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Motoring with Mohammed: Journeys to Yemen and the Red Sea
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Motoring with Mohammed: Journeys to Yemen and the Red Sea

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  1,188 Ratings  ·  104 Reviews
In 1978 Eric Hansen found himself shipwrecked on a desert island in the Red Sea. When goat smugglers offered him safe passage to Yemen, he buried seven years' worth of travel journals deep in the sand and took his place alongside the animals on a leaky boat bound for a country that he'd never planned to visit.

As he tells of the turbulent seas that stranded him on the islan
Paperback, 264 pages
Published February 4th 1992 by Vintage (first published 1991)
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Community Reviews

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May 07, 2009 Beatles24 rated it it was amazing
One of THE best travelogs I have ever read. Hansen travels through Yemen in search of his lost travel logs from an earlier visit. I was absolutely in awe of the nuanced description of life in Yemen - replete with the usual cultural markers. There is this one piece (just to give you one example among the many) in the book about an Arab funeral which was narrated with such heart and passion. At the end of the funeral, while he does not grieve for the person for whom the funeral was held, he ends ...more
Alex Klaushofer
Jul 02, 2012 Alex Klaushofer rated it really liked it
Beautifully-written book that gets under the skin of a little-known country.
Nov 21, 2011 Scott rated it liked it
Shelves: walks, 1990s
In 1978 Eric Hansen was shipwrecked on a tiny island off the coast of northern Yemen. While his fellow castaways frolicked carelessly in their new-found playground, Hansen worried over who might rescue them. Pirates and terrorists topped his list. So, he decided to bury deep in the sand his most valued possessions: travel journals recording a decade of vagabondage. When deliverance in the form of Eritrean goat smugglers arrived, Hansen thought it best to leave his precious books hidden, hoping ...more
Oct 21, 2013 Unwisely rated it liked it
Shelves: travelogue, memoir, 2013
Man. This guy has lived an amazing life. Or, at least, he alludes to more interesting stuff. Not that this isn't plenty interesting. He gets to Yemen the first time via shipwreck (in the 1970s). And that's a bizarre thing. Then he goes back looking for notebooks he left there. And, just, the bizarre and strange things that happen. (And it's a pretty thin book.)

While reading this, I vaguely thought I'd read another book on Yemen, because I distinctly remember the whole tradition of dudes chewing
Sometimes I really enjoyed this book. Since I know nothing about Yemen, it was very interesting. I kept wondering how much the country may have changed since 1991 when the book was first published. THe author's experiences certainly do not sound like these people are part of the "evil empire" at all, but generally welcoming and fun loving. One of my favorite lines refers to being able to solve a dispute with a poetry contest in the old days. But sometimes I was frustrated with the author. I ...more
It took me awhile to finish this book. Life intervened! I really liked the first part where he describes his original trip to Yemen and how he lost the notebooks. The middle section, when he's trying to get the notebooks back and failing, is good, but by its nature it meanders. Each section was interesting, but it lacked much forward momentum.
Parts of it were more interesting than others, but overall, I really enjoyed it. Would I recommend it? Yes, but you have to know what you are in for. It is
Sep 22, 2007 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
A friend recommended this book by Eric Hansen for a trip to Indonesia -- I was supposed to have picked up his 'Stranger in the Forest', but aboard the plane was 'stuck' with a story about a boondoggle shipwreck with buddies in the 70s in Yemen, and happily so. Supposedly true of all Hansen's books -- he seeks adventure in order to write about it. Great dose of humor made this my favorite travel book so far.
Dec 12, 2009 Tom rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel
Wow - Just back from a camping trip in Oman, my first real taste of the middle east, reading this just makes me want more...

A chap sails from the maldives, gets stranded off Yemen, gets rescued by Ethiopian goat smugglers and returns to Yemen 10 years later to try and locate his travel journals (from his 7 years of travelling) that he buried on the beach when he was rescued.

Travel writing at its very best, insightful, philosophical, emphatic,informative and above all pretty damm funny!

Sharazade Sharazade
Dec 13, 2010 Sharazade Sharazade rated it it was amazing
Travel writing at its best--plenty of cultural insights and details, and an engaging (and humorous) story to boot; several engaging stories, actually, since the book covers two separate journeys to Yemen 10 years apart.

