Top positive review
on 19 June 2016
This book had been sitting on my 'to read' shelf for a couple of years: I didn't think it would be particularly interesting.
When I determinedly sat down to read it, I realised what I'd been missing as this is travel writing at its absolutely superb best. In it the author - an Arabist and longterm Yemeni resident - seeks to follow the travels of 14th century Moroccan traveller Ibn Battutah, a man who over twenty-nine years visited "over forty countries on the modern map, travelling some 75,000 miles by horse, mule, camel, ox-wagon, junk, dhow, raft and on foot."
With Battutah's 'Travels' ever in hand, the author re-discovers shrines, mosques and churches and finds similarities - and vast differences - in the lifestyle of the people he meets on the way.
This, the first volume, covers Morocco, Egypt, Syria, Oman, Turkey and the Crimea.
Mr Mackintosh-Smith writes wonderful descriptions, both witty and intelligent; he peppers his work with tales taken from Battutah and elsewhere; he draws us in to his one-man archaeological efforts as he seeks to identify places mentioned in the work. And the reader experiences a thrill as he conclusively identifies somewhere, where Battutah himself would have stood so long ago.
This is a wonderful read and I hope to go on and read the other two volumes.