Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Empires of the Indus: The Story of a River” as Want to Read:
Empires of the Indus: The Story of a River
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Empires of the Indus: The Story of a River

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  1,481 ratings  ·  216 reviews
One of the largest rivers in the world, the Indus rises in the Tibetan mountains, flows west across northern India and south through Pakistan. For millennia it has been worshipped as a god; for centuries used as a tool of imperial expansion; today it is the cement of Pakistans fractious union. Five thousand years ago, a string of sophisticated cities grew and traded on its ...more
Hardcover, 366 pages
Published November 1st 2008 by John Murray
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Empires of the Indus, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Sharlynie I think due to strict copyright infringements, there is no free reading it online unless you can hack it lol. I think it because its a book that is us…moreI think due to strict copyright infringements, there is no free reading it online unless you can hack it lol. I think it because its a book that is used widely for research etc etc. Therefore you need to buy the hardcopy.(less)
The Kite Runner by Khaled HosseiniA Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled HosseiniLost Horizon by James HiltonKim by Rudyard KiplingThe Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling
86 books — 58 voters
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark TwainBlood River by Tim ButcherHeart of Darkness by Joseph ConradDeath on the Nile by Agatha ChristieLife on the Mississippi by Mark Twain
623 books — 205 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.19  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,481 ratings  ·  216 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Empires of the Indus: The Story of a River
Jun 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those who are interested in travel literature and history
Shelves: favorites
Alice Albinia’s book is one of the best book in the travel literature genre that I’ve read in recent times.

Wanderlust, astonishing sense of adventure, and a never-ending hunger to gather little known facts and the history of every place she visits is what makes her such a brilliant travel writer. A lot of research has gone into the making of the book, and it is evident from the numerous journals, books and ancient scripts she quotes to emphasize her findings. It’s the best kind of book with suc
Arun Divakar
Jun 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
So let man consider of what he is created:
He is created of water pouring forth.
~ Qur'an

This piece of text above from a religious scripture is but a reverberation of an undeniable fact that life began in water and that is sustained by water. Most creation myths and the science behind evolution also nod their heads in assent about these seemingly god like powers of this confluence of two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen. It was then only natural that the first forms of human habitation took r
In this book, the Indus River is travelled in the reverse of its flow, from the delta in Sindh, Pakistan to its source in the mountains of Tibet, travelling throughout Pakistan, (two sidetrips into Afghanistan, although the Indus does not!), India and China. It is an epic and incredible journey, travelling by many means, even walking a large section following the footsteps of Alexander. In Pakistan she spends time in Sindh, Punjab, the northern Tribal lands and Kashmir. Indian Ladakh, and Tibeta ...more
Paddy Docherty
Jun 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone with wanderlust
This is a wonderful book, a triumphant mix of history and travel told in a very engaging way. Alice Albinia takes us upstream along the ancient river Indus, from the Arabian Sea in Pakistan to the river's source in Tibet, and back in time to prehistory. The rich historical evidence is explored in person through some highly adventurous forays into tribal badlands and numerous illegal border crossings, and I found it a gripping read. She is an engaging travelling companion, and writes beautifully, ...more
Yousef M
(Letter to the Author)

Hi Ms. Albinia,

I just wanted to thank you so much for writing "Empires of the Indus". I picked it up from my local Barnes & Noble a few days ago and I absolutely loved it. As an American of Pakistani & Kashmiri descent who has traveled to (and briefly lived in) Pakistan and India, your weaving of personal narrative with history was fascinating and truly enlightening. I have recommended my family members read your book as well. I hope you continue to write on the subject of
Springing from deep in the earth in the mountains of Tibet, the river Indus, which gave the Indian subcontinent it's name, it's life, it's majority religion and it's primary culture would seem a vast subject for a first book by a young author. Rivaling one of my all-time favorite books, The Black Sea by Neal Ascherson, Alice Albinia deftly weaves together the story of the Indus river in a lively, personally engaging account of her journey from the environmentally threatened delta in today's Paki ...more
Jun 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: review
I am showing signs of travelogue addiction, and this is the kind of book that creates it! It's not just the content of the book, which is marvelous and makes for a treasure trove of information, but the sheer tenacity and guts the author displays, that has made me a fan. Spanning four countries, this book is the story of the river Indus, from its source to its destination, though not in a linear way. What it succeeds in doing, like the best travelogues do, is to also allow us to travel through t ...more
Ashish Iyer
Amazing book. So many things are there in details. Will love to read it again. This book is more like history and travelogue.
Sairam Krishnan
Aug 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Extraordinary. What a journey, and what a book.

Enough has been written about it, but I have to say that it taught me so much more about my own neighbourhoods than all the history classes I've had to sit through. I wish we were taught this way when we grew up: We'd perhaps never tire of learning.

