Tim Mackintosh-Smith continues in the footsteps of Moroccan traveller Ibn Battutah, revealing the rich tales of an India far off the beaten path of Taj and Raj
All the best armchair travellers are sceptics. Those of the fourteenth century were no exception: for them, there were lies, damned lies, and Ibn Battutah's India.
Born in 1304, Ibn Battutah left his native Tangier as a young scholar of law; over the course of the thirty years that followed he visited most of the known world between Morocco and China. Here Tim Mackintosh-Smith retraces one leg of the Moroccan's journey -- the dizzy ladders and terrifying snakes of his Indian career as a judge and a hermit, courtier and prisoner, ambassador and castaway. From the plains of Hindustan to the plateaux of the Deccan and the lost ports of Malabar, the author reveals an India far off the beaten path of Taj and Raj.
Ibn Battutah left India on a snake, stripped to his underpants by pirates; but he took away a treasure of tales as rich as any in the history of travel. Back home they said the treasure was a fake. Mackintosh-Smith proves the sceptics wrong. India is a jewel in the turban of the Prince of Travellers. Here it is, glittering, grotesque but genuine, a fitting ornament for his 700th birthday.
This is his first venture into India but he comes upon the scene like a breath of fresh air. - Charles Allen, author of Duel in the Snows
Were he to jump on a camel for his second volume in the great traveller's footsteps ... he would surely be the Burton of his day - Praise for previous works The Spectator
Mackintosh-Smith has all the assets a travel writer needs: erudition without pretension; rather subversive good humour without relentless jokiness; and a descriptive eye capable of sketching complex detail in a few telling lines of ink - Praise for previous work, The Daily Telegraph
Esoteric, raunchy, hilarious, erudite and transporting, The Hall of a Thousand Columns is a marvellous traveller's tale like no other. I sense that Ibn Battutah has finally met his match. - Eric Hansen
As a writer and traveller Tim Mackintosh-Smith has two great gifts: he slips effortlessly between the past and the present, and he takes us with him. This is his first venture into India but he comes upon the scene like a breath of fresh air. - Charles Allen
Tim Mackintosh-Smith has recreated, with enviable intimacy and elegance, the extraordinary life and times of the greatest traveller of pre-modern times. - Pankaj Mishra, author of The Romantics and
Funny, cultured, humane and highly idiosyncratic - Barnaby Rogerson, Literary Review
Part travel book, part biography, part detective story, this is a gripping read and a fitting testament to the Prince of Travellers. - Wanderlust
Tim Mackintosh-Smith's first book, Yemen: Travels in Dictionary Land, won the 1998 Thomas Cook/Daily Telegraph Travel Book Award and is now regarded as a classic of Arabian description. His books on Ibn Battutah's adventures in the old Islamic world and in India have all received huge critical acclaim. His journeys in search of Ibn Battutah have also been turned into a major BBC television series. For the past twenty-five years his home has been the Yemeni capital San'a, where he lives in a tower-house on top of the ancient Sabaean city and next door to the modern donkey market.