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Whether they travel by rowboat, camel, foot or bike, these men and women - famous and unknown - each have their own special purpose for travelling in Egypt.
This is an inspiring selection of classic travelogues - like Florence Nightingale's - and contemporary travelogues - like Italian photojournalist Silvia Dogliani's beautiful photographic record.
Twigger moves his family from England to Cairo, to search the Sahara for a "Lost Oasis". His account of this adventure feels rather like a traveller's notebook. It is bursting with colourful characters, fascinating observations and hilarious incidents - and the tenacity of a man with a mission.
Italian photojournalist Silvia Dogliani has avoided the stereotyped images of Egypt and instead captured impressions of noise and silence, spirit, movement, the past and the future. Conversations with Egyptians and non-Egyptians from all walks of life complement the beautiful photographs to give a deeper insight than a quick tour of pyramids, temples, and tombs ever could.
Rosemary Mahoney's solo trip down the Nile in a seven-foot rowboat - discovering modern Egypt for herself. Hiring a seven-foot skiff at the start of her journey brought her into contact with Amr, the Muslim owner of the boat - and his lonely but endearing sister, Hoda. Already Rosemary was gaining an insight into the culturally and materially impoverished lives of rural Egyptians - an appropriate start to her adventurous, funny, scary and enlightening expedition.
Finding herself, at the age of 47, free of commitments, Bettina Selby had already discovered the eminent suitability of a bicycle for travel and exploration, and so, with little more ado, she set out to see something of the wilder regions of the world. For her third journey - to travel solo for the 4500 miles of the Nile valley - she began by designing her own bright-red "all terrain" bike. It took her from the hospitality of remote Nile-side villages to the starving refugee camps of Southern Sudan, and from the world of international aid to the terrifying child-soldiers of Uganda's Mountains of the Moon. And always there was the problem of her own survival - of staying alive in the deserts, finding food and clean water, steering a way through the skirmishes of the Sudanese civil war and the aftermath of the Ugandan massacres.
An exciting and inspirational read.
also see Bettina Selby's nine other bike trips - and a book inspired by her cats!
The record of a 19th century expedition by canoe: "A canoe cruise in Palestine and Egypt, and the Waters of Damascus".
Setting out to explore every facet of ancient and modern Egypt, Roberts encounters magicians, politicians, monks and archaeologists. In Cairo, he spends a terrifying night alone in the central chamber of the Great Pyramid and is smuggled into the clandestine gathering of a Sufi tariqa. In Nubia, he is carried by boat to the great temple of Isis at Philae and reads Death on the Nilewhilst sleeping in Agatha Christie's bedroom. He embarks on an eventful voyage up the Nile from Aswan to Luxor, experiences star-filled nights and tranquil days with the isolated Ma'aza Bedouin and spends time with the monks of Mount Sinai.
Travelling and studying through Egypt, the author's interest in language adds so much to her travels, and she has her own way with words too - keeping the tone light and readable even through the difficult times. She travels with her eyes, ears and mind all open to the minutiae that make people and places so interesting (which must be the reason that she also wrote the apparently unrelated Wolves and Honey: A Hidden History of the Natural World (about the way that a trapper and a beekeeper interact with nature in the Finger Lakes region of New York).
Egypt has become a very special place for Susan Brind Morrow - and you'll catch a lot of that feeling as you're reading. You don't have to share her interest in etymology to enjoy The Names of Things
Anna Boghiguian, a contemporary Egyptian artist, shares her emotional and spiritual responses to her country and its people both through her drawings and her words. This book is as much about the artist as it is the land.
Anthony Sattin travels to understand the culture of modern Egypt, and discovers how thoroughly times past influence today's Egyptians. He passes on his love of Egypt and it's people with humour and in wonderful detail.
When Florence Nightingale travelled to Egypt in the mid-19th century, she travelled with Gustave Flaubert by dahabiyya - the only means of access to Upper Egypt and Nubia. Not yet famous, both she and Flaubert were struggling with doubts about their vocations - but as she later said:
"One wonders that people come back from Egypt and live lives as they did before".
