The Orient stirred and captivated the imagination of Europe for centuries. The land and its peoples were thought to be strange and beautiful, dangerous and exotic, backward and pure. Europeans were fascinated by their neighbors, and travelogues were very popular because travel to the region was typically restricted to explorers, missionaries, medical professionals, and the aristocracy.
Most of the books in this collection -- and indeed, most of the books written about the region during this time period -- are European in their perspective and styling. The texts are diverse, beautiful, inspiring, and informative. There are very few insider accounts, and the people of the region are woefully underrepresented, their stories told by others. There is a tone of superiority, a casual bigotry pervading most of these writings. However, Europeans were not the only ones guilty of harboring cultural biases, and indeed one of the books highlighted here, the Persian Letters, was written by Persian noblemen and is not kind to the West.
The following page showcases a representative sample of the texts that deal with travel: