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PETRA by Subhi Alghussain Kirkus Star

PETRA

A Panoramic Journey

By Subhi Alghussain

Pub Date: May 25th, 2012

Stunning panoramic views of Petra, one of the world’s archaeological treasures, adorn this beautifully designed coffee table book.

If your travel plans to the kingdom of Jordan fall through, the next best thing to visiting Petra—the famed desert city carved into sheer rock—is this gorgeous collection of panoramic photographs. You might remember the city from the final ride-into-the-sunset scene of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, but these photos capture the city better than Spielberg. Petra sits in the cradle of civilization, so it’s seen thousands of years’ worth of settlers—Greek, Roman and Byzantine cultures, with notable influence by neighboring Egyptian, Arabic and Eastern civilizations. The area’s impressive array of clashing cultures notoriously relates to its reputation as an unstable region. The city was abandoned after a series of devastating earthquakes between A.D. 363 and A.D. 551, and being located in a deep and narrow desert canyon, it wasn’t “discovered” by Europeans until 1812. Now, photographer Alghussain captures the sprawling richness of the ancient city with a professional eye and gear—Fuji Panorama (6x17) professional camera with 90- and 180mm lenses and Fujichrome Velvia film. Having obtained special permission from authorities to enter the site at sunrise and sunset, Alghussain exploits a magical balance of light and shadow to portray the unique architecture of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The book’s perfunctory introduction includes minimal use of maps and cursory historical lessons to introduce the reader to the land, but that’s just preparation for the real treat—24-inch-wide, double-page panoramas of Petra’s hallowed beauty. Captions and corresponding thumbnails are relegated to the final pages so as not to interrupt the breathtaking visuals. From choice of film to the professional firms hired for printing and image scanning, all production details are of the highest caliber. Alghussain goes even further by collaborating with book designer Kevin Opp to produce an edition that sets the standard of design in independent publishing.

Highly recommended for anyone interested in architecture, classical history or travel photography.