Tag Archives: Jordan

Ground Breaking Jordanian Film

A Movie for Troubled Times in the Arab World

Destination: Jordan

Movie: Captain Abu Raed (2009) written and directed by Amin Matalqa

A Guest Post by Jane Boursaw

You know a movie is good when you’re still thinking about it years later. Such is the case with Captain Abu Raed, a touching, uplifting film I saw at the Traverse City Film Festival in 2008. Continue reading Ground Breaking Jordanian Film

Book by Masha Hamilton Evokes 1960’s Trans Jordan


Masha Hamilton

Destination: Jordan

Book: Staircase of A Thousand Steps by Masha Hamilton

I am looking in my travel library for books to share with you that I have read that made me yearn to travel. Not travel literature by strict definition, but sometimes historical novels bring a traditional culture so vividly to life that I want to visit the country today and see how those traditions influence the present.

Masha Hamilton was working on this novel, her first, when we briefly belonged to the same Tucson writer’s group, exchanging drafts and bemoaning the frustrations of attempting to clearly express something that seemed vivid in the mind, but resisted being put on paper.

Masha is a world traveler and has developed into a respected writer, and if some day she decides to put her own life on paper, I will avidly read about her experience as a journalist in the Mideast and in Russia. Meanwhile, I will enjoy her novels, informed by her lengthy visits to foreign places, and her finely honed powers of observation.

Staircase of a Thousand Steps tells the story of the people of a village in Trans Jordan before the 1967 war with Israel. We meet Harif who tells stories and is distrusted by the villagers and Harif’s granddaughter, Jammana, a modern American  girl who learns deep meanings from age-old traditions.

Faridah the midwife stands for a break with tradition and the rights of women. As they struggle with old enmities within their village, and more lethal ones within the larger Mediterranean, we also see a people working their way into a modern world that doesn’t quite fit.

We learn from the sharply observant Masha Hamilton, how their homes look, what they eat, how they speak to each other. And the story teller weaves their stories in poetic prose.

It is a book to inspire the urge to seek out new cultures. It is a book to read again and again. Although when I visited Israel, I crossed the Allenby bridge briefly into Jordan, I have yet to visit the part of Jordan and Lebanon and Syria that I would love to see in person. Meanwhile, I’ll hang on to this book to fuel my travel dreams.

Masha Hamilton has written three other books since Staircase of a Thousand Steps.

  • The Distance Between Us, (2004) Unbridled Books, Another novel set in the Mideast.
  • The Camel Bookmobile, (2007) Harper Collins, about a bookmobile in Africa.

And her latest, officially released in September 2009, 31 Hours. The new novel departs from the tone of earlier books as it tells the terrifying tale of a young man who is headed toward an act of terror.

This Year in Jerusalem

Destination: Israel

Books: The Bible; From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas Freidman; Exodus by Leon Uris

Whether your interest runs to history or contemporary geo-politics, Roman ruins or Medieval times, when you travel to Israel, you will find a country that is exasperating, beautiful, inspiring, welcoming and off-putting all at the same time.

Jerusalem Market photgraph by David King
Jerusalem Market photgraph by David King

Conflict between “tribes” did not start with the founding of the modern state of Israel. The region has been embroiled in struggles since time began. The book that captures the modern conflicts best is Thomas Freidman in From Beirut to Jerusalem. Before his father-knows-best sermons on everything from ecology to world banking made him a best selling author and popular columnist, Friedman was a hard-working journalist who tried to find the truth behind the middle-East conflicts by visiting with a wide variety of people and telling their stories. He delves into the American contribution to the Israeli state and shows that it is not always benign.

As the center of three major religions, Israel has drawn pilgrims for a thousand years.The once mighty Jordan may have shriveled to a mere stream because of siphoning off for farming, but place names like Bethlehem and Jericho took me right back to Sunday School lessons in the little white church in Ohio where I grew up. Unfortunately, I did not have a copy of The Book, the Bible, with me. When I got home I pored over maps and archaeology of the Bible from my father’s library. I used a very old out of print book, but there is a newer one available, on archaeological study of the Bible.

Finally, the birth of the modern state of Israel comes vividly to life in Exodus by Leon Uris, and sheds light on today’s struggles. Since it is now out of print, you can try Amazon or American Book Exchange for a used copy. The movie version starring Paul Newman and Eva Marie Saint may be available on Netflix.

Have you been to Israel?What books or movies did you find useful? I would particularly like to have your recommendations for more Bible-related books. My Bible is the Christian one, but I welcome suggestions for religious books that enhance the travel experience for Jews and Muslims as well.