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Travels with a Tangerine: A Journey in the Footnotes of Ibn Battutah

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  766 Ratings  ·  56 Reviews
Ibn Battutah, the best traveler of the pre-mechanical age, set out in 1325 from his native Tangiers on the pilgrimage to Mecca. Arabic scholar and award-winning travel writer Tim Mackintosh-Smith retraces the first stage of the Moroccan's eccentric journey, from Tangiers to Constantinople, traveling both in Ibn Battutah's footsteps and in the footnotes of his text.
Hardcover, 361 pages
Published April 26th 2001 by John Murray (first published 2001)
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This is going to be a really objective review.
The book is about an intelligent and witty Englishman who travels through the Middle East in the footsteps of a great Islamic travel writer.
Alright, so I lied. I would have given five stars without reading a single page. But I did read it, and I discovered some other reasons for doing so :).

Tim Mackintosh-Smith starts out from Ibn Battutah's underwhelming tomb in Tangiers, Morocco, and journeys through Egypt, Syria, Oman, Turkey and the Crimea. Ibn B
Travels with a Tangerine, Tim Mackintosh-Smith's account of retracing Ibn Battutah's 14th century pilgrimage to Mecca, is a book that falls into the category of topics I love (travel/history writing, modern day recreations of famous voyages) but executions I dislike. I found Mackintosh-Smith's writing overly pedantic and dense. I don't know much about 14th century Arabic history and spent much of the book wishing that Mackintosh-Smith had provided more of a historical overview. Mackintosh-Smith ...more
The first thing many people ask me when they hear I'm writing a fantasy novel is whether I, with all my travelling experience, shouldn't be writing a travel book instead. I used to wonder about that myself, but every time I consider it, I inevitably come across a real travel writer, someone who has an interesting angle, has thoroughly researched the places he is visiting and is always willing to do something outrageous if it will result in a good story -- things I might not necessarily be willin ...more
Kelly Shannon
Dec 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite books! It's not for everyone, but I loved Mackintosh-Smith's fascinating account of his attempt to follow the travels of the 14th century Muslim traveler and explorer Ibn Battutah. Battutah traveled widely in and beyond the Middle East, but Mackintosh-Smith, a Brit living in Yemen, sticks to the Arabic speaking world. His knowledge of culture, Arabic and the obscurities of the English language (he even came up with a word his editor didn't know) makes for a wonderful read.
Dec 25, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel-writing
I haven't finished reading this book. I'm two thirds of the way through and I need a break. It's an interesting journey, the premise of which is the author following in Ibn Battutah's footsteps, but it is a bit self indulgent at times and there's too much emphasis on a mind-boggling number of saints' tombs. I'll put it back on the shelf and finish it in a few weeks' or months' time. It's probably 4 stars but I have to give it 3 because I'm wearying of it.
I am giving it three stars just because the subject Mackintosh-Smith is dealing with - Ibn Battutah and his travels - is quite fascinating and there's so much historical importance and intrigue to it.

In that regard - this book is important. But, oh my, it takes some nerves and patience to go through it. I don't think Mackintosh-Smith executed this well, the book could be much more interesting, vivid, playful, funny, challenging - you name it.

There was so much potential in this and I really wish
Erin Van Rheenen
The bad news: this isn't a book about traveling the world with nothing but a small piece of citrus fruit to keep you company.

The ok news: As Mackintosh-Smith follows in the footsteps of a 14th century globetrotter named Ibn Battutah, a man from Tangiers (the Tangerine of the title), the author puts a lot of effort into his descriptions and metaphors, writing of "a large and elderly Englishman from within whose carapace of summer-weight tweed an Audenesque head moved slowly, periscopically, as if
What a misleading title! Nothing to do with comedy fruit smuggling, everything to do with the Arab&Islamic world's greatest traveler, a near contemporary of Marco Polo who actually went to the places he talks about. Tim M-S recreates the first leg of Ibn Battuta's voyages, and finds a surprising continuity between the fourteenth century and today. The best parts for me were the excerpts from IB's write-up of his travels. Tim M-S is an okay writer, but his experiences are pedestrian compared ...more
Jun 30, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The relatively unknown Ibn Battutah (1304-1368) grew up in Tangier, Morocco. At the age of 21, he embarked on a journey throughout the Middle and Far East for almost 30 years. The author, a British man who has lived in Yemen for 17 years and is fluent in Arabic undertakes a journey that will be about a third of Ibn Battutah's.