Will be read again, very soon, and with much enthusiasm.
Jul 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
Writing a travel log about the sub-continent is one thing. To write an anthropological or archaeological essay is another, especially a protracting challenge if you are a westerner. It would be unfair to analyse the culture, psyche and thought patterns of India and Pakistan, with a western eye. After reading works of William Dalrymple, Mark Tully etc., this book unfortunately in my opinion, falls flat on its face.

The author after briefly reading some English commentary on the Rig Veda in her ho
3.5★ for this incredibly detailed and interesting journey up the length of the Indus and back in time.

I have seen this - upriver and back in time - done before and probably more engagingly in Simon Winchester's book, The River At The Centre Of The World, written 10 years earlier about the Yangtze, but that doesn't diminish my admiration for what this Brit journalist achieved as a 29yo solo, female traveller in a part of the world where you would not expect smooth sailing (pun intended). At time
Jan 06, 2018 rated it it was ok
Little known and so intriguing facts and the history of every place Alice visited is what makes this book so brilliant! It is obvious a lot of research has gone into the writing of the book, evident from the numerous ancient scripts she quotes to emphasise her findings.

She travelled the Indus River in the reverse of its flow, from the delta in Pakistan to its source in the mountains of Tibet, even walking a large section following the footsteps of Alexander. Every timeframe relevant is examined,
Sep 01, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
British journalist Alice Albinia, in her first book, follows the Indus River from its mouth in the Arabian Sea, through Pakistan and finally to its source in Tibet. In the process, she introduces us to people on the way and tells of the history of the regions along the Indus. And there is a lot of history, indeed.
Albinia seems to be not only a historian and journalist but more than capable as a geologist, archaeologist, anthropologist, linguist and explorer. And an adventurer -- she makes Indian
Munir Hyder
Mar 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This books takes you on a long deep journey of civilization of the greater Sindhu. its simply owsome. jeay sindh (indus)
Dec 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
You can't get much more off the beaten track than Alice Albinia's travels from the Arabian Sea up the Indus River, through Pakistan, Baluchistan, the Punjab, Afghanistan, Jammu & Kashmir, Baltistan and finally Tibet. I've read rows of travelogues by women sojourners, ranging from those who travel with camel trains of guides and supplies, others with just a companion or two and a donkey cart, but none who has ventured into such treacherous terrain or politically dangerous sites alone, and I mean ...more
Aug 16, 2020 rated it it was ok
I spent an entire week on a book that part aggravated and part fascinated me. The Empires of the Indus by its back cover summary alone is supposed to be a journey upstream on the river from the Delta in Sindh to its source Mount Kailash in Tibet. It is also supposed to be a journey from present day all the way back into 50 million years covering the empires this river birthed, nourished and destroyed.

Incredible premise so far right? Anyone would be keen to pick this book.

Reading this book, I was
Feb 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I'll sum up in one word - 'Amazing'. Really relished every bit of it.
The author takes the reader on a geographical-historical journey upstream along the mighty Indus. Starting from the mouth of the Indus & its delta abutting the Arabian Sea, the path traverses Sindh, Punjab, the historically unruly tribal North-west, Afghanistan, Kashmir and into Tibet via Ladakh. As the landscape changes, so does the context - from partition to British Raj, Mughal rule to Buddhist empires and Vedic period to ne
Mar 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
A brilliant travel book blended with history and what makes it good is the wonderful storytelling style. It takes us by surprise to know that a woman chose to travel in the war-trodden country to trace the foot trails of ancient kings and warlords and as well as common people. We are also feeling sad at end with the author when the mighty river once flowed through history witnessing invaders and saints is no more mighty but a slow running stream. Water is precious. For someone it is sacred.
Nov 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite well-written -- I'd be interested in reading more books by this author. I've always found narratives of travel in Kashmir confusing, even with a map provided, and the final chapter on the headwaters of the Indus in Tibet seemed an anti-climax to me, but I highly recommend the book to those interested in the region, especially stories of solo female travelers. ...more
Mar 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Extremely well written. My personal fav was the chapter about Sheedis. I don't think I have read anything written about Sheedis with so much empathy by any Pakistani writer. Thoroughly enjoyed it. ...more
Jan 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
I had never read a work of travel literature before. Empires of the Indus isn't just another white woman travels through exotic Asia travel book. It is painstakingly researched and grounded in historical reality. One of the largest rivers in the world, the Indus rises in the Tibetan mountains, flows west across northern India and south through Pakistan. For millennia it has been worshipped as a god; for centuries used as a tool of imperial expansion; today it is the cement of Pakistans fractious ...more
Apr 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant effort. It combines the suspense of a travelogue with the detached rumblings of a historian with much ease. The chapters melt into each other with the changing tapestry of people, wildlife, myths, and ecosystems. Characters are endearing and much more humane than the modern 24*7 media houses would have us believe. Research is pain staking, relevant and of the highest caliber. One only wishes someone from South Asia would endeavour such a book armed with nothing but curiosity and love ...more
Atul Sabnis
Somewhere in the middle of September 2009, was when I started reading this book. As I went through the early pages, I slipped into a comfortable and complacent state - I would finish reading Empires of the Indus: The Story of a River in a few of days; I'll cruise through it, I told myself.

