EDWARD STANFORD SHORTLIST: The Land Beyond by Leon McCarron

Review published on January 16, 2018.

Leon McCarron is different to most. Not only has he walked from Mongolia, right across China, to Hong Kong, he has crossed the Empty Quarter in the footsteps of Sir Wilfred Thesiger and has cycled right the way across America. So if you were to ask people to list places where they’d like to take a walk, then the Middle East is unlikely to be at the top of that list. McCarron though relishes a challenge, so a 1000 mile walk from Jerusalem to the heights of Mount Sinai begins.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” – Lao Tzu

He will be following a set of trails that have been recently re-established but trace their origins back to the ancient trading and pilgrimage routes that crisscross the landscapes of the West Bank, Palestine and into Jordan. It is a hotly contested region, that is still subject to aggression and violence, especially in the West Bank. He is accompanied by friends and guides along the way and sees some of the most beautiful landscapes as he walks through. Apart from one tiny incident with some exuberant teenagers, all the people that he meets are warm and welcoming and generous with their time and experience.

“I suspect that the mind, like the feet, works at about three miles an hour” – Rebecca Solnit

These troubled lands are affected by the volatile mix that is geopolitics, cultural differences and religion, but as McCarron finds on his walk, people are the essence of this place that can trace its history back thousands of years. There are some people who want to ensure that the differences are amplified and use that to drive wedges between people, but there are many others who want to live in peace in their own country and trade with their immediate neighbours. One nice touch to the book is the photo of all those who walked with him on his journey to Sinai. This book is a great insight into a troubled land that could only have been achieved at the speed of a walk.

Paul Cheney 4/-

The Land Beyond by Leon McCarron
I.B.Tauris 9781788310567 hbk Sep 2017

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