth had seeped into almost every corner, and Bedouin encampments had been replaced by cosmopolitan boomtowns, camels by Range Rovers. The sons of Bedouin nomads were now studying medicine in Europe and engineering in New York. Yet in this fast-moving world, old certainties remained – and cultural innovation lagged miles behind economic change.
Raban’s gift for friendship introduces us to a series of memorable individuals – rich and poor – set against the feel, the smells, the sounds and the nuances of Arabia.