The award-winning travel book by the author of Travels with a Tangerine
Our ideas of the Arabian Peninusula have been hijacked: by images of the desert, by oil, by the Gulf War. But there is another Arabia.
For the Classical geographers Yemen was a fabulous land where flying serpents guarded sacred incense groves. Medieval Arab visitors told of disappearing islands and menstruating mountains. Vita Sackville-West found Aden 'precisely the most repulsive corner of the world'. Arguably the most fascinating but least known country in the Arab world, Yemen has a way of attracting comment that ranges from the superficial to the wildly fictitious.
In Yemen: Travels in Dictionary Land, Tim Mackintosh-Smith writes with an intimacy and depth of knowledge gained through over twenty years among the Yemenis. He is a travelling companion of the best sort - erudite, witty and eccentric. Crossing mountain, desert, ocean and three millennia of history, he portrays hyrax hunters and dhow skippers, a noseless regicide, and a sword-wielding tyrant with a passion for Heinz Russian salad. Yet even the ordinary Yemenis are extraordinary: their family tree goes back to Noah and is rooted in a land which, in the words of a contemporary poet, has become the dictionary of its people. Every page of this book is dashed - like the land it describes - with the marvellous.
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.