I've been to Yemen, and his observations rang true to me--qat chewers, bureaucrats & their regulations, oddball expats, desert landscapes, islands, the remarkable Yemeni hospitality.
Jan 24, 2015 Danielle rated it really liked it
Loved this book! Thanks to Laura Puryear for sharing this look at a more peaceful Yemen. The author had brilliant descriptions of his travails and travels and I loved his quest for his lost journals.
Apr 18, 2010 Britaini rated it it was amazing
What a great insight into Yemen from a point of view that was a true travel experience. It makes me want to learn more about this beautiful old country
Dec 03, 2015 Monica rated it liked it
A decent read, particularly the part about the shipwreck and rescue. Not a great title.
John Machata
Feb 06, 2010 John Machata rated it it was amazing
One of the best travel books of all time!
Jul 12, 2012 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
This is the first of Eric Hansen's books i read and i was hooked!!
Oct 12, 2016 Nicole rated it really liked it
An exceptionally well-written travelogue which is smartly insightful about a small country that is surprisingly rich in culture, social etiquette, and daily practices. Hansen appears to have lived a rather vagabound life in his early years from what is merely alluded to in this novel. However, this story centers on his experiences as a shipwrecked deck-hand aboard a boat which went ashore in 1978 on an unhabited island in the Red Sea off the shore of Yemen. When he and his shipmates are ...more
Despite more than a passing interest in geography, in places, and in the varieties of human experience, I’ve never been a big fan of travel writing. Part of the problem may just be that I am not crazy about travel itself. Travel broadens, as we all know, but it also narrows: a traveler generally travels to places that appeal to his or her interests and beliefs, and then concludes from this experience that the world is more or less in line with what was expected.

Then too, the reports of a travel
Jan 02, 2013 Sandra rated it really liked it
I buy books like a cook, which I am stocks the pantry with essentials. I've had Motoring awaiting its position in my reading queue.
As a person who has an insatiable interest in other cultures, my Yemen - recently provoked by renewed Silk Road interest as I pinned on my Pinterest board. My Yemeni appetite was satisfied with this read.
Hansen is a good author, in that he takes the reader along - non-assuming as we explore the culture.
In today's ever shrinking world, it is vital to understand ethn
Jan 09, 2016 Radiantflux rated it it was ok
This book - book 2 of 2016 - ultimately left me disappointed.

The book details the story of Hansen's shipwreck on the Yemeni coast in the 1970s and his subsequent attempts ten years later to recover notebooks which he had buried shortly before being rescued.

I really enjoyed the writing detailing the shipwreck and the events immediately thereafter. However, the vast bulk of the book, based his time back in Yemen ten years later, is far less interesting. I think ultimately the story can be summar
May 15, 2013 Olivia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
What a great read! My mother recommended this book and I recently saw it listed on the bibliography of another book I was reading and decided it was time. Hansen's witty writing is both hilarious and insightful. Hansen was making his way back from an extended stay in Asia by working on a private yacht when the yacht met disaster off an unpopulated island in the Red Sea. Hansen and his fellow yacht mates where rescued by Eritrean goat smuggles who were taking a load of goats from Ethiopia to ...more
Jack Hope III
Nov 04, 2012 Jack Hope III rated it really liked it
Fabulous. My friend Saqib recommended this book to me years ago, but I just recently got around to reading it. Eric Hansen's Motoring with Mohammed -- while miss-titled in my opinion, as I was expecting motorcycles in the Hejaz -- introduced me to a region of the Middle East that I have never deeply studied.

To the modern American reader, Yemen is the home of terrorist and the CIA drones that target them. Hansen's travel memoir, while over 20-years-old, resonates with an authenticity that will s
Ryan Murdock
Jan 17, 2013 Ryan Murdock rated it really liked it
Eric Hansen is better known for Stranger in the Forest, the account of his walks across Borneo with indigenous peoples. But my personal landscape is the desert and, if forced to choose, I prefer his beautifully written book on Yemen.

