* Indicates a book that appears in our feature "Around the World in 80+ Books" published in the April 2002 issue of National Geographic Traveler.
*Arabian Sands, by Wilfred Thesiger (1959). Simply said, a classic. Thesiger journeyed among the nomadic camel-breeding peoples of southern Arabia, fell in love with the desert and the Bedouin, and wrote a rich account of his experiences.
Baghdad Without a Map, by Tony Horwitz (1991). Horwitz spent the late 1980s as a foreign correspondent in the Middle East. His adventures, told with humor and empathy, ranged from chewing the hallucinogenic qat in Yemen to covering an anti-American rally in Tehran. Despite friendships with locals and invitations to their homes, he admits that the Middle East remained a tantalizing mystery to him.
The Journey of the Magi, by Paul William Roberts (2005). Captivating scholarship and hilarious travel writing are seamlessly integrated in Roberts's account of his passage across Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Jordan, following the path of the Magi's legendary pilgrimage to Bethlehem. Along the way he meets criminals, priests, and everyone in between, and his experiences prompt thoughtful explorations into the history and geopolitical climate of these Biblical lands.