The Book of Travels

The Book of Travels

468 Pages

September 2022

ISBN: 9781479820016




Ḥannā Diyāb (b. ca. 1687) was a Syrian traveler originally from Aleppo. He is best known for his contributions to Antoine Galland’s translation of the Thousand and One Nights.

Elias Muhanna is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at Brown University. He is the author of The World in a Book: al-Nuwayri and the Islamic Encyclopedic Tradition and translator of Shihāb al-Dīn al-Nuwayrī’s fourteenth-century Arabic compendium The Ultimate Ambition in the Arts of Erudition, which was chosen as a “Best Book of 2016” by NPR and The Guardian, and editor of The Digital Humanities and Islamic & Middle East Studies.

Johannes Stephan is a postdoctoral researcher in the ERC-funded project Kalīlah and Dimnah—AnonymClassic at the Freie Universität Berlin. He studied Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies in Halle an der Saale, Damascus, and Bern.

Yasmine Seale translates from Arabic and French. Her essays on books and art have appeared in Harper’s, The Nation, TLS, and elsewhere. She is the translator of The Annotated Arabian Nights: Tales from 1001 Nights and Aladdin: A New Translation.

Paulo Lemos Horta is Associate Professor of Literature at NYU Abu Dhabi. A writer, translator, and literary historian, his writing has appeared in the Times Literary Supplement. He is the author of Marvellous Thieves: Secret Authors of the Arabian Nights.

The adventures of the man who created Aladdin

The Book of Travels is Ḥannā Diyāb’s remarkable first-person account of his travels as a young man from his hometown of Aleppo to the court of Versailles and back again, which forever linked him to one of the most popular pieces of world literature, the Thousand and One Nights.

Diyāb, a Maronite Christian, served as a guide and interpreter for the French naturalist and antiquarian Paul Lucas. Between 1706 and 1716, Diyāb and Lucas traveled through Syria, Cyprus, Egypt, Tripolitania, Tunis, Italy, and France. In Paris, Ḥannā Diyāb met Antoine Galland, who added to his wildly popular translation of the Thousand and One Nights several tales related by Diyāb, including “Aladdin” and “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.” When Lucas failed to make good on his promise of a position for Diyāb at Louis XIV’s Royal Library, Diyāb returned to Aleppo. In his old age, he wrote this engaging account of his youthful adventures, from capture by pirates in the Mediterranean to quack medicine and near-death experiences.

Translated into English for the first time, The Book of Travels introduces readers to the young Syrian responsible for some of the most beloved stories from the Thousand and One Nights.

An English-only edition.


  • "Diyab’s memoir of his Mediterranean adventures is a mixture of clear-eyed observation and wide-eyed innocence, nicely captured by Muhanna’s lucid yet folksy English version...Throughout The Book of Travels, realistic details are suffused with a sense of the marvelous."

    New York Review of Books

  • "It is a joy to celebrate [Ḥannā Diyāb's] work in Elias Muhanna's vibrant translation."

    Middle East Eye