Tag Archives: Travel

Off to the coast…

Mr G had a surprise for me a couple of days ago.  We are spending some time on the Washington coast!  I need this break as I haven’t really been out-of-town for a couple of years.  No TV, no internet, no computers! It doesn’t even matter if   the sun comes out.  I hope you all have a wonderful weekend and I will be back at the end of next week!


Filed under RandomPost, Travel

In An Antique Land – Amitav Ghosh

In An Antique Land,  History in the Guise of a Traveler’s Tale by Amitav Ghosh

Vintage, New York, 1992

I own this, found it in a thrift shop.   Amitav Ghosh is a favorite of mine,  and with the events in Egypt and the rest of the Middle East over the last few months I decided it was time to read it.

In An Antique Land is an interesting combination of history, sociology and memoir that reaches back into the twelfth century and connects it to our own time.

In the winter of 1978 Ghosh was studying for a degree in social anthropology at Oxford when he came across a book of translations titled Letters of Medieval Jewish Traders by Professor S.D. Goitein.  The letters came from storage chamber known as the Geniza, attached to an ancient synagogue in Cairo.  One of them, catalogue number MS H.6, was written in  1146 AD  by a merchant named Khalaf ibn Ishaq to a trader named Abraham Ben Yijû.  At that time Ben Yiyû was living in Mangalore, on the south-western coast of India.  The letter mentions a certain slave and sends him “plentiful greetings”.

Ghosh was hooked and soon found himself in Tunisia, learning Arabic.  In 1980 he traveled to Egypt, living in a small village called Lataifa, and getting to know the Egyptian people.

From there the author traveled to another Egyptian village, Nashawy and then on to Mangalore, India, living with and getting to know the people in the towns and villages.  He was attempting to track the travels of  Ben Yijû and of his slave, a man Ghosh began to think of as Bomma.

What I found most fascinating was the interweaving of the time lines, Egypt and the Middle East in the 1100’s and in the late twentieth century, the mingling of history and social anthropology, Ghosh’s openness with the people around him and his awareness of the pressures of modernization.  I admire his observation skills and his clarity.  Here is his description of the village during Ramadan.  He had wanted to join in but everyone had said he could not – he was not Muslim.

From the very first day of the lunar month the normal routines of the village had undergone a complete change: it was as though a segment of time had been picked from the calendar and turned inside out.  Early in the morning, a good while before sunrise, a few young men would go from house to house waking everyone for the suhûr, the early morning meal. After that, as the day progressed, a charged lassitude would descend upon Lataifa.  To ease the rigours of the fast people would try to finish all their most pressing bits of work early in the morning. while the sun was still low in the sky; it was impossible to do anything strenuous on an empty stomach and parched throat once the full heat of the day had set in.  By noon the lanes of the hamlet would be still, deserted.  The women would be in their kitchens and oven-rooms, getting their meals ready for the breaking of the fast at sunset.  The men would sit in the shade of trees, or in their doorways, fanning themselves.  Their mouths and lips would sometimes acquire thin white crusts, and often, as the hours wore on, their tempers would grow brittle.  From page 75.

Ghosh threads history throughout this memoir, how the trading in Northern Africa was dependent on many items from India.  How people worked, traveled and lived.  How even the word “slave” had a very different meaning during that time. Reading this book was a  reminder of  how that  area of the world was once,  peacefully, inhabited by people of different races and religions.  Why did that change?  As he reaches the end of his journey along the west coast of India, Ghosh presents a theory.

The journey ends on a beach between ‘Fandarîna’ and Calicut, at a small fishing-village, hidden behind the shelter of a sand-dune.  It is a quiet spot: a few catamarans and fishing-boats lie in a great crescent of sand, a vast beach that is usually empty, except when fishing boats come in.  The village is called Kappkadavu an on one side of it beside the road is a worn white marker which tells the passer-by that this was where Vasco da Gama landed, on his first voyage to India, on 17 May 1498 – some three hundred and fifty years after Ben Yiyû left Mangalore.

Within a few years of that day the knell had been struck for the world that brought Bomma, Be Yiyû and Ashu together, and another age had begun in which the crossing of their paths would seem so unlikely that its very possibility would all but disappear from human memory.  From page 286.

There is an  interesting connection between this author’s fascination with the slave Bomma, the historical trading  between India and Northern Africa and his novel Sea of Poppies. I cannot wait for the second book in the Ibis Trilogy, River of Smoke.


Filed under History, Memoir, Review

The Road To Oxiana by Robert Byron

Road2621afe940da8605934637255414141414c3441 The Road To Oxiana by Robert Byron

Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2007

In 1933 Robert Byron,  British author and art critic, traveled through the Middle East to Oxiana, the country of the Oxus, the ancient name for the river that forms the border between Afghanistan and what was then the Soviet Union.  On his journey he stopped in many cities, including Jerusalem, Baghdad, Teheran and Herat.  The Road To Oxiana is his travel journal and it contains many different elements, like a collage.  Newspaper clippings, letters, official forms, essays and dialogues make up a wonderfully intimate and witty description of his travels.

Most of Byron’s journey involved visiting mosques and monuments but the really entrancing  parts of the book are the descriptions of the people Byron met and the things that happened to him along the way.

Yesterday morning we got up at three and were out of town by six, intending to make Isfahan in one day.  After ten miles the road became an ice-floe; a drift had thawed and frozen again.  I accelerated.  We crashed on twenty yards, nearly overturned, and came to a lugubrious stop.  At  this moment the sun rose, a twinkle of fire lit the snowy plain, the white range of the Elbuzr was suffused with blue and gold, and a breath of warmth endeared the icy wind. Cheered by the beauty of the scene, we returned to the capital.