I used to read a lot more travelogues and I've really enjoyed them. Not this one, though. In fact I'm surprised I got as far as I did with this one (more than half-way). T
Feb 24, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An engaging travel memoir through the Middle and Near East (and Middle and Modern Ages) that unfortunately never quite comes together. Despite promising ingredients, fascinating experiences and exhaustive historical references, something about it never quite landed for me. The book stands on its own, but the narrative never entirely gels, and one suspects that Mackintosh-Smith has had his mind too much on the rest of his Battutah trilogy to make this part of it work properly.
Kim D
Oct 23, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Not quite the engaging travelogue the flyleaf led me to believe...

Our author decides to trace the footsteps of an ancient Moroccon's global travels throughout Africa, Middle East, India, and Orient. The travel stories are mixed with quite a bit of history and detail about architecture, but I could have used more entertaining anecdotes, sidebars on cultural/interpretive differences, explanations about religions, etc.
Mar 31, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
Hmm - has been on my reading list for years and I've heard great things about it but it hasn't grabbed me yet. There are some amusing anecdotes but I'm finding it too academic and unfocused, so putting it away, until I'm in the mood to give it another go.
Esa Khairina
Oct 25, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: so-so
This is not a book you can read in one sitting. Truthfully, I can see my grandpa reading this book, coffee cup by his side, swinging on rocking chair. Then, one month later after afternoon reads on balcony, he would sigh and retell me the story.

I really, really love travel memoirs. The more "ethnographic" they are, the longer it takes me to finish. But I'm always amazed by the careful details, how the writers weaved intricate histories and portrayed the lives of people. Sadly, this book contains
I really wanted to like this book but as several other reviewers have commented, it was weighed down by its almost ceaseless account of the search for forgotten saints' tombs.

If this hadn't been the only book I packed on a recent trip, it would have ended up on my "abandoned half-way" book list. Sorry, Tim. I have great respect for you as a scholar but I wish you had set your own itinerary and written your own travelogue.
Colleen Clark
Feb 03, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, middle-east
I bought this book several years ago; finally this was the year to read it.

It took me several months - reading other books in between. It's not a standard travel book by any means. It's written in an episodic and discursive style where there's no compelling narrative to demand continual attention start to finish.

Ibn Battuta was born in Tangier (hence Tangerine - who knew?) in 1304. He left on a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1325 and didn't return home until 1349 having travelled far and wide, including
Jun 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
"Inverse archaeology", 19 Jun. 2016

This review is from: Travels with a Tangerine: A Journey in the Footnotes of Ibn Battutah (Paperback)
This book had been sitting on my 'to read' shelf for a couple of years: I didn't think it would be particularly interesting.
When I determinedly sat down to read it, I realised what I'd been missing as this is travel writing at its absolutely superb best. In it the author - an Arabist and longterm Yemeni resident - seeks to follow the travels of 14th century Mor
Nov 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Travels with a Tangerine by Tim Macintosh-Smith is a slow read, but one that I savored. It is a travel book that describes the wonders of travel by following the footsteps of the fourteenth century pilgrim, Ibn Battutah who had “the specific sense of [the]mystical,[and]transcendental” (114). I like when an author introduces new ideas, images, places, and vocabulary in the rich context of history. The lush text reads with a sensual and conversational intimacy. Some of his expressions are new to m ...more
Jul 27, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, travel
Apparently if you do not exist in a world oblivious to 90% of history like I do, you would know that Ibn Battutah is not only as famous as Marco Polo in the Arab world, but actually traveled a lot MORE than Polo. So MacKintosh-Smith gets the nutty idea to try and retrace his steps on a meandering trip from Tangiers to Mecca. It took me a while to get into this book, I'm not sure why. It took me forever to read the first few chapters. But eventually I succumbed and then it sped along. This book e ...more
Aug 24, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took a while (perhaps more than 50 pages) for me to get into reading this - I put it aside several times for long periods before I was fully engaged.

The book describes the author's trip that traces the travels of a 14th century Islamic traveler across North Africa and the Middle East as well as up into the former Soviet Union (Ukraine, primarily) and Turkey.

