Hall of a Thousand Columns
4 journalers for this copy...
CONTROLLED RELEASE NOTES:
Mackintosh-Smith made this journey in different stages; he does mention that sometimes he'd like to stick to his inspiration's actual maps and itineraries, but that doesn't always work out in the real world. Indeed, this book opens with a lengthy wait for the completion of a classic-styled but very much up-to-date in technology and comfort dhow, on which to sail to India to commence that leg of Ibn Battuta's travels. But the work on the boat seems endless, with delays caused by weather, loss of crew, and the gaps between auspicious days for sailing, and eventually the author has a minor revelation: "Take a plane." So he does, only mildly regretting the dhow voyage - regretting it less when he notes that it took seven more months over the months he'd already waited before the thing reached India.
The book meanders between history and travel notes - often including chats with his companions, usually the artist Martin Yeoman, whose pauses to capture specific colors or textures or facial expressions sometimes caused the two to part for a time. The historical aspects involve deep-diving into Battuta's own works, other documents from various localities, and the inevitable shifts in landscapes, buildings, and accessability that result from the passage of centuries. There are some pretty grisly accounts of the behaviors of some of the 14th-century potentates, and also some impressive examples of ancient architecture - contrasted with not-always-pristine modern-day settings. The author definitely includes both the positives and the negatives of his travels - which means I can enjoy all of these things vicariously, without actually getting injured, sunburned, sick, or terrified. A feature, right?
I found myself marking lots of potential quotes - too many to actually cite, in fact, an indication of how much I enjoyed the book. Here's one example of the author's descriptive style, upon first spotting Lal Gumbad, an unusually-shaped tomb mentioned in Ibn Battuta's writings: "It was as if the building hadn't quite decided whether it wanted to be a pyramid or an obelisk when it grew up, then had suddenly changed its mind and tried to lay an egg." And, upon entering the structure: "Inside, the tomb was filled with a gloom so thick that, could you have removed the building like a jelly-mould, the darkness would have stayed behind." [Side note: the book includes lots of black-and-white sketches by Martin Yeoman, but doesn't have a color-photo section, so I did a lot of Googling to see images of some of the more notable sights. Do be cautious, though; some of them, especially the erotic sculptures from the Khajuraho temples, are delightfully explicit!]
Given that the author's trips took place in the early 2000's, I was often surprised at how little the modern world intruded; many of the locales must have appeared very much the same in the 1930s, with quite a few relatively unchanged from Ibn Battuta's own visits.
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
I left this book in this beautifully-decorated (and new-to-me) Little Free Library; hope someone enjoys it!
[See other recent releases in NH here.]
** Released for the 52 Towns in 52 Weeks challenge. **
** Released for the Keep Them Moving challenge. **