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Monday, April 26, 2010

Travels with a Tangerine

This is the story of one of the greatest journeys of all time. In 1325, shortly after the end of the Crusades, a young Moroccan Muslim called Ibn Battutah set out on a pilgrimage to Mecca. It was to become an odyssey from one end of the known world to the other. Little did he realise that this would kickstart a 30-year journey across the world, taking in shipwrecks, black death, slavery, coups, and pirates. In all, he travelled 75,000 miles - more than three times the distance Marco Polo covered. (And in case you were wondering, the Tangerine is Battutah himself. Battutah was born in Tangiers, and residents of Tangiers are known as Tangerines.)

Along the way, he was to meet magicians, dervishes, holy men, fire-eaters and other travellers from across three continents. He was by turns scholar, businessman, mystic, warrior; he was imprisoned by mad sultans, was married ten times and had countless concubines. When he got home after 29 years on the road, he wrote it all down.

Today, the world is a very different place, and the very British Tim Mackintosh-Smith, an Oxford University classicist who has called the Middle East his home for 25 years, explores the lives of 21st century Muslims around the world, and how their world intersects with the medieval legacy from Battutah’s time.

Another perfect read for an armchair traveller like me which I have just bought from the The Book Depository who offer free delivery worldwide.