Wayward son of a respected clergyman, by twenty-two, Jack Keane had seen the world. It only remained for him to visit the forbidden cities of Makkah and Madinah, and his chance came when he steps ashore in the Red Sea port of Jiddah. Disguised as a pilgrim he joins a caravan to Islam's holiest cities. Stoned in Makkah, knifed on the way to Madinah, Keane witnesses death and suffering in the desert, as he and his fellow-pilgrims are menaced by predatory desert tribes. His account and the mysterious affair of the "Lady Venus", who, Keane alleged, was an Englishwoman stranded in Makkah at the time of his visit, created a sensation in England earning him some notoriety and helping to publicise his first two books, Six Months in Meccah and My Journey to Medinah. These are here republished for the first time since the 1880s. William Facey's Introduction tells the story of Keane's life, provides a critical appraisal of his journey, and places his account of the pilgrimage in the context of other travellers to Islam's holy places. The comprehensive glossary, index and map which accompany this single volume will assist and guide readers as they join Keane on his remarkable journey.
Today, with the spotlight turned on the region and its religion, Keane's account represents a prescient reflection of Western attitudes of the time towards Islam and the Arab world.
John Fryer Thomas Keane was born in the Yorkshire port of Whitby in 1854, the son of a Protestant clergyman. The merchant marine dominated much of Keane's early life: he went to sea at the age of twelve and by the time he set shore in Jiddah in 1877 he had already sailed and steamed across the Seven Seas. Keane's book on his journey to Makkah caused a sensation in England with his discovery and account of an Englishwoman The Lady Venus stranded in the Holy City. Keane led a life of extraordinary variety and adventure: mariner, author, sugar planter, war correspondent in China, medical student, railwayman in India, occasional tramp, cane cutter and plantation owner. He died in North Queensland Australia in 1937 at the age of eighty-two. William Facey is director of Arabian Publishing Ltd, London, where he devotes himself to the cause of research and publishing on the Arabian Peninsula. His fascination with the early photography of Arabia, and with its maritime history, have led to a curiosity about the backgrounds, personalities and motives of Western travellers in Arabia. His books include Saudi Arabia by the First Photographers and Riyadh: the Old City.