Before Rough Guides and Lonely Planet

Thanks to everyone who commented on my recent post about how to deal with old guidebooks. I’ve decided to keep only the most recent edition of any particular country. It may sound like a big deal but I’ve actually ending ditching a grand total of two books. Hey, it’s a start.

In moving my office back home I’ve just rediscovered one book which I definitely won’t be ditching. Before Lonely Planet and before Rough Guides, the Commercial Press of Jerusalem was publishing the “Path-Finder Guide to Palestine, Transjordan and Syria”.

The slim volume was produced in 1941 for Australian and New Zealand troops based in Egypt before they moved on to battle in North Africa in World War 2. I picked up my copy at a garage sale in Auckland.

The focus is firmly on the sights, and while there are no reveiws of hotels or restaurants an ad for the “Piccadilly!!! Cafe” offers “Good Food!! Good Drinks!! Dancing!! Orchestra!! Prompt Service!!” – (almost…) everything an ANZAC soldier could want on his R & R.

Apparently there was no shortage of exclamation marks back then.

For such a modest little book, it’s a poignant read as it covers places like the Bekaa Valley and Baalbek, Beirut, Nablus and Damascus – all map references with very different historical resonance almost seventy years after it was first published. in 1941.