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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Book Review - Yemen: The Unknown Arabia – Tom MacKintosh-Smith

Read for the Armchair Traveler's Reading Challenge.

Yemen is probably best known to Americans these days as the site of the USS Cole bombing, which is a shame, as this books paints a picture of a fascinating country with a long history.

The author first traveled to Yemen because he was learning Arabic and desired some field experience in the language. He never left. The book details some of his travels around the country outside his home in San’a (the capital city). I have some interest in languages, and I enjoyed the author’s trips to “Dictionary Land”. I have no experience with the Arabic language, but his notes about the literal meanings of words and place names propelled the story along, and made interesting side notes and commentary on the places he visited. He also sprinkled in relative history in such a way that it enhanced the current location he was described, rather than distracting from the narrative. There were also a number of pencil drawing through the book (I was unable to determine if they were done by the author) that offered interesting highlights.

Each chapter concentrated on a different journey. My favorite was probably the trip to the island of Suqutra, which is located about a two day boat ride (on a small, open air ship) away from the mainland. The island sounded like a place outside of time.

I’d definitely recommend this book. It’s an interesting portrait of a place I suspect many people in this country know nothing about.

1 comment:

softdrink said...

This looks really interesting...I just added it to my list list of books to check out. Thanks for reviewing it!