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Ethiopia, the Unknown Land: A Cultural and Historical Guide [Hardcover]

Stuart Munro-Hay
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

21 Feb 2002
Ethiopia, legendary home of the Queen of Sheba who travelled to Jerusalem to meet Solomon, resting-place of the Ark of the Covenant and battleground of the great emperors from Ezana in the 4th century AD to Haile Selassie in modern times, has inspired many travellers and writers since time immemorial. Recently few have journeyed there or, indeed, have any conception of the extraordinary cultural treasures that await visitors. Stuart Munro-Hay knows Ethiopia intimately, having lived and researched there over many years. He has produced the first truly comprehensive guide to the monuments of this beautiful, culture-steeped country, as well as offering a literary companion. Here is a guide to Ethiopia's architecture, geography, peoples, art and history, embracing all the major sites of the land over the ages. It will become the classic reference guide.

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Ethiopia, the Unknown Land: A Cultural and Historical Guide + Ancient Churches of Ethiopia + A History of Ethiopia
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: I.B.Tauris (21 Feb 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860647448
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860647444
  • Product Dimensions: 3.6 x 16.2 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 642,667 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

'Munro-Hay is a scholar of distinction [whose book] delves deeply into all aspects of Ethiopia's ancient history [and] can be read with profit alike by the scholar, the 'ordinary' reader and the tourist.' - Richard Pankhurst, Director Emeritus, Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa. 'Munro Hay is one of the foremost academic authorities of the region's history and culture...his enthusiam for the country is evident...he offers an authoritative contemporary understanding of the culture the visitor is witnessing.' -African Business 'It's a ground-breaking work that delivers expert knowledge with a light touch--but it's a heavy tome to carry: read before you travel.' -Sunday Times 'should prove valuable to both the discerning tourist and the armchair reader requiring an introduction to the country's cultural history...' Richard Pankhurst, Times Higher Education Supplement 'There are relatively few books available that explore the treasures of Ethiopia but Stuart Munro Hay has come up with a truly comprehensive guide to the architecture, geography, people, art and history of this often misunderstood country... A great companion for the traveller who really wants to understand everything there is to know about the archeological marvels that still exist in Ethiopia today.' -Odyssey, Spring/Summer 2002

About the Author

Stuart Munro-Hay is among the foremost Western authorities on Ethiopian history and culture. He has excavated there and made frequent research visits throughout the country.

