Travels With A Tangerine: A Journey In The Footnotes Of Ibn Battutah

by Tim Mackintosh-Smith

I have to say it’s not a fast and easy read, but I am glad I did persevere to finish it. My first book to finish in 2009!

At moments the book does feel a bit repetitive, as the author visited one tomb after another, in unfamiliar places, of people I’ve never heard of (the maps in front were indispensable). He was following the 400-year-old footsteps of Ibn Battutah, the most famous Arabic traveller from Tangier (hence the Tangerine in the title – no other citrus was featured in the book). I am sure if I were more knowledgable about Middle Eastern culture and geography, I may find it more interesting; on the other hand, even were he to travel in search of European castles, Asian temples or Napa vineyards, things could still go stale after a while. What makes the book interesting was the human contact throughout his journey. Most of the people he met were friendly, easy-going, tolerant, cultured and generously hospitable. Incidentally, a few days ago I watched an Anthony Bourdain show, where he travelled to Saudi Arabia. His conclusion of his visit was in a similar tone, that he found the people open, generous and fun-loving, very different from the images we were usually shown or conditioned to conjour up.

The author is a scholarly traveller, and the amount of research he did about IB, his work and his period was evident. He did, however, write with a witty sense of humour. Not the laugh-out-loud type of J. Maarten Troost, but a subtle type that is more likely to joke at himself than his subjects.

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Published in: on January 4, 2009 at 8:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

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