Ordinarily I would have chosen In Search of England as my first outing to the writings of HV Morton, but this book is fascinating. Given the ongoing volatility of the region, it has contemporary relevance, even though written in 1938. Effectively it is a tour of the Middle Eastern Christian communities of the time, a record of a now fast vanishing tradition in the face of aggressive Islamism, and an Arab Spring fast becoming a Christian Winter. Perhaps it is neither too tasteless, nor pessimistic, to assert that this book may prove as valuable a record of its subject, as a similar account of the pre-war Jewish communities of Eastern Europe. It is sobering to read that there was a time "when church bells rang at Luxor and were answered all the way down the river, until all Egypt was ringing with them." I was taken with some of Mortons original, perhaps questionable, assertions, such as that Alexander the Greats conquests prepared the way for the foundation and growth of Christianity, with the political and cultural unities they imposed. Again, he states that the original desert monasticism was not an attempt to escape temptation by removal from society, but to seek it out, as the tempters in the desert were supernatural and thus more difficult to resist. Mortons skill is apparent in the range of his writing, from comic episodes, such as hiring a boat on the Nile, to quite beautiful prose, the best for me being Chapter 9, and its account of Sinai. However, Chapter 10, lurking in the catacombs and crypts of Rome, I found quite depressing, wheras I suppose Morton meant it as a solemn finale, befitting the gravitas of the Eternal City. To me it is striking that such unmitigated Christian writing could then be considered mainstream publishing, which now is the preserve of specialist publishing houses. I detect some hope for the Christians of the Middle East, however, in Mortons observation that "Christianity in Egypt is extraordinarily resilient".