ARABIA WITH LEVISON WOOD
Airs Wednesdays, Jan. 6 - 27, 2021 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV & Thursdays, Jan. 7 - Feb. 4 at 9 p.m. on KPBS 2
Tuesday, January 5, 2021
Credit: Courtesy of Simon Buxton / American Public Television
On ARABIA WITH LEVISON WOOD, the military-trained writer and photographer embarks on a rarely ventured route through the challenging environments and remote corners of a little-understood land — Arabia. In the process, he immerses himself in the region's cultures, revealing unique and powerful insights.
The series explores the lives and hopes of an eclectic range of characters — among them Syrian grandmothers, Iraqi snipers, shepherds, drug dealers, freedom fighters and nomads.
Beginning his expedition on the border between Syria and Iraq, Levison Wood explores the Arabian Peninsula before heading to the largest sand desert in the world.
One week into his trek through the desert, Wood has a falling out with his guide and must continue the rest of the journey with various locals as he heads through Yemen, where numerous criminal groups and gangs operate.
After Yemen it is onto Saudi Arabia then Jordan, where he visits one of the most impressive archeological sites in the world: Petra. Afterwards, Wood travels to Jerusalem to investigate the delicate cultural issues facing Israelis and Palestinians. After spending Christmas in Bethlehem, Wood circles back to Syria before ending his journey in Lebanon.
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Episode 1: “Battlegrounds” airs Wednesday, Jan. 6 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV + Thursday, Jan. 7 at 9 p.m. on KPBS 2 - Writer Levison Wood explores the Arabian Peninsula. He starts on the Syria and Iraq border, facing many challenges including the constant threat of an ISIS attack.
Episode 2: “The Empty Quarter” airs Wednesday, Jan. 13 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV + Thursday, Jan. 14 at 9 p.m. on KPBS 2 - Writer Levison Wood explores the largest sand desert in the world and travels through the Dhofar Mountains in Oman. Preparing to cross The Empty Quarter he climbs on a camel in such an ungainly manner that we now know what he's wearing under his dishdasha.
One week into his arduous trek across this immense desert, he reveals he's fallen out with his guide over what he feels is cruelty toward camels. For his own safety he must stay friends with the locals on the next leg through the warzone of Yemen, where al-Qaeda, Isis and numerous criminal gangs operate. It gets very hairy.
Episode 3: “Valleys Of The Past” airs Wednesday, Jan. 20 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV + Thursday, Jan. 21 at 9 p.m. on KPBS 2 - Writer Levison Wood explores Saudi Arabia, meeting the men and women who live there as he learns more about the culture. He then makes his way into Jordan. He does his best to understand this contradictory country, but he's not allowed to do more than scratch the surface.
There's a surreal moment, though, when after having his head prettily garlanded with flowers, Levison is casually asked by one of the notoriously fierce Asiri tribe for a photo for his Instagram page. And if you think inflation in the West is bad, seeing people pushing wheelbarrows piled high with cash in Somalia will make you think again.
Episode 4: "Dangerous Legacy" airs Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV + Thursday, Jan. 28 at 9 p.m. on KPBS 2 - Levison travels to southern Syria, the penultimate leg of his journey. He wants to learn more about the impact of the conflict on the people who live there. Wood concludes his tour of the Arabian Peninsula with an episode that has to limit his yen for long solo walks: he's in war-ravaged Syria, where a wrong turn in the car means big trouble at the hands of rebel groups.
Being driven by a supporter of the now-dominant Assad government opens up the road to Damascus, where the eerie lack of tourists is often the only taint on otherwise remarkably normal lives. Even further north in the rubble of Homs, civilians are determined to return to dark, shattered neighborhoods where communities once thrived.
Episode 5: "Holy Lands" airs Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV + Thursday, Feb. 4 at 9 p.m. on KPBS 2 - Writer Levison Wood is in Jordan and visits Petra, one of the most impressive archaeological sites in the world. He then travels to Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Lev's entire journey through the Middle East has been tough, what with the blistering heat, warzones and delicate cultural issues to navigate. But nowhere is he as challenged as in the West Bank, where the situation is "impossible to get your head round, because the hatred is unfathomable."
He meets young Palestinian demonstrators and families who live literally in the shadow of the Israelis. Then, being British, he's allowed to cross through border control to a Jewish Village in Hebron before spending Christmas in Bethlehem. What's really depressing is hearing a Jewish person state, "If Palestinians put down their arms, there will be peace. If Israelis do, there will be no Israel."
© 2018 Blackmane Media Ltd. Distributed by American Public Television.
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