The Land Beyond: A Thousand Miles on Foot Through the Heart of the Middle East
By Leon McCarron
I. B. Tauris, 978-1-78831-056-7, $25 hb.
Reviewed by Matthew Teller on September 15, 2018
At one point in this personal account of a long-distance trek across the Middle East, the author muses: “There is a convincing case for [US essayist] Rebecca Solnit’s contention that the brain works at three miles an hour.” If anything encapsulates the spirit of Northern Irish explorer Leon McCarron’s inspiring adventure among marginalized people and overlooked landscapes, it’s the idea of walking as therapy—for personal healing, for education, but also for cross-cultural understanding and perhaps even for international reconciliation. It’s a hugely entertaining read, following the ups and downs of this journey on foot from Jerusalem through Palestine and Jordan to the summit of Mount Sinai in Egypt, illuminated with tender, insightful vignettes: McCarron makes light of the time when he turned up exhausted in a remote Jordanian village only to have a stranger take him into his house to wash his feet, feed him and give him a bed, but it’s an affecting passage in an often-moving book. The great British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes called McCarron’s trip “a marvelous adventure.” He’s not wrong.