Book review: Jerusalem - a historical eye

Jerusalem enshrined in pictures and a tale as old as time.


Sanaira Mondegarian January 19, 2014
A statue of Salah al-Din just outside the Citadel of Damascus.

The history of Jerusalem, the Promised Land, is a long and harsh one — with barbed fences guarding the legitimacy of certain facts and access to vital pieces of information, not to mention parts of the land itself.

But in Jerusalem — A Journey Back in Time, the author Iftikhar Salahuddin not only gives us a chronological tale of every battle siege, migration and revelation, but also visually captures the place that most of us can perhaps only dream of visiting. By interweaving its history, present and future, Salahuddin has composed a book that will instantly resonate with a lot of readers.

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Author Iftikhar Salahuddin.

The book tells the story of many through the account of one man who braved the visa offices, the shifty taxi-drivers and international picket fences to tell us that amidst conflict-ridden Israel, there is an array of monumental and historic sites that can spellbind many. The travelogue drips with details that can take you on a revealing journey through the city.

A land of prophets, kings and messiahs, Jerusalem is known to many as a land of misunderstood intentions. Islam, Judaism and Christianity all hail from this region and for centuries, each faith has been attempting to establish its dominance. And to some extent, the outright hostilities of today can be traced to the past crusades. However, as Salahuddin paints a painfully honest picture of the atrocities carried out in the past and the present, he also shows the possibility of peace being offered to the people. His personal interaction with the inhabitants of the Holy Land are peppered with both heart-warming and upsetting experiences; a variety of individuals from varied backgrounds squeezed together into small living quarters, with neither the option to escape nor the opportunity to grow.

In the book, Salahuddin also exhibits his photography skills alongside his exquisite and balanced writing. A glossy picture is bound to catch your eye on every page. By mastering the two essential skills that compose a successful book he provokes the reader, and at the same time encourages one to think and explore the past without any former biases. Each chapter starts with a quote or a saying from the past, imbuing the book with an aura of depth and mysticism — a theme appropriate with the nature of the history narrated in the book.

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Umayad Mosque in Damascus.

The book is a must-read for history lovers of all ages. Fresh in colour with a new light on old stories, it is great especially for young readers and an easy read for any lazy afternoon on a cold winter day. 

Sanaira Mondegarian is a Karachi-based writer studying humanities.

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, January 19th, 2014.

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