Sunday 24 March 2013

Jordan by Carole French

I am currently planning a trip to Egypt and Jordan. The departure and return dates are fixed, but how I divide my time between these two destinations is not yet decided.

As I read the guide books (a copy of Egypt by Lonely Planet) and this Bradt guide to Jordan, I feel myself allocating more and more time to Jordan, to my surprise. I'd thought the pyramids and valley of the kings in Egypt would dominate my trip. Some of this changing emphasis is because Jordan appears to be a fascinating, welcoming country with a lot that merits seeing (and because it seems to have more potential to surprise me).

But if I am honest, I have to admit that the other reason is the relative merits of the guide books. This is only the second Bradt guide I have ever read, but, like the first (a guide to Malta & Gozo) which was an order of magnitude better than the other guide book I'd bought about the same islands), it is not just rich in detail, but also written with more flair, more affection for travelling, more heart and enthusiasm.

When travelling solo, a good guide book can be a little bit like a companion or a friend. Reading a Bradt guide is unusually rewarding: there is personality in the writing, and visiting places described in the book with the book in hand is almost a little bit like a shared experience.

Or, to put it another way: other guide books tell you all you need to know about a destination. A Bradt guide will tell you more details, and it will actually make you love your destination. I cannot think of any other guide book publisher whose books achieve such quality.

Addendum (after the trip): I still hold this book in high esteem, and it has served me well. However, there is one inaccuracy in there - the Zara Cliff Walk from the Dead Sea Panoramic Complex does not in any way match its description in the book. I am not sure whether this is because of a change on the ground, or because the path has never been completed as planned, or because there is confusion (I was told by a taxi driver that there is a different Zara Cliff Walk, in a quite different location, that matches the description in the book more closely). But for other readers of this book, I thought I'd highlight this: the Zara Cliff Walk starting at the Dead Sea Panoramic Complex is only about 200m / 600ft long, and not particularly worthwhile (as of March 2013).

Rating: 4.5/5