It wasn't to be so.

The history of the river and of the 'empires' and the folklore and the community that laces this river challenged my curiosity as I, now, slowly made through the pages. The excitement that th
Jan 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: india
This is a complex, beautiful book by a bright, young-at-the-time writer. Albinia structures this combined history / travel book as a trip up the Indus from its mouth to its headwaters, and through its history from the present back to geological time. She researched the river's history and prepared for her trip for a year before going, and that investment shows: she journeys to truly obscure places, and knows what to look for when she gets there, so the account is rich. Other reviewers have descr ...more
Brian Griffith
Aug 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
I’ve never seen a finer piece of travel journalism. Albina just moves through the countryside living with locals and learning their folklore. She enters communities and conveys their experiences all the way up the Indus from Karachi to Tibet: survivors of the Pakistan/India partition, the descendants of Black slaves, the Sikhs, the Pashtuns, the locals of the militarized boundaries with India, the “people of the Rig Vedic Aryans,” the somewhat matriarchal Ladakhis, and the Tibetans under Chinese ...more
The book is a result of hard and brave work on the part of the writer. The prose flows smoothly and is a pleasure to read. But somehow it gives the impression, at least to me, as the writing of a person with some preconceived notions about happiness and quality of life; I cannot but disagree with her on certain points. Also the writer seems to have been a little weary of religion and its practices. Overall, an interesting read.
Kishwar Jaffer
Aug 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
REALLY enjoyed this book - it was kind of a travelogue with a lot of history thrown in. Thanks to this book I could explain to my cousin working in rural sindh that the "Sindhu" river was really the Indus! ...more
Usman  Baig
Aug 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 Stars. “Empires of Indus” is, with its successful blend of travel and history, as fascinating and fluid of a book one can hope for. I particularly enjoyed the parts about the Indus in Pakistan(naturally) as the author’s perspective, though inevitably laced with her personal prejudices and biases, about the things and phenomenon we take for granted is refreshing due to her not being a native. History has always excited me, specially one which diminishes the human scale of time, and this coupl ...more
Saniya Asif
Aug 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm sure this book is great. Just wish I had more time to read it , because it actually meant to be read chapter by chapter, absorbing in all the immense detail it houses !! Will definitely give it another shot. ...more
Nithin V A
Aug 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
A perfect mix of travel from sea to source of the river through Pakistan, Afghanistan , India and Tibet and history from stone age to modern day. Bravery of Alice Albinia to travel through places which are deemed to dangerous due to man and nature by outside world is unbelievable.

« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
The Readers' Avenue: The books of the month April 2013 3 23 Apr 24, 2013 12:30PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • In Xanadu: A Quest
  • Early Indians: The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From
  • The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty: Delhi, 1857
  • Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan
  • India: A History
  • After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split in Islam
  • The Anarchy: The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire
  • Ocean of Churn: How the Indian Ocean Shaped Human History
  • Freedom at Midnight
  • The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity
  • Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State
  • Koh-I-Noor: The History of the World's Most Infamous Diamond
  • Truck de India!: A Hitchhiker's Guide to Hindustan
  • Pakistan: A Hard Country
  • The Nine Lives of Pakistan: Dispatches from a Precarious State
  • The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia
  • Azadi
  • Land of the Seven Rivers: A Brief History of India's Geography
See similar books…
Alice Albinia read English Literature at Cambridge University. After graduating, she moved to Delhi, where she worked for the next two a half years as a journalist and editor for the Centre for Science & Environment, Biblio: A Review of Books, Outlook Traveller, and several other Indian newspapers and magazines.

It was during this time, as she travelled around the country writing articles and featu

Related Articles

“I'm in a weird place because the book is about to come out. So I'm basically just walking around like a raw nerve and I'm not sure that I...
17 likes · 3 comments
“Tradition is a fragile thing in a culture built entirely on the memories of the elders.” 12 likes
“Below me are artillery lines, curved stone walls built in overlapping crescents along the hillside. I wonder what scholars of the future will make of them, the stone circles of our war-torn generation.” 0 likes
More quotes…