Her energetic and perceptive letters are packed with entertainingly acute anecdotes.
Michael Pearce's novel complements Florence Nightingale's travelogue featured above (that's the excuse for putting it on this page). It is the 'same' story, fictionally told through the eyes of her dragoman, or guide. Reflecting elements of mid-Victorian travel literature, the novel also takes an amusing sidelong look at the effects of culture shock.
Large print edition - use the image link
Normal print edition - use text link above
In the nineteenth century Lucie, Lady Duff-Gordon settled in Egypt, in the tiny town of Luxor for the sake of her health (she had TB). As the only European in the town, she learned Arabic and got on well with the locals men and women - doubtless helped by the same sense of humour which make these letters home so lively and entertaining. She vented her disgust at the ruling Ottomans, and includes real life anecdotes about the people she lived amongst.
Amelia Edwards' own account, first published in 1888, of her journey in a wooden boat up the Nile. This amazing introduction to Egypt changed her life - inspiring her to become a leading Egyptologist.
The true story of Giovanni Belzoni, a circus strongman, engineer and diehard adventurer who, having discovered a passion for egyptology, unearthed many of the works of the greatest pharaoh Rameses II — and removed more antiquities than Napoleon's armies.
Belzoni's diary (featured in BBC's Egypt series "Egypt : Rediscovering A Lost World") reads like the best fiction. He arrived in Egypt planning to invent a hydraulic irrigation machine but ended up as a pioneer of egyptology - in Howard Carter's words: "one of the most remarkable men in the entire history of archaeology."
In Lane's day, European travellers, knowing the hopelessness of trying to pass as native Egyptians, would dress as members of Egypt's Ottoman Turkish elite. A full set of Lane's Egyptian clothing is preserved in Oxford's Ashmolean Museum. His disguise gave him the freedom he relished to explore and to draw the, then, largely medieval city of Cairo.
Sadly Lane never saw the publication of the book he really cared about - "Description of Egypt" - and his notes, pictures and manuscript drafts were eventually scattered amongst various British collections. The book which brought him fame as an orientalist in his own lifetime "Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians" had grown out of "Description of Egypt". In 2000 the American University in Cairo Press published the first complete, fully illustrated edition of "Description of Egypt", followed by several further editions. Lane's faith in the book was justified.
On his third and longest trip Lane virtually incarcerated himself indoors, preparing his Arabic-English dictionary - the first of its kind to be published. But his wife Nefeeseh, his sister, Sophia and her sons accompanied him, and Lane suggested that Sophia - who, as a woman, could get to know and understand the women - should write her own book about Egypt. Although "Manners and Customs" had been praised for its completeness, Lane knew that his inability to interview Egyptian women had left serious gaps. Relying on Egyptian men as his sources could never give a true and complete picture - so he inspired Sophia to take on "The Englishwoman in Egypt" (see below).
Writing as if sending letters to a friend Sophie tells her stories about the Pasha's daughter smoking her jewel-encrusted pipe, the homesick slave girl and the ladies of leisure whiling away their days - all illuminated by her deep understanding of the customs and culture. Dressed in a full-length black habarah, and heavily veiled, Sophia got to know women of all classes. She travelled on her donkey to hammans and harems, including the hareem of the viceroy Muhammad Ali, Pasha of Egypt.
"The Englishwoman in Egypt" appeared in three volumes, to great acclaim as a classic study of 19th-century Egyptian women.
The artists, scientists and scholars involved in Napoleon's 'Egyptian Campaign' were largely responsible for firing up the public imagination, returning with astoundingly 'different' descriptions, drawings and watercolours of people, places, plants, animals, objects of antiquity and works of art.
