The ‘Lonely Planet’–Style Guide To The World’s Deadliest Caliphate

“If you thought you would be living on stale bread and septic water [in the Islamic State] then erase that culinary fib from your mind” —Abu Rumaysah al-Britani, “A Brief Guide to the Islamic State”

In A Nutshell

Ever since Lonely Planet first issued their Across Asia on the Cheap in the 1970s, the travel guide market has exploded. Guides to Rome, guides to Spain, guides to South America . . . all the obvious places are catered for. Some less obvious ones are, too. Earlier this year, Abu Rumaysah al-Britani penned his first Lonely Planet–inspired guidebook. His destination: the chunk of Iraq and Syria under control of ISIS’s fledgling caliphate.

The Whole Bushel

In 2014, British jihadist Abu Rumaysah al-Britani was in a hot spot. The UK government had finally gotten tired of his support for terrorism and had arrested him. Skipping bail, al-Britani fled the country for the newly created ISIS caliphate on the borderlands of Syria and Iraq. But lacking any terrorist experience, he had no way to make himself useful. That is, until he hit on an idea as practical as it was ridiculous: He would write the caliphate’s very first travel guide.

Sold as an e-book and titled A Brief Guide to the Islamic State, al-Britani’s guidebook contains plenty of the usual ISIS advice on crossing borders and preparing for jihad. Where it differs from most is in its genuine desire to emulate titles like Lonely Planet. There are sections on the weather and local food, including a chapter where al-Britani advises readers on regional delicacies. While he calls the shawarma “succulent,” the caliphate’s falafel sandwiches are merely “satisfactory.”

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It gets more surreal. Al-Britani spends whole pages rhapsodizing over the quality of lattes and cappuccinos in the Islamic State, which are apparently “some of the best around.” He even gives helpful advice on transport options for backpackers, all while cheerfully threatening to destroy London. Bizarrely, he then goes on to declare that the caliphate is as multicultural as New York and has all the makings of an expensive resort destination.

Crazy as it is, there’s a serious point behind all this. ISIS is an incredibly media-savvy organization that knows how to appear simultaneously cuddly to its supporters and terrifying to everyone else. In the past, they’ve published cookbooks and their own glossy magazine. They’ve even dabbled with rap videos. While al-Britani’s book may be good for raising a chuckle, it glosses over a litany of human rights abuses even more extreme than in Kim Jong-un’s North Korea. We can only hope the Islamic State’s very first travel guide is also its last.

Show Me The Proof

Featured photo credit: Menendj
Daily Beast: ISIS Guide A Mix of Travel and Terror
The Independent: Isis ‘tourist guide’: British jihadist Abu Rumaysah publishes e-book comparing self-declared caliphate to ‘plush holiday resort’
The Week: ISIS has its own cookbook now

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