THE UNROMANTIC ORIENT
This is Muhammad Asad’s first book, consisting of excerpts from his travel journal from March 14 to October 10, 1923, and includes 59 black and white photographs which he himself had taken. Beginning his journey in the Jerusalem train station, Leopold Weiss travelled to Cairo, returned to Palestine, thereafter went to Amman and parts of TransJordan; in July and August he walked from Haifa to Damascus, then on to Beirut, to Alexandria, made another visit to Cairo and in September voyaged through the Dardenelles to Constantinople. The travelogue ended in Malta, on the brink of his return to Europe. This, however, was no journey of just travelling from place to place but was characterized by the tremor of resonating heartstrings. Muhammad Asad’s exquisite narration of what he observed and what he experienced goes beyond the words he writes. We watch people walking in the streets. We see their daily encounters and interactions and become a part of place— their day is our day, and the air they breathe is what we breathe. All in all, this is a fascinating account of the Middle East in the early 1920’s. Intrigued by the timeless spiritual and cultural riches he found, deeply affected by his experiences in the Middle East and gripped by a spiritual quest, Muhammad Asad engages in questions of meaning to understand the Orient, and thereby prompts us to consider new ways of thinking, and heightens our sensibilities and feelings for other people, places, and their ways of being.