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From the Holy Mountain: A Journey Among the Christians of the Middle East

4.26 of 5 stars 4.26  ·  rating details  ·  1,651 ratings  ·  134 reviews
In the spring of A.D. 587, John Moschos and his pupil Sophronius the Sophist embarked on a remarkable expedition across the entire Byzantine world, traveling from the shores of Bosphorus to the sand dunes of Egypt. Using Moschos’s writings as his guide and inspiration, the acclaimed travel writer William Dalrymple retraces the footsteps of these two monks, providing along ...more
ebook, 512 pages
Published October 2nd 2012 by Vintage (first published April 7th 1997)
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As in the previous book I reviewed, a traveler decides to go on pilgrimage. Inspired by the writings of the monk John Moschus (ca. 550-619), William Dalrymple, a Scottish journalist and travel-writer, sets off to retrace the route this pilgrim and his friend Sophronios of Jerusalem had traveled so many centuries before.

Dalrymple's book is an attempt to rediscover the traces of ancient Christian history in the Middle East, some of them surviving in unexpected ways, some of them tragically disappe
Feb 03, 2012 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: armchair time travellers, historians and aesthetes
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: Paul Theroux
Shelves: travel-books
Travel is a good thing to do. It broadens your horizons, lets you see all manner of crazy things and frequently allows you to get a tan and wear outlandish clothing which you would under no circumstances wear at home in the midst of your own community ever. The wearing of odd garb and putting together your own eclectic holiday wardrobe is a bit like wearing a disguise. You can meet new people and because of your clothes you can be all "hell yeah, look how alternative/cool/zany/ in-touch-with-the ...more
This was a book which came to me from two totally disconnected directions; a recommendation from Shovelmonkey but then almost on the back of her gentle nudge I was given a sharp kick in the pants by the bookshelf elf who is evidently steering my reading habits when this was also given to me quite independently as a good book to read in preparation for my, then, upcoming visit to the Holy Land by a priest friend of mine.

In the event, though I began it before heading Middle-east-side, I did not co
The most engrossing and moving travel essay I've ever read. Once you read this, you'll want to read everything else Dalrymple has written.
Very promising beginning which soon detoured into ruminations on geopolitics and along the way found it self stretched in the muddy fields of scripture and doctrine. The geopolitics appears dated, of course, which is no one's fault. The scripture and doctrine appear methodical, which I regard as alarming.

If it wasn't for the encounter with Robert Fisk I would've aborted the book while it was in Lebanon. It is a revealing view into the incestuous proximity between Islam and Christianity, even if
Nov 17, 2007 John rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in travel, religion, or the Middle East
This is one of the best travelogues that I have read. Following in the footsteps of a late Byzantine Monk Dalrymple gives a fascinating and all too often heartbreaking view of the Middle East from an entirely new perspective -that of the Greek Orthodox Christians who represent the shattered and scattered remnants of the third major monotheistic religion to come out of the Middle East. Ironies abound. The author uses as his basic "tour guide" the mixture of travel account and collected "miracle t ...more
A brief mention of the classic "Spiritual Meadows", itself a collection of saying from 7th Century Monks in the Middle East, in Sir Steven Runciman's "History of the Crusades" leads William Dalrymple to replicate
the journey, taken long ago, in the late 20th century. This is the story of that journey and of the story of the decline of the native Christian population of the Holy Lands.
The only other book on this topic that comes close to being this well written is "The Body and the Blood" by Charl
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]It is a tremendous book. Dalrymple travels through Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, the West Bank and Egypt, following the seventhy-century travels of John Moschos, looking for the remaining evidence of Christianity in archtitecture, culture and population. It is a terrifically sad book. Many of the communities he visits were dwindling at the time of writing, in 1994; several of them wonder if they will even still be there in ten years ...more
Most Western Christians know little about the varied ancient communities clustered throughout the Mediterranean that hold the collective memories, architecture and artifacts of thousands of years of tradition dating back to pre-Roman times, to Roman or early Jewish settlements, or to the first voyages of Paul and his fellow travelers some two thousand years ago.

This book is on my priority list because of an article in Hadassah Magazine about the current threat to these ancient peoples and their
Alexander McNabb
A wonderful book that tackles an important issue - the decline of Christianity in the Eastern Mediterranean, but also the marvel of syncretism.

His portrait of Robert Fisk is one of the gentlest and yet meanest filletings I've read in a long time, particularly as our Bob is such a brilliant writer whose moral outrage is so essential a counterbalance to our desire to look the other way.

Magnífico libro de viajes, alrededor de Turquía, Siria, Líbano, palestina y Egipto.

