From Khartoum to Jerusalem: The Dragoman Solomon Negima and his Clients (1885–1933)

In 2014 British Professor Rachel Mairs won an Internet auction for a scrapbook into which dozens of old letters were pasted. The slender volume, which had been found in an estate sale years earlier in the hamlet of Rogue River, Oregon, turned out to be a collection of testimonials from clients of Solomon Negima, who worked as a dragoman (local guide) in Palestine in the years either side of 1900. In an engrossing piece of academic sleuthing, Mairs uncovers details of Negima’s life—born in Palestine, he had served with the British military in Sudan. Then she painstakingly investigates letters and testimonials whose authors range from English tourists to American church ministers and military officers, cross-referencing among sources to build a picture of each client. She shows that Negima and his competitors in the Holy Land tourism industry stood at the center of a network of cultural and commercial relationships that extended both regionally and internationally from Jerusalem. This is a fascinating window into Middle East tourism of old, through lives rarely discussed.

From Khartoum to Jerusalem: The Dragoman Solomon Negima and his Clients (1885–1933)

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