Nine Quarters of Jerusalem: A New Biography of the Old City

Matthew Teller

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*Order now, Available from the 17th march 2022

Highly original exploration of Jerusalem exploring its history and contemporary voices

'Original and illuminating ... What a good book this is' Jonathan Dimbleby, author and documentary maker

In Jerusalem, what you see and what is true are two different things. Maps divide the walled Old City into four quarters, yet that division doesn't reflect the reality of mixed and diverse neighbourhoods. Beyond the crush and frenzy of its major religious sites, much of the Old City remains little known to visitors, its people overlooked and their stories untold. Nine Quarters of Jerusalem lets the communities of the Old City speak for themselves. Ranging through ancient past and political present, it evokes the city's depth and cultural diversity.

Matthew Teller's highly original 'biography' features the Old City's Palestinian and Jewish communities, but also spotlights its Indian and African populations, its Greek and Armenian and Syriac cultures, its downtrodden Dom Gypsy families and its Sufi mystics. It discusses the sources of Jerusalem's holiness and the ideas - often startlingly secular - that have shaped lives within its walls. It is an evocation of place through story, led by the voices of Jerusalemites.


Teller writes with affection and compassion for Jerusalem's wide variety of peoples but a sharp-eyed lack of deference for a city whose past and present he explores with insight, sensitivity and wry humour -- Jonathan Dimbleby, author and documentary maker

The Old City of Jerusalem has found an inspired, imaginative, and iconoclastic biographer. Teller set himself the modest task of telling stories. The end result, however, is a highly readable book, a vivid portrait, and a fresh perspective on this infinitely complex city -- Avi Shlaim, emeritus professor at the University of Oxford and author of The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World

This book peels away the layers of deception to debunk the myth that the Old City is composed of four distinct quarters - a notion that continues to plague the city and underpins the assumption that present-day conflict comes down to age-old hatred between religions ... Teller takes the reader on a trip that reveals the Old City of Jerusalem better than any other book written about the city -- Raja Shehadeh, author of Palestinian Walks

A lyrical and electric book, rich and intensely evocative (with a twist of cumin), as the author shares his life-long obsession for one of the most over-documented and misunderstood cities on earth. This is not another biography but an altogether more important book, about the human tapestries that could, possibly, weave together a new Jerusalem -- Louisa Waugh, author and humanitarian activist

Captivating. Teller's language flows lightly but his feelings run deep and it is difficult to pull away from his descriptions of the Old City. -- Noga Tarnopolsky, Jerusalem reporter ― 
LA Times

A marvel. Teller deftly braids the historical, the political and the experiential. His book is at once universal in scope and intimate -- Massoud Hayoun, author of When We Were Arabs: A Jewish Family’s Forgotten History

There has been no book like this written in the last twenty years ... Matthew Teller has resurrected this city -- George Hintlian, author of History of the Armenians in the Holy Land

For any other city, a book that tells the stories of its residents might be unremarkable - but for Jerusalem, so often weighed down by ancient history and the politics of occupation, Teller has produced a book that is borderline radical in its focus on the people who live there -- Zora O’Neill, author of All Strangers Are Kin

Exploding the myths about age-old hatreds between religions, this must-read book lays bare the role of arrogant British colonialists and missionaries in shaping Jerusalem's Old City according to their vision. It challenges the misleading maps that serve the Israeli narrative and encourages visitors to see beyond the facade. A must-read exposé -- Diana Darke, author of Stealing from the Saracens

Vivid ... as much about the present as the past -- Rachel Cooke ― Observer

Matthew Teller

For as long as I can remember, I've been a writer. Fortunately, not much of my early stuff survives.

I grew up in suburban south London. A family holiday to Jerusalem in 1980, when I was 11, was my first trip outside the UK. Even today, the smell of cumin takes me straight back there. That was also my first time in the desert - I remember standing on a lonely road, feeling the hottest sun I'd ever felt, seeing the longest views I'd ever seen.

Since then, I've lived and worked in Amman, Cairo, Jerusalem and elsewhere, learnt some Arabic and Hebrew, and travelled widely, over twenty years or more, through most of the Middle East.

I'm the author of the Rough Guides to Jordan, Switzerland, the Italian Lakes and - closer to home - the Cotswolds. I also contribute regularly to the national newspapers, as well as magazines from Wanderlust to BBC Wildlife. My website has more.

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