By Mariam Shahin
Interlink Books, 2005
With travel to Palestine becoming increasingly difficult at the borders, Mariam Shahin’s “Palestine: A Guide” boldly reports that “Palestinian tour guides, forbidden from working for decades, are back at work with a vast array of traditional and alternative tour itineraries.” This 500 page straightforward travel guide opens with a general introduction to Palestinian history and culture. The brief yet informative history section begins in the Paleolithic and Neolithic Periods (1,000,000-5,000 BCE), long before “monotheism to some of the earliest stages of the development of humankind.” Without dogma or sensationalism, the map selection, which includes a chapter on the Wall and the refugee camps, makes the migration patterns and the changing borders of Palestine visibly accessible to even the novice explorer. The cultural section proudly introduces the diverse geography, literature, and traditional food and dress, but unfortunately neglects the arts scene in Palestine. The guide divides Palestine into Northern, Central and Southern Palestine rather than the West Bank and Gaza. This structure allows the guide to include those Palestinian cities and communities living under occupation. In addition to the comprehensive coverage of the unique sites of cities and villages, the guide concludes with a useful appendix of phone numbers for reservations and pragmatic travel information, as well as a list of helpful web sites for the vicarious traveler to Palestine. Given the political situation in Palestine, Shahin’s guide lacks the cavalier humor of a Lonely Planet yet contains an encyclopedic range of facts. With the glossy photos by George Azar, “Palestine: A Guide” serves as a wonderful resource for those actually traveling to Palestine, and makes a touching gift of defiance for those still dreaming of a return to Palestine.
This review appears in Al Jadid Magazine, Vol. 12, nos. 56/57 (Summer/Fall 2006)
Copyright (c) 2006 by Al Jadid