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Description & Travel

A Personal Narrative of the Euphrates Expedition

William Ainsworth, 1888

Ainsworth (1807–1896) was an English surgeon, geographer, and geologist. He was also known as a writer and editor. He led several expeditions and wrote about his travels in Assyria, Babylonia, Chaldsea, Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, Chaldsea, and Armenia, as well as other places. His writing focuses primarily on the geography, topography, and historical significance of the locales he visits, and he does not often speak of the people he encounters. 

Persian Letters

Montesqieu, 1721

This book contains a series of letters written by two Persian noblemen as they travelled through France. They discuss the themes of comparative religion, exile, humanism, national identity, race, reason, and touch on political and religious satire and critique. They also examine the religious contrasts between Muslims and Christians and emphasize the need for religious tolerance. This collection drew much attention because of its factitious Oriental commentary on French society.

Egypt and Nubia: With Illustrations

James Augustus St. John, 1845

James Augustus St. John was a British author and traveler and was proficient in French, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, and Persian. His descriptive, poetic account of the land of Egypt takes on a religious, almost deferential tone at times. He speaks openly of the abject poverty of the Arabs he encounters and exhibits a sympathy that is often lacking in other Orientalist accounts. The book is filled with marvelous illustrations.

My Winter on the Nile 

Sir Edwin Pears, 1911

Pears is perhaps best known for his 1911 book Turkey and its People.  My Winter on the Nile and its sequel In the Levant detail Pears' experiences in the Middle East.  Pears claims that the Middle East - and Egypt specifically - is still unique and exotic, despite the expansion of technology and Western culture.  His descriptions are generally clear and unbiased, and he asserts that he travelled to Egypt without any particular purpose or agenda.

Pilgrimage to Mecca

Lady Evelyn Cobbold, 1934

Evelyn achieved celebrity at age 65 when she became the first British-born Muslim woman to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca. A convert to Islam, Evelyn's story is unique in many ways. Her writing is vivid and intense, and her descriptions of Islam are earnest and passionate. Evelyn's account stands in stark contrast to many of the writings of her period, and her biography offered many people an entirely new perspective on Islam and the Middle East.

Notes on the Bedouins and Wahabys: Collected During his Travels in the East

Monsieur de Callieres

Burckhardt was a Swiss traveler and orientalist. He is best known for rediscovering the ruins of the city of Petra in Jordan. His notes here are exhaustive, and he examines and dissects the many Bedouin tribes he encountered during his travels, even expounding upon their horses and livestock. The index to this novel provides valuable insights into specific cultural practices and touches on diverse matters such as proverbs, warfare, and the lunar cycle. He also examines Wahhabism, which been instigated only recently at the time of the publication of his book. In modern times, Wahhabism has typically been associated with fundamentalist Islam and is championed by Saudi Arabia.

Arabia, Egypt, India: A Narrative of Travel

Lady Isabel Burton, 1879

Lady Burton was the wife and partner of explorer, adventurer, and writer Sir Richard Francis Burton. This travel account reads much like a diary and makes no attempt to adopt an academic or scholarly tone. She does, however, touch on serious matters, discussing cholera, sanitation, and religion. The writing is charming and the illustrations are exquisite.

The Duab of Turkestan; A Physiographic Sketch and Account of Some Travels

W. Rickmers, 1913

The "Duab of Turkestan" is the land between the two rivers (du,two ; ad, water ; analogy, Panjab), between the Amu-darya and the Sir-darya or Oxus and Jaxartes, located roughly within modern-day Uzbekistan. In his preface, Rickmers states that this book is " attempt at combining a record of exploration with the teaching of a little elementary physiography."  He describes the land, its inhabitants, and the people he encounters throughout his travels. His prose is clear and direct, and his book contains a staggering number of photographs.

Description & Travel