In the wake of Edward Said's Orientalism, first published in 1978, scholars began rethinking the intricacies attached to the topic of cross-cultural interaction between Europe and the Orient. Among scholars of European travel writing, this topic has always been contested. Mary Louise Pratt, like Said himself, preferred to argue that the interaction between Europe and its others has always been hegemonic. The proposition set forth here is that such an important topic needs to be rethought. In doing so, the author examines the travel narratives written by two Englishmen who looked east in the second half of the 18th century, John Carmichael and Abraham Parsons. These travellers moved across the Great Syrian Desert Route, which connects Syria with Mesopotamia. The imperial paradigm set forth by Said and Pratt does not work in studying the interactions between these two Englishmen and the Arab space across which they move, for these travellers did not show imperial gestures in their attempts to decode the space of the journey. Carmichael was aiming to ascertain himself by detaching himself from the locals,and thus seeking to perform the role of a man of science. Parsons was interactive and friendly with the locals, for the commercial purpose of his march across this route demanded that he be open to and interact with those with and among whom he moved.

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