Then there are the conversations, which never failed to make me burst into laughter.

I met a young Swede at dinner, whose expensive jewellery and talk about his father’s estates made me wonder why he was living in Teheran.

Swede : I am in the business of cases.

R.B. : Cases?

Swede : Cases for sausages.

R.B. : Tins do you mean?

Swede : No, cases for sausages themselves made from sheep’s intestines.  Some people think it is not a nice business.  I do not always talk about it.

R.B. : I thought those cases were made of rice paper or some such material.

Swede : Not at all.  Every sausage has a gut case.

R.B. : What happens, ha, ha, with a sausage six inches across?

Swede (seriously) : We use not only sheep’s guts, but also ox guts.  The big intestine of the ox will hold the biggest sausage manufactured.

R.B. : But have Swedish cattle no intestines?  Why come to Persia for them?

Swede : Persian cases are of a high grade.  The first grade comes from the Kalmuckian steppe in Russia.  The second from Australia and New Zealand.  The next from Persia.  It is an important business for Persia.  Cases are one of the largest exports under the Swedish-Persian trading agreement.

R.B. : What made you choose cases as a profession?

Swede : It is my father’s business.

Hence the estates, I suppose.

Even as a vegetarian I found this whole exchange at the dinner table very funny.  As I was reading  I thought of all the changes that have taking place in this area of the world.

Byron changed travel writing by using different elements, humor and very irreverent comments in his work.  His book has influenced travel writers ever since.  Bruce Chatwin described it as  “a sacred text, beyond criticism” and carried it with him through central Asia.   A wonderful collection of photos from Byron’s journey to Oxiana can be found here.

Other reviews:

Twentieth Century Vox


Filed under Challenges, Travel, World Citizen 2009

Sunday Salon – The Road Trip

Puget  Island

Puget Island, WA

Hello all!  After twelve days of travel on the Oregon Coast and a bit of car trouble in Southern Oregon I am back.  Being without computer access was not as difficult as I thought it would be, but I did miss visiting all my favorite book blogs. There was so much to see and do on our journey and many interesting people to talk to.  I discovered new places I want to visit including Puget Island, WA which is on the Columbia River near Cathlamet.  The island is 7.5 square miles, has a population of about 800 people and is agriculturally based.  Local farms provide flowers, produce and eggs to the Farmer Market and several take their goods to the market in Astoria, about 35 miles down river.  We saw the island from a point of land on the Oregon side and I am enthralled by the place.

We were on the Oregon coast for five days, visiting favorite places and exploring new ones.  Saw tide pool animals, seals, many sea birds and one gray whale.  Spent time walking, reading, visiting bookstores and eating wonderful food.  Again, The Sylvia Beach Hotel in Nye Beach met and exceeded all our expectations.  We stayed in the Tolkien Room!

Cape Lookout, Oregon

Cape Lookout, Oregon

Near Oceanside, Oregon

Near Oceanside, Oregon

Oregon Dunes

Oregon Dunes

Spent some “unexpected” time in Grant’s Pass, Oregon, waiting for a car part.  We visited Crater Lake National Park and the Rogue and Umpqua Rivers.  I love rivers and waterfalls,  and spent  time picnicking beside them and taking pictures.  We also visited a wildlife rehabilitation and education center called Wildlife Images.  I have been to several animal rehabilitation centers and this one is the best I’ve seen.  They do wonderful work and I would suggest anyone traveling through the area would enjoy a visit.  The area around Grant’s Pass is filled with history and I would happily spend more time there.  I particularly want to visit Oregon Caves.  All in all, it was a wonderful, restful trip, even with the car fiasco.

Rogue River, Oregon

Rogue River, Oregon

Clearwater Falls, Umpqua River, Oregon

Clearwater Falls, Umpqua River, Oregon

I read several mysteries while on my trip and a wonderful novel, Lavinia, by Ursula K. Le Guin,  that I plan on reviewing later in the week. Now I need to visit all my favorite bloggers and see what you’ve been up to!

What is Sunday Salon?  For more information visit this link.


Filed under Photographs, Travel


IMG_2293This morning my sweetie and I are taking off on a  little road trip to the Oregon coast and Crater Lake.  I am pretty sure we won’t have access to computers along the way so bye for now, be well, and I be back in 10 days or so.


Filed under Travel

Burma Chronicles by Guy DeLisle

Burm72d6c4c9a86743c593745575551434d414f4541Burma Chronicles by Guy DeLisle

Drawn and Quarterly, Montreal, Quebec,2008

This wonderful graphic travelogue tells the story of Delisle’s trip to Burma, also know as Myanmar.  Delisle’s wife works for Medecins Sans Frontieres ( Doctors Without Borders) and she, Delisle and their son, Louis, are stationed in Burma for a year.

DeLisle uses simple black, white and gray scale drawings to tell a whimsical tale that includes some cultural and political insight into this beautiful, troubled country.  He shares his time with Louis’s playgroup and his experiences teaching an animation class.  There are also stories of his travels into the countryside with the MSF team.  I loved the simple storytelling style and the clear, clean images.

This is DeLisle’s third book after Shenzhen: A Travelogue from China and Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea.  I intend to read both of them as soon as I can get them from my library!


Filed under Challenges, Graphic Novel Challenge, Graphic Novels, Review