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on 19 April 2006
Philip Marsden returns to Ethiopia in 2003, having been entranced by the country during a short visit in 1982. This time he hires a guide and a succession of mules to walk across the north. He explores churches, meets a variety of monks and discusses Ethiopian history. You have to admire his courage and persistence as he sweats and climbs with his mules through the mountains - why doesn't he catch a bus? But he makes it all the way to his final destination without a vehicle, and gives a real insight into the country. In the beginning he writes "if there is any purpose to our time on earth, it is to understand it...to celebrate its heroes and its wonders - in short, to witness it". Witness it he does. Through his book I've gained an understanding of Ethiopia. And now I'd love to go there. What greater vindication of the success of a travel book could you want?
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on 6 May 2007
I read this on the strength of Marsden's other book: "The Crossing Place", he seems to have a knack for writing books about countries I'm slightly obsessed with. I hate to get bogged down in cliches but this is another modern classic. Within any travel book there needs to be a sound motivation for the journey, without this central motivation it often seems like somebody is just writing a book for money, or doing something to please a publisher. All my cynicism was left behind as I followed Marsden and his numerous guides through both the difficult topography and turbulent history of Ethiopia. I recommend this book to casual readers in search of some escape or serious students of history and theology. The strong point of the book is that he undertakes the journey on foot so we get highly lyrical descriptions, written from someone who has had alot of time to compose their thoughts and take in surroundings.

There has been little written about Ethiopia and it is still tarred with images from news footage of famines. Marsden offers us a new reflection on a truly unique place, unique in culture, customs and in it's general isolation from the West and the rest. If you intend on learning more about this quirky corner of Africa I recommend reading both "The Emperor" and "The Pale Abyssinian".
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on 12 February 2013
This book managed to reawaken memories of a fabulous trip to Ethiopia. Visually descriptive, well-written in an easy to read style. Highly recommended if you're planning a trip to Ethiopia or to bring back memories of previous travels.
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on 24 March 2015
I like it but It makes me despair! Philip Marsden, like Eric Newby, describes situations and people objectively, without sentiment and without the pastiche of what he or we know in a wider sense. It describes for me at least, a totally alien world where all my values are defunct and understanding theirs requires a deeper ability to embed oneself in a world that is a deeply complex evolved social and physical environment. This is not a travel book - and I despair that religion here demonstrates how much it has held this planet back from being as beautiful to look at as to live in.
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on 20 November 2012
The enchanting title and emotive sub-title lend the reader to think that he/she's going to travel into a country bathing in spiritual and meaningful atmosphere. None of it! Marsden's prose is so flat, so prosaic, so bent on recording mostly trivia or digging up bits of history from books he consulted at the London Library, that the only atmosphere you end up with is BOREDOM. A sin for a travel writer!

Two stars feels almost generous...
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on 30 September 2014
Beautiful writing. Delighted.
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on 8 June 2011
Having recently had a wonderful trip to Ethiopia I bought this book to enhance my knowledge of the country and to learn from someone elses experiences. It seems all the author does is walk....and walk..... and talk to old men without any really interesting conclusion. Theres very little down to earth sharing of his travels except all the struggles of walking over mountains to places of little interest to anyone. I struggled to get through this book and found very little satisfaction in it. In many places it was poorly written.
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on 5 November 2015
VERY GOOD
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on 26 February 2006
Philip Marsden is without doubt the most important and erudite writer concerned with Africa today. This book will change the way you think.
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