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Ethiopia is a land utterly out of the common. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An explorer's companion 8 Feb 2006
By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME
Format:Hardcover
Although not a "tourist guide" this book is a handy reference for anyone with interest in this land. Munro-Hay's subtitle: The Unknown Land provides a clue to the problem he faced in summarizing the history and culture of this ancient country. Known to early Christians as the land of "Prester John," Ethiopia's nearly landlocked location and rugged terrain has made it a challenge to scholars for millennia. Munro-Hay makes an earnest effort to enlighten us on many aspects of Ethiopian history and culture. Rather than provide a surface overview, he divides the country into regions based on ancient kingdoms. It's an effective means of organizing the complex store of research he's brought to the task.
After an opening overview of Ethiopian history, the author provides a survey of the role of the Church in the society. For Ethiopia, this element cannot be overstated. Churches and their rituals are a fundamental part of Ethiopia life. He details the structure of church hierarchy and the roles assigned the various officers. Rituals and other aspects such as religious art are also described. Munro-Hay then gives a brief survey of the foreigners who entered the country, evaluating their published accounts. Foreign impact played a major role in how Ethiopia came to be a modern nation, with Portuguese, Arabs and others providing architectural expertise, trade and political developments. Some lasting impact of the Italian invasion in this century is added.
The theme of this book relates the histories of ten important regions making up historical Ethiopia and into modern times. While all had their impact, three are of particular import. Gondar, situated near Lake Tana, was considered to be ruled by descendants of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ethiopia History Book 6 Aug 2010
Format:Hardcover
Very informative but very heavy going. Useful for my purpose - background before visiting Ethiopia later this year but certainly NOT a guidebook (this was fairly apparent to me from the description when buying). Perhaps a different title such as:
Ethiopa, the unknown land: Culture & History
would more accurately describe the contents. More maps & geneaology charts would have helped to put the descriptions into better context.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Axum; unknown and distant. 18 Mar 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is for me a addition to the coin-history of Axum, as discribed by Munro Hay in his books on the coins.
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Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An explorer's companion 11 Nov 2002
By Stephen A. Haines - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Although not a "tourist guide" this book is a handy reference for anyone with interest in this land. Munro-Hay's subtitle: The Unknown Land provides a clue to the problem he faced in summarizing the history and culture of this ancient country. Known to early Christians as the land of "Prester John," Ethiopia's nearly landlocked location and rugged terrain has made it a challenge to scholars for millennia. Munro-Hay makes an earnest effort to enlighten us on many aspects of Ethiopian history and culture. Rather than provide a surface overview, he divides the country into regions based on ancient kingdoms. It's an effective means of organizing the complex store of research he's brought to the task.
After an opening overview of Ethiopian history, the author provides a survey of the role of the Church in the society. For Ethiopia, this element cannot be overstated. Churches and their rituals are a fundamental part of Ethiopia life. He details the structure of church hierarchy and the roles assigned the various officers. Rituals and other aspects such as religious art are also described. Munro-Hay then gives a brief survey of the foreigners who entered the country, evaluating their published accounts. Foreign impact played a major role in how Ethiopia came to be a modern nation, with Portuguese, Arabs and others providing architectural expertise, trade and political developments. Some lasting impact of the Italian invasion in this century is added.
The theme of this book relates the histories of ten important regions making up historical Ethiopia and into modern times. While all had their impact, three are of particular import. Gondar, situated near Lake Tana, was considered to be ruled by descendants of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Munro-Hay sees the political patterns set in ancient Gondar to carry through Ethiopia history until modern times. The heritage was so important that even usurpers found ways of establishing legitimacy by claiming descent from those origins. Munro-Hay provides diagrams of ancient Gondar and vivid descriptions of what remains from a glorious imperial city.
Next in significance is the ancient site of Aksum. Certainly, as Munro-Hay notes, it's of vital archaeological importance and worth any visitor's time and effort. Well north of Addis Ababa and on the way to the Red Sea, Aksum nearly disappeared until extensive excavations during the 1970s revealed its importance. The remnants of the city are dotted with numerous stone stelae, possibly inspired by similar constructions in Egypt, Ethiopia's
neighbour. Munro-Hay conducts us on a tour of these and other historical sites in a compelling chapter. As a participant in some of the exploratory work, the author is well-suited to describe what has been revealed. He does so with verve and close detail.
In his Forward, Munro-Hay reminds us that at the time of writing, Ethiopia had provided the oldest representative of our ancestry, Don Johanson's "Australopithecus afarensis," the 3.6 million-year old "Lucy." It's somewhat of a surprise that Ethiopia's other prehistory doesn't emerge for another 350 pages. In Yeha, "the beginnings of Ethiopian civilization are rooted," including the distinctive script still in use. Close to the Red Sea, Yeha appears to have adopted Semitic languages and religious artefacts from its Arabic neighbours. Pre-Christian temples and other buildings may still be seen there.
Munro-Hay is an acknowledged leader in the study of Ethiopia. This book is a monument to his scholarship. Rich in detail and presenting both ancient and modern aspects of Ethiopian life, it provides excellent resource material for anyone wishing to pursue the topic. At less than 400 pages, the book is also a worthwhile companion to the traveler. Clearly written and beautifully organized for both scholar and tourist, this book will remain useful for some time.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Be Cautious of the Title 11 Feb 2004
By James R. Corrigan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I purchased this book because I was looking for an in-depth study of Ethiopian culture, both past and present. However, it soon became apparent that the book's subtitle "A Cultural and Historical Guide" was somewhat misleading. Rather, Mr. Munro-Hay provides a detailed and scholarly analysis of Ethiopian historical sites. The publisher would have been well-advised to use the subtitle "An Archaeological Survey" instead. If that is what you're looking for, then this book is ideal. But if you want information on contemporary Ethiopian culture, it would be best to look elsewhere.
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it before your go to visit this beautiful country 22 Jan 2013
By Barbara Miller - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
We know very little about this country, this ex-Abyssinia that has remained estranged from the outside world for a long time.
Read this book to learn really a lot about this only country in Africa that did not get colonized. Its history is more than rich, amazing and surprising. The people are marvellous.
4.0 out of 5 stars Review 16 Feb 2010
By LAT - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Was a gift. Not as in depth about the country as I would have liked, but just about all that was available out there.

Also, was for a Christmas gift and paid expedited shipping but did not arrive on scheduled date. Amazon did refund shipping cost.
3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This book doesn't live up to the Title 14 Mar 2006
By Knowledge Seeker - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The author shows little respect for Ethiopians in General, numerous instances he describes Ethiopians artifacts as "meager", "dingy" etc. This is unacceptable in my opinion because if your going to write about a place then at least be respectful of the place and the people,the author shows little respect for the overall Culture. Ethiopia has been through many violent episodes in the past so if little fragments of history survive in a tarnished manner take account of the fact that wars are usually unkind to places where wars were fought. I read the intro and noticed the author focused on the Names Aksum which is correct towards one of the ancient name of Ethiopia, also correctly naming Kush a neighboring country north of Ethiopia that impressed me so I bought the book anticipating some quality information. After receiving and reading the first 15 pages the author begins to show his unethusiatic attitutde for Ethiopian History which turned off this reader so I returned my copy and will continue searching for quality unbiased information for Ethiopia.
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