Despite the proliferation of YouTube vacation videos and instant status updates, there’s still no substitute for the good old-fashioned diary.
The online magazine The Scribe, the “journal of Babylonian Jewry,” published two journals from a 1910 trip by Mrs. Farha Sassoon and her children from Bombay, where they lived, to the city of Baghdad and the surrounding areas. Along the way, they visited some ancient holy sites, including the shrine of Ezra the Scribe and the grave of Ezekiel. Two children, David Solomon Sassoon (30 years old at the time) and Mozelle Sassoon (26) kept written accounts of their journeys.
Inside the Sassoons’ journals are descriptions of everyday life among Jews in the turn-of-the-century Arab world.
“At 5.00 pm the customs official, a Jew, came and we paid him the necessary money. A short while later we heard a loud noise, which was the sign for the Moslems to break their fast as it was the month of Ramadan. The sailors hurriedly swallowed their food since from sunrise they had not eaten, drunk or smoked. The moon was shining very brightly and the river looked beautiful.”
The Sassoons stumble across a number of surprises, including a building their grandfather designed and a secular Hebrew school in which, shockingly, teachers lectured on Torah while bare-headed. Reading these diaries is–in more ways than one–a real trip.