This is the story of Hansen’s quest to rescue 7 years worth of journals, which he buried in the sand on a small island in the Red Sea after a shipwreck left him stranded 10 years before. The book is filled with the sort of characters you only meet on the road: a gui
Jan 31, 2013 Andrew rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Motoring with Mohammed is one of THE books that hip young travelers think of when they think of Yemen. While I did enjoy it, I found it suffered from being over-hyped. The description of cab-driver Mohammed is spot on, which may be why I did not enjoy the book as much as I expected. While his eccentricities are funny to someone who lives in the west, I've known to many folks just like him to find the account that funny. The book also suffers from having a narrator that was not entirely ...more
Feb 10, 2009 Leigh-ann rated it liked it
I didn't find this book quite as exciting as Hansen's "Stranger in the Forest", but I think that's because I'm biased towards stories which feature a lot of flora and fauna. In his travels across Yemen, Hansen encounters a lot more humans than exotic species of lemurs, but I have to admit that the humans were pretty interesting (even without ringed tails and big, adorable eyes). I learned a great deal about life in this part of the world, and would be willing to continue reading on the subject, ...more
Apr 08, 2015 Jim rated it liked it
In light of the current tribal unrest tearing apart the country, not to mention all the terrorist-affiliated individuals who seem to inhabit that region, I doubt I would ever visit Yemen. But I don't have to, because we have Hansen. Although the trips he took (1978 and 1988-1989), first as a result of a shipwreck and the latter to hopefully retrieve a set of journals he had buried in the sands on an island off the coast were undoubtedly safer for the tourist, they are wonderfully revealing of ...more
Feb 22, 2015 Peggy rated it it was amazing
Do yourselves a favor and READ THIS BOOK.
It's part history, part mystery, part adventure story.
The part I remember best is a classic line from Mohammed, the taxi driver: Hansen has hired him to drive him around Sa'na, the capital of Yemen, but he said no matter where he wanted to go, they always somehow ended up at a sheep market...and one day he came back and found a sheep in the back of the taxi. He said, Mohammed, there's a sheep in the back seat, and Mohammed said, Yes, yes, she's
Feb 02, 2016 Nandan rated it liked it
Shelves: arabs, humor
This is not your travelogue. Hoping to recover notebooks documenting his 7 year peripatetic journey that were buried in a remote island off the coast of Yemen, Eric Hansen finds it difficult to reach his destination after an interval of 10 years. The book mostly revolves around his unsuccessful quest and people he meets during his 10-week stay in Yemen. Ultimately he is able to re-visit the island on his third trip to Yemen, but that takes up only few pages. If ever there's a list made of modern ...more
Jan 17, 2008 L.J. rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Travel essay
Good travel essay as the writer crafts a unique story about his wayward journey in the Red Sea. Because there is not very many travel books coming out of this region it is one of the finest I have found, dated now as most of the events occured back 30 years ago but still entertaining. I thought he was very persuasive about getting to know his hosts and his likes of the Yemeni people and their culture. Not heavy on historical or cultural facts but it is a good first person account of the customs ...more
Sep 07, 2014 Conrad rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up on a whim while browsing a shelf of travel narratives. It turned out to be a great choice. Hansen's travels in the Yemen in the late 70s and 80s takes the reader back into a land where time (for the most part) seems to have stood still. From the coastal towns to the litter-strewn desert city streets on up into the remote mountain villages he describes the scenery, the people and the customs in a way that you experience the journey vicariously. This turned out to be one of ...more
Apr 12, 2010 Brittanie rated it really liked it
Less a linear travel novel than a collection of stories and adventures, but many of Hansen's descriptions reminded me of my own absurd and picaresque adventures in Korea. There are some flaws in his storytelling style but they are easy to overlook. The book also made me think differently about Yemen, though I'm sure the country has changed considerable since the last time Hansen was there, nearly 20 years ago. Will definitely be seeking out his book about walking through the jungles of Borneo.
Jan 10, 2014 Rosncranz rated it really liked it
The book does get a little messy and unfocused in the middle when the narrator becomes bored and unable to travel or do much due to travel restrictions, unfortunately as the reader I too became bored.

Other than the troublesome middle the book is a very fun and interesting read that does not suffer from the same faults many travel-lit does, the narrator does not come off as smug.

A very fun book that will definitely leave you with an itch to travel more.
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Eric Hansen is a travel writer, most famous for his book Stranger in the Forest: On Foot Across Borneo, about a 4,000 km trek through the heartland of Borneo. He lives in San Francisco. For 25 years he has traveled throughout Europe, the Middle East, Australia, Nepal, and Southeast Asia.
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