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Pilgrims' progress

Alpha Holy Cities series

Makkah

By Rosie Hankin

Jerusalem

Rome

By Nicola Barber

Evans, pound;7.99 each

This re-working of an earlier series on key places of pilgrimage is surprisingly informative. For example, it is easy to think of Makkah as consisting only of the Ka'bah, Mount Arafat and the annual invasion of pilgrims. It is good to be reminded of its universities, supermarkets and housing.

The volume on Rome explores its imperial origins, architectural and cultural heritage and the Vatican. Nicola Barber helps non-Catholic readers understand Rome's importance for many Christians. Her overview of Jerusalem is equally impartial as she describes the tensions resulting from the city being a holy place for three, often conflicting religions. For example, she neatly explains why the Dome of the Rock is especially sacred to Muslims, but adds: "Many Jews believe the Ark of the Covenant lies buried beneath the rock." These volumes will serve both key stage 2 and older readers well.

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