While waiting for the results of his college exams, William Dalrymple decides to fill in his summer break with a trip. But the vacation he plans is no light-hearted student jaunt - he decides to retrace the epic journey of Marco Polo from Jerusalem to Xanadu, the ruined palace of Kubla Kahn, north of Peking. For the first half of the trip he is accompanied by Laura, whom h...more
Seven centuries ago, the famous trader, explorer Marco Polo set off from Jerusalem on a mission to reach the court of the Mongol King Kubla Khan, who’s palace was in a place called Xanadu. He then immortalized his journey in The Travels, which later became one of the most detailed pieces of travel writing ever completed. In his first book, the (then) 21-year old Mr. Darlymple takes readers back on the same route, attempting at every page to co...more
It’s far from flawless, however. To many times, Dalrymple relies on architectural details of sepulchers, arches, and tombs. There are very little of logistics here, which would be interesting: how big are their packs? What did they bring? How did they resupply? And almost nothing is said of the scenic Karakoram Highway...more
I read 'The Travels' by Marco Polo, two years back, i.e in 2009;ever since I had been mesmerised by the travel writing genre. In 13th century AD, MArco Polo travelled to Xanadu ( present day China, near Mongolia) to meet the great Kublai Khan. Polo having started from Venice (Italy) passed through Jerusalem, Cyp...more
This and his From the Holy Mountain: A Journey among the Christians of the Middle East are amongst Dalrymples's earliest books, and are well worth reading.
I am looking forward to reading his White Mughals: Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth-Century India now that I have visited Hyderabad where much of it takes place.
"There are moments on all long journeys when the whole business of travelling seems utterly futile. One feels homesick, tired, and above all bored. Nothing pleases. Everything palls. Fo...more
Skip this one and go straight to City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi.
- William Dalrymple in In Xanadu.
Equipped with a generous share of bravado and a rugged backpack, Dalymple makes that journey halfway across the room. While you struggle to catch your breath to match his breakneck speed through a post revoluti...more
The book is full of facts and history (perhaps a bit too much, or too dense, requiring a familiarity with the subject matter that I don't think many have), but it's also a fantastic, terrifying, painf...more
William Dalrymple's first book takes us across Asia, from Jerusalem to Xanadu, as he retraces the footsteps of Marco Polo. Along the way, he takes in the glorious sites along the Silk Road, searching for the remnants of towns described by Polo in his own writing. He does an excellent job of combining historical and travel writing, comparing the cities of the past with their present day inc...more
However, whatever the backdrop, this was a remarkable feat and told so well by Dalrymple who has since become a very established writer on the far east.
This early book of his is full of gusto, wit and charm and it is really a cracking adventure that is also hard to put down.
For two thousand years, Jerusalem has brought out the least attractive qualities in every race that has lived there. The Holy City has had more atrocities committed in it, more consistently, than any other town in the world. Sacred to three religions, the city has witnessed the worst intolerance and self-righteousness of all of them.
A pity that, here and there, I was able to catch Dalrymple in factual errors, perhaps by him employed for more dramatic prosaic effect.