I'm not entirely sure what I found so engaging about this book - I certainly didn't learn anything in a useful sense; while I was readin
Michael Meadows
May 06, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
A fascinating account of a traveller I'd never even heard of before, the seemingly indefatigable Ibn Battutah, a 14th century Moroccan who spent 30 years exploring huge swathes of the world. From eastern Europe in the west all the way across to South East Asia, (and most places in between), Ibn Battutah apparently covered three times as much ground as his much more famous near-contemporary, Marco Polo. The author, Tim Mackintosh-Smith, sets out to follow in his footsteps, (for the first leg of t ...more
Geoff P Brierley
This is a book which opens up two worlds simultaneously.
First, the world of the writer and his travels, Tim Mackintosh Smith and secondly Ibn Battutah.

I found the book to deliver on what it promised and it did so in a way that had suffucient depth to keep the reader interested but not to slow progress to a degree which stiffled the story.

The author opens up places that are new to many people and explores them with Ibn Battutah in mind, allowing a historical perspective to be gained.

Well wort
Rasha Yousif
Mar 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has travelled with me to different countries as it took me months to finish it; I also travelled with the book’s journey following Ibn Battutah’s footsteps. It was a slow start specially the Morocco part I don’t know why it was so hard for me to relate. But when Tim started his journey through Egypt, Syria & Oman I was totally hooked. I learned a lot from this book and it inspired me to dig more into history. I loved how the author kept Ibn Battutah’s quotes at the beginning of cha ...more
This is the travelogue of an amazing trip trip through the glittering cities and aromatic backwaters of the Arab world. Actually, it is two such travelogues. Taking inspiration from a fourteenth century, Moroccan traveler's diary, Mackintosh-Smith approximates the same voyage almost six hundred years later. The author does occasionally get tangled in the tangential, but at root this is a heartfelt recounting of a world that has endured dramatic change yet remains true to its core belief in the r ...more
Apr 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't actually finish this book, but it's quite a fascinating travelogue. Mackintosh-Smith is a Brit who lives in Yemen, and he is writing about a 14th century man from Tangiers (the Tangerine of the story) who travels all over the Muslim mideast and Asia including Delhi and into China. Mack.-Smith is an engaging writer, is fascinated by the Muslim world and speaks and reads Arabic, in spite of being an obvious outsider. His adventures in traveling I.B.'s route are nearly as interesting as I. ...more
Apr 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've re-read this book multiple times. Another Brit with an exquisite eye. Fluent in arabic, lived in the Yemen for almost 20 years, decided to follow the best known arab traveler around the middle east. He's up close and personal with people, with food, with history and with architecture. Writes like he reads the stuff he writes before it hits print. In fact I have purchased multiple copies to give to friends.
Dec 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-travel
Loved this book. He retraced the steps of the ancient Arab traveler Ibn Battutah and like most books, went to places I would love to go to. A destination was Oman and I read this book while we lived there. He also stopped in Egypt and Turkey, and has many similar experiences as we did. His interactions and historical explanations were all fascinating and this is a must read for anyone interested in traveling in the Middle East or its history and culture.
Aug 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a magnificent voyage across time and cultures! I first read this book in 2004 and heartily enjoyed it. Perusing my shelves for a fun holiday read, I picked it up again, thoroughly entertained again. I treasure his witty language, his dry sense of humor and his expansive coverage of Ibn Battutah's other Arab writers'work. If only every Westerner read this book, there would be a much better understanding of North Africa and the Middle East from an Arab and Muslim perspective.
Holly S.
Essentially a long string of travel anecdotes about the author and Ibn Battuta, all woven together. Mackintosh-Smith is truly obsessed with Ibn Battuta, or IB, as he refers to him. The memoir has a witty, literary tone, yet in the end, it was hard to maintain my interest level, as I am not obsessed with IB. I finished the book, but was never hooked.
Aug 21, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
An interesting attempt to follow Ibn Battutta's footsteps in the Gulf by well travelled Mackintosh-Smith. The author cleverly intertwines his own experience and descriptions with those of "IB", but I found it at times slow and somewhat artificial - maybe lacking in feelings and awe for the people and the landscape...
Nov 12, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Smashing. great language, and zeros in on the complexities of the countries in which he travels. Dead-on description of new Omani architecture. Brings out stories and subtexts, and carries out a seemingly impossible project: finding a centuries old traveler in the contemporary world. There is a sub text to t m-s that is intriguing, living in the gulf.
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