Some of the originals have since deteriorated or have disappeared - but because of Napoleans' methods, many of those 'lost treasures' are illustrated in this book. The book places them in the context of the 19th century "discovery of Egypt", the birth of Egyptology, the construction of the great 'Egyptian museum collections' (British Museum, Louvre and Archaeological Museum in Turin) - and the foundation of the first national museum created in the Near East - the Museum of Cairo.
The Arab proverb "Who lives sees much, who travels sees more" sums up the theme of these essays very neatly!
Of all travellers, artists, architects and archaeologists are likely to respond to their travels in highly visual ways - as proven in this collection by the Association for the Study of Travel in Egypt and the Near East. For some, travel has clearly inspired their own work.
"Throughout the Victorian period, an ever-increasing number of British women left home equipped with brushes, pencils, easels, and reams of watercolor paper and yielded to the experiences of the world that overflowed onto their picture planes." In this book, Jordana Pomeroy follows Amelia Edwards and others to Egypt, as well as many other places.
As a novice reporter in the 1950s, Kapuscinski was eager to travel beyond Poland - and his editor gave him two gifts: the first a commission to travel to India, China and Africa; the second 'a present for the road' - am thick book with a stiff cover of yellow cloth, titled in gold letters: "Herodotus The Histories".
Kapuscinski sets out speaking only Polish and Russian - but drinks in each new culture like a thirsty man, and devours Herodotus with equal hunger. He reads thoroughly and thoughtfully, developing almost a 'conversation' with the traveller from ancient times. It's as if he is on two journeys - his reporting assignment and another retracing Herodotus' expeditions - and the result is an unassuming travelogue which is full of insights - and shot through with his recreation of tales from Herodotus, filtered through his own experience of travelling and of his poverty-stricken Polish childhood.
Also by Ryszard Kapuscinski
other editions of 'The Shadow of the Sun'
Approaching his sixtieth birthday, Paul Theroux is determined to travel alone through Africa - by cattle truck, 'chicken bus', bush train, matatu, hire-car, ferry and dugout canoe - from Egypt to South Africa - and in Egypt he visits the writer Naguib Mahfouz.
He is still writing observantly vividly - but he appears to be rather more self-absorbed in this book than in earlier writings.
Travels With a Tangerine follows the route of Ibn Battutah's pilgrimage to Mecca - which started in 1325 from his native Tangier and turned into a 29 year journey of discovery covering much of the known world.
The three chapters on Egypt include the experience of a sort of Islamic Butlin's in the Egyptian desert - and whirling dervishes! Enlivened with conversations, arguments and jokes with local people, in Travels With a Tangerine we share with the both the contemporary traveller and the mediaeval traveller the vibrancy and fascination of both arabic worlds: old and new.
Variously subtitled "A Journey in the Footnotes of Ibn Battutah", or , "From Morocco To Turkey In The Footsteps Of Islam's Greatest Traveler", "Travels with a Tangerine" has been awarded a Thomas Cook/ Daily Telegraph Travel Book Award.
A wonderful read!
Tim Mackintosh-Smith also edited 'The Travels of Ibn Battutah' by Ibn Battutah
Also by Tim Mackintosh-Smith:
Mark Smith - the Man in Seat Sixty-One (as mentioned on our travel page, and author of the massively popular website which provides invaluable advice on worldwide train travel - has produced the essential guide for train travellers with vision. Packed with insider knowledge and tips on everything from the quickest routes, the cheapest fares, the best weekends away, travelling with children, changing trains, timetables and maps.
"The Man In Seat 61" shows you how to "make the journey part of your holiday" - not just a tedious appendage.
A SEARCH IN SECRET EGYPT, by Paul Brunton (1992)
TRAVELING THROUGH EGYPT: From 450 B.C. to the Twentieth Century, by Deborah Manley and Sahar Abd El Hakim (2004)
THE DISCOVERY OF EGYPT: VIVANT DENON'S TRAVELS WITH NAPOLEON'S ARMY, by Terence M. Russell
A TRAVELLER'S HISTORY OF EGYPT, by Harry Ades