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Empires of the Indus: The Story of a River

4.16  ·  Rating Details ·  964 Ratings  ·  135 Reviews
“Alice Albinia is the most extraordinary traveler of her generation. . . . A journey of astonishing confidence and courage.”—Rory Stewart

One of the largest rivers in the world, the Indus rises in the Tibetan mountains and flows west across northern India and south through Pakistan. It has been worshipped as a god, used as a tool of imperial expansion, and today is the cem
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Paperback, 366 pages
Published April 5th 2010 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published November 11th 2008)
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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…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)
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…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.(less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Dr.Mayurakshi
Jun 03, 2012 Dr.Mayurakshi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Arun Divakar
Jun 29, 2014 Arun Divakar rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Paddy Docherty
Jun 01, 2008 Paddy Docherty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Laurie
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
Manu
Jun 14, 2012 Manu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Daren
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
John
Sep 01, 2010 John rated it really liked it
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
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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 sub
...more
Munir Hyder
Mar 24, 2013 Munir Hyder rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This books takes you on a long deep journey of civilization of the greater Sindhu. its simply owsome. jeay sindh (indus)
Andrea
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
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Abhiram
Feb 23, 2013 Abhiram rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 t
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Veerakesari
Mar 07, 2011 Veerakesari rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Tazeen
Mar 28, 2013 Tazeen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
John
Nov 23, 2010 John rated it really liked it
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.
Kishwar
Aug 06, 2009 Kishwar rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
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
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Ayushi Nayak
Dec 07, 2014 Ayushi Nayak rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had bought this book last year on a whim, read it for a couple of days in a dispassionate manner, and could never complete it. Not even my spirit could tell what I was upto in 2015. But one thing happened for sure and that was a deep understanding of the author's intentions behind this book. It's like her wanderer, discoverer spirit was speaking to mine. And even when I had given this book a back bench in my brain's stadium, I could hardly forget it. And, so as this year I decided on a more or ...more
Patrick
Nov 03, 2010 Patrick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While this book would more properly be titled "My travels in Pakistan and Afghanistan (even though the Indus doesnt flow there), and oh yeah, to get a book deal heres some stuff about empires, and look, I went to Tibet", it was a very informative and relatively entertaining read.

The authors interests clearly lie with Pakistan and its muslim history, and she spends the vast majority of the book discussing Islams historical impact on Pakistan. There is lots of first-person travelogue, and you cert
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Les
One of the largest rivers in the world, the Indus rises in the Tibetan mountains, flowing west across northern India and south through Pakistan. It has been worshipped as a god and used as a tool of imperial expansion, and today it is the cement of Pakistan's fractious union. In Empires of the Indus, Alice Albinia follows the river upstream, through two thousand miles of geography and back to a time five thousand years ago when a string of sophisticated cities grew on its banks. "This turbulent ...more
Barry
May 23, 2010 Barry rated it really liked it
Interesting travel and history account of the Indus River by a woman who travels in the regions of the river from Karachi, through Sindh and Punjab up to the Indus headwaters in Tibet. Her account includes trips into Afghanistan and India as well.
It is an interesting documentary of travel in an area that is not often crossed by Europeans, particularly recently and reveals an interesting area of the world where religious zealots have screwed the pooch for millions of people.
If you are wondering a
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Faisal
A wonderfully gifted writer. I was amazed at the sheer depth of preception from Alice Albinia. Its true the narritave is about mainly about the indus itself but the book reveals so much more about the land, history, society, economy, its people customs and the intricate relationship which weaves this fabric together.[return][return]This is a very unbiased history of a comparatively small corner of the subcontinent from which its easy to extrapolate the essence of being in the sub continent.[retu ...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 sub
...more
Steve
Sep 18, 2014 Steve rated it it was amazing
A wonderful book. I do think that travel authors must be somewhat insane, and that is certainly true here, as the author, a 29-year-old British woman travels alone the length of the Indus River from its now-dry delta on the Arabian Sea to the source in Tibet. Most of the trip was through Pakistan--do not try this at home! She mixes contemporary reporting with history, going further and further back as she goes further and further up the river. Compelling storytelling and very interesting stories ...more
Vedvrat Shikarpur
Feb 20, 2013 Vedvrat Shikarpur rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
A good book to learn the various facets of Indian continental civilization... its amazing how the whole of South-East Asia can relate to the history in this book. A slightly derogatory viewpoint in some cases which needs to be sensitised, but not too obscure for someone who isn't from here. The plight of the river and the changing natural courses with changing faces of human history is a fascinating comparison. A definite read for those interested in the beginning of Indian history and civilizat ...more
Arghya Dutta
This 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.
Dan Murphy
- just outstanding
- if you want to dig deeper into the geographical, cultural, and religious baggage modern-day Pakistan has to offer, this is the book for you
- reminds me that Pakistan is not a monolith and that what is happening now will most certainly not be what will be happening in the future; there's hope in other words
Ravi
Jan 11, 2013 Ravi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alice's book on the Indus is a delightful read. A history book inside a travelogue wrapped in a personal diary styled writing. This book's strength is how it covers the history of the Indus from so many perspectives - empires, tribes, religions and common folk like fishermen, soldiers and the like.

A must read for anyone interested in the history of the subcontinent and what forces shaped it.
P
Jan 13, 2013 P rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Alice Albinia is my new hero. Empires of the Indus is a gripping narrative. If the adventure does not cut it for you, the language would definitely make you fall for her.

Do read it, highly recommended! :)
Enrico Guala
Dec 14, 2014 Enrico Guala rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Che dire di questo libro..completo,chiaro e incredibilmente approfondito.Per chi ama questa zona geografica,la studia e la vuole approfondire questo è il libro cardine. Alcuni miei viaggi in quest'area sono stati studiati grazie a questo capolavoro
Avinash
Aug 10, 2010 Avinash rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'Empires of the Indus' may be long and short on history, but it positively glows with spirit and empathy. The sections on the Sheedis (Sindhi counterparts of the Ahmedabadi Siddis), and the trek to the source of the Indus, are true gems in this book of stories-strung-like-pearls. Superb.
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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 f
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More about Alice Albinia...

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“Tradition is a fragile thing in a culture built entirely on the memories of the elders.” 10 likes
“Both have full lips and a rounded nose – evidence, say some, that the Indus people were direct descendants of migrants out of Africa 80,000 years ago. Perhaps, as some historians have long argued, the Indus people were subsequently displaced from the valley by immigrant Aryans, thus becoming the non-Sanskrit-speaking ‘Dravidians’ of south India. ‘Meluhha’, the word that Mesopotamians used for people from the Indus valley, may be related to mleccha, the term that the Sanskrit-speakers used for anybody who could not speak their language – such as those in south India.” 0 likes
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