In 1933 Robert Byron began a journey through the Middle East via Beirut, Jerusalem, Baghdad, and Teheran to Oxiana – the country of the Oxus, the ancient name for the river Amu Darya that forms part of the border between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. The Road to Oxiana offers not only a wonderful record of his adventures, but also a rare account of the architectural treasures of a region now inaccessible to most Western travellers.
Caroline Mawer, Writer and Researcher, Caroline Mawer (author website)
Caroline says: ‘This is a great book, about great places. Byron’s favourite mosque was commissioned in Herat by the Timurid queen, Gawhar Shad: “No photograph, nor any description, can convey [the minarets’] colour of grape-blue with an azure bloom, or the intricate convolutions that