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4.8 out of 5 stars
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4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 11 August 2003
What I most enjoyed about this wonderful book was not the fact that it was packed from cover to cover with knowledge -and it truly is- but the sympathy that the author obviously felt for the people he met in his journey.Dalrymple speaks about them with such a good-humoredly warmth that, after reading his narrative, you feel you would like to know more about their lives and you even worry about what is going to happen to them in the decadent and perilous world that the author depicts. I think this is the real triumph of this book: that the author makes us learn about a truly fascinating world while, at the same time, feeling respect and concern for the people who inhabit it and make it possible.And this is something quite unusual in the usually author-traveler centred travel literature I absolutely recomend it!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 19 January 2013
This is a wonderful book in which the author, William Dalrymple, recounts his travels throughout the middle east in the mid 1990's. Following the path of the journey of a 6th century monk the author's travels take in Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine and Egypt where he meets Orthodox Christians living as minorities in each country. The reduction of the middle eastern Christian population over the last 1500 years since the heyday of Byzantium is a recurrent theme, as is the acceleration of that reduction in the last 100 years.

ironically, given current events, Syria is described as the best of the countries for Christian minorities at the time of the author's travels, but with signs of the still to come islamic revolution in Egypt apparent with hindsight

I enjoyed this book very much. The atmosphere of the middle east, and of the lost world of Byzantium is beautifully evoked, as are the fascinating tales and faiths of the many monks, priests, nuns and lay people the author meets on his travels.

The author's clearly values tolerance, and does not dismiss or mock the beliefs of those he meets, even when those beliefs are rather extreme, allowing them to put their views in their own words.

Recommended - informative and enjoyable travel writing
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on 30 October 2015
One of the greatest books about contemporary Orthodox East. Dalrymple demonstrates amazing writing skills - a real talent. Ethnographic vignettes, skilfully interwoven with synoptic yet vivid historical accounts of different spiritual centres of the once thriving Greek-speaking Orthodox East. Highly recommended for anyone looking to understand contemporary Orthodox places in the Levant and how they relate to Byzantium.
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on 12 November 2013
It is very interesting to read this book against the background of what is happening now in Syria and surrounding countries. Also very sad to read of the constant ethnic and religious cleansing that was and is taking place in the Middle East. I have recently discovered this author, and am slowly working my way through his books. I love his insights, interest in history and people, love for architecture, sense of humour and the way he tells good tales. Once you have read this book, you know so much more about the subject. I have bought another copy to give away to friends.
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on 24 July 2014
Very interesting insight of the places where early Christianity flourished but is now struggling to maintain a community of any sorts. What I found particularly interesting was the way that the modern state of Israel are rewriting history from an entirely Jewish perspective, ignoring the many and manifold influences that have been there throughout the troubled history of this land. I was in old Acre recently and the guide while standing in the castle, talked of 1948 and the struggle for the Jewish state, but made no mention of the Islamic state or that of the Crusaders who built the castle.
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on 7 August 2016
I bought this book for my son. He is ffinding it interesting. thank you.
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on 27 March 2014
A tremendous book on so many levels, and it becomes more relevant each day as the religious communities that have been enmeshed for centuries become divvied in the post arab spring 7/11 world of radicalism, extremism and political realpolitik. A forgotten world told in a thoughtful, fascinating, light-hearted way. Should be a must for religious and political readers to see how religion pulls together the social as much as the religious/political fabric of society.
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on 24 September 2014
An account of religion in the Middle East from the sixth century to 1994. I understand today's news as never before, and it also illuminates Anglo Saxon and Celtic history by setting the rise of Christianity herr in context. I have recommended it to my historian friends.
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on 28 December 2012
I bought this on the strength of good reviews as well as the interesting subject and I wasn't disappointed. An outstandingly good book about the early development of Christianity in the Middle East, and about how much/little remains of the Byzantine world (even less now no doubt, 15 years after his journey). Essential background reading for the interested traveller.
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on 19 December 2013
I have never been keen on history but from the beginning I was captivated and was taken on a journey of discovery through Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel. Because of his meticulous research, William Dalrymple wove together the politics and religious history of the region and brought it up-to-date and made a lot of what we see and hear today make sense. Thoroughly recommend to anyone who likes travel and who wants to discover what really makes this area of the Middle East so profoundly disturbing
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