El autor, un inglés del 65, cristiano católico, comienza su viaje en el Monte Athos. Primero consigue el permiso para pernoctar allí y poder revisar los manuscritos de un monje del siglo VI, Juan Mosco. Su escrito "El Prado espiritual" le servirá como guía de los viajes que realizó el referido monje por todo Oriente Próximo. El autor lo emula en el siglo XXI, y nos describe la situación de estos territorios, con
William Darymple is a brilliant and sincere author, who puts in a lot of effort to research before he writes a book and that is very evident in From the Holy Mountain.

The book itself is a treasure with great insight into Middle East and Arab. Darymple makes his journey through what was known as the Byzantine empire. Some may think this book to be prejudiced towards religion but this serves as an excellent history and travel book as well.

The amount of knowledge that I have gained about the hist
Steve Hanson
An interesting look at an aspect of Middle Eastern history that is not discussed much - the history and state of Christianity in the Middle East. The book is loosely structured as a travelogue built around an account of a journey by two monks it the 6th century. Dalrymple sets out to follow their root and compare the churches, monasteries and Christian communities John Moschos and his companion visited 1400 years ago.
Dalrymple's travels and comments bring up a number of interesting points or thr
Suzi Stembridge
I knew as this book progressed that I must never be tempted to rush it or scrimp on the detail and I instinctively I knew also that once finished I would need to read it again. What I hadn't allowed for when I started the volume in the New Year was how we would all be drawn into the events in Syria during this violent winter. This is not just a book about Byzantine Christians throughout the Middle East, nor is it just a history and a travelogue. Although it was published fifteen years ago in man ...more
Diane Ramirez
William Damryple tours the Middle East, seeking Christians in Greece, Turkey, Syria, Israel, and Egypt. He follows the footsteps of John Moschos, a monk who'd done the same thing 1,500 years earlier, at the beginning of what is the unraveling of the Christian presence in the regions, as Damryple says, much like his tour represents the beginning of the end. It took me much longer to read this book than I thought it would, partly because I needed to slow down to appreciate the exactness of beauty ...more
I think this book is very informative for Westerns who thinks everyone from Middle East is Usama bin Laden however it is very biased on Christianity. It is true that Christians in Middle East do suffer a lot (perhaps as a result of what Christians in the West are doing). However, I didn't enjoy taking this book with me during my tour around the Middle East because in a travel book I don't think every paragraph shouldn't be about how much do the Christians suffer. It should include the culture, e ...more
Carmen Pulín
Good descriptions, excellent narration, terrible explanation of facts. Partial, antijewish, antiwestern, clearly pro muslim, his explanation of the Lebanon War is a prodigy of inaccuracy and bigotry. Full of clichés, such as "islamist extremism is in a good deal the result of Western humiliation of Islam" or "Islam was tolerant with jews and christians". Well, that doesn't seem to explain where did the MILLIONS of christians and jews that inhabited the Middle East go, does it? Was Islam so wonde ...more
Después de Tras los pasos de Marco Polo, Dalrymple parece que ha madurado y ofrece un libro más sosegado. Cambia de registro, pero el resultado sigue siendo extraordinario. Esta vez abandona el humor que derrochaba en su anterior relato, pero insisto: es excelente.

Viaja por Turquía, Siria, Líbano, Israel y Egipto en busca de lo que queda de las comunidades cristianas medievales. Ofrece la habitual combinación de diálogos, descripciones, historias y hallazgos que en su justa medida hace un buen l
Dalrymple heads off in the footsteps of the 6th century monk, John Moscos, from Mount Athos down through Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel-Palestine and finishes in Egypt. Along the way he gives a superb insight on Christianity in the Middle East with all its rich history and present day persecution and insecurities. It’s also surprisingly exciting at times as he encounters various policemen, soldiers etc who aren’t always happy with what he’s doing. Erudite, and by turns amusing and disturbing.
Eapen Chacko
Dalrymple is a Trinity College man, and although the jacket characterizes him as a 'travel writer,' this book is much, much more. Published in 1997, it should be a timeless classic. The author starts out to journey through the early Eastern Church's great poles of Alexandria, Constantinople, and Antioch. His road map is to follow the travels of John Moschos, author of The Spiritual Meadow, who journeyed through this world around 578 A.D. If this sounds a bit arcane and dry, the book, story, writ ...more
This book takes the route of a monk who lived in the 500s AD and compares how things have changed or remained the same in some parts of the Middle East. I have liked almost all books of Dalrymple, and this was no exception. I also enjoyed some of the stories about old-time Christian monks, and descriptions of a very different Middle East than the one we hear of in the news all the time, but no less chaotic.
Sairam Krishnan
As my Dalrymple reading continues this year, I can't help but be amazed at the rigor of the scholarship that must have been required to write books of this calibre of knowledge, understanding and narrative strength. From the Holy Mountain, his third book and his longest then, is a romantic's dream. Here's a traveller, a Christian, who picks up a medieval book about his religion's origins and practices in the lands where it was born, and proceeds to follow it, discovering, dreaming and learning a ...more
Roger Burk
This is a depressing book. I read it expecting tales of deep traditional faith in remote places. I found stories of lone decrepit survivors waiting to die and then end the two-thousand-year history of Christianity in their region. Dalrymple seems to view them as historical relics, a strange tribe to be studied before their inevitable extinction. He admires the gentleness of the monks in some surviving monasteries, but he finds them superstitious and credulous as well as pious. Maybe he's right.

This book will change the way you think about Christianity and the Middle East. Intimate and elegantly written, this travelogue takes you places you never even thought existed, to visit some of the world's most ancient Christian peoples. Beautiful and fascinating.
Janine Job
I am a one eyed William Dalrymple fan! Wow is my response to this book. I can't really even critique it - I learnt so much of which i was beforehand totally ignorant. I admire the author deeply for his courage and tenacity in researching the material. The book is fascinating. Unfortunately I think that in spite of the author's optimism and positive tone I was left feeling that there surely can not be real peace in the Levant/Middle east. The book was published in 1997. Now in June of 2014, with ...more
Michael Taouk
Dalrymple's writing is brilliant. I was taken on a beautiful and vivid adventure of Sixth Century Christian Byzantium.
However, Dalrymple seems to treat the contemporary descendants of his historical heroes with a little of the contempt characteristic of western writers of the last century. In the case of Bsharre ... Dalrymple allows himself to be influenced by two Roberts: Fisk and Frangieh and then rushes through the town seeing it through their eyes. His account descends into gossip, innuendo
This was the first of his books which I have read. His writing style is provocative and entertaining. The subject matter is particularly pertinent to what is going on in Syria right now. Would definitely recommend to friends.
Unlike most of his books which relate to india this was different - this read more like a travel novel - he really brought the history of the middle east into the living room
Alison Muntz
I read this book, for the third or fourth time in summer 2013, while visiting Israel and Jordan, and while things had changed, particularly in Egypt and Syria, there is so much truth and insight in the book. I love Dalrymple's writing style, am in awe of his breadth and depth of knowledge, and learned so much from this book that it will remain one of my favourite books. I do think it ranks with the travel writing of Leigh Fermor and Robert Byron and will stand the passage of time.
There are also
Stephen Hayes
A travellers tale giving an idea of the condition of Christianity in the Near and Middle East at the end of the 6th century and the end of the 20th century.
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William Dalrymple was born in Scotland and brought up on the shores of the Firth of Forth. He wrote the highly acclaimed bestseller In Xanadu when he was twenty-two. The book won the 1990 Yorkshire Post Best First Work Award and a Scottish Arts Council Spring Book Award; it was also shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize. In 1989 Dalrymple moved to Delhi where he lived for six year ...more
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“Across the broken apses and shattered naves of a hundred ruined Byzantine churches, the same smooth, cold, neo-classical faces of the saints and apostles stare down like a gallery of deaf mutes; and through this thundering silence the everyday reality of life in the Byzantine provinces remains persistently difficult to visualise. The sacred and aristocratic nature of Byzantine art means that we have very little idea of what the early Byzantine peasant or shopkeeper looked like; we have even less idea of what he thought, what he longed for, what he loved or what he hated.
Yet through the pages of The Spiritual Meadow one can come closer to the ordinary Byzantine than is possible through virtually any other single source.

Dalrymple, William (2012-06-21). From the Holy Mountain: A Journey in the Shadow of Byzantium (Text Only) (Kindle Location 248). HarperCollins Publishers. Kindle Edition.”
“During the war, my son Alfred [Cochrane] went up [to Bsharre, in Lebanon] to see some friends. On the road, he was stopped by the Marada militia. They put a gun to his head and tied him to a tree. When Alfred was at Eton he quickly learned how to get out of beatings, and his experience came in very handy on this occasion. They said they were going to execute him. He kept telling them he was great friends with the Franjiehs – the ex-President’s family who commanded the militia – and said that he was going to spend the weekend with them. Of course he had no such plans, but the lie eventually did the trick. Most of the militia men did not believe him, but Alfred kept going on about his important Maronite friends and eventually one of them got cold feet. The others were saying, ‘Let’s just shoot him first and ask questions afterwards,’ but the one with the cold feet said, ‘No we must telephone the Franjiehs and check what he’s saying.’ So they did.”

“Luckily they got the former President, Suleiman Franjieh. He was a little surprised to hear Alfred thought he had been invited over the weekend, but he told the militiamen to release Alfred immediately nonetheless. The next day Robert Franjieh, the President’s son, rang up here. He and Alfred had known each other since they were in playpens together: it’s a very small world here in Lebanon. Robert said: ‘I’m so sorry, Alfred. Rotten luck. Won’t you come to lunch?’”

“And what was Alfred’s reply?”

“He said, ‘Thanks a lot Robert, but not today. I’m afraid I’m a little busy.”
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