When I get asked about good resources and research materials on the ancient Middle-East, one book I always suggest is the memoirs of Usamah Ibn-Munqidh, a warrior from the early Crusades who set down his life story when he was a nonagenarian. It’s a short book, but it’s crammed with fascinating insight into the life of a warrior in the 11th century. It’s truly one of my favorite books. Usamah tells fascinating anecdotes on every page, and if he occasionally rambles (which even he admits) you never have to wait very long to get to another great anecdote. At the same time that you’re learning how much more strange and complex life was than might have been assumed, you also see how human the people were who moved through those times.
I decided today to stop using adjectives to describe how great this book is and just let Usamah’s work speak for itself. Here is Usamah telling us about the time he was asked to consider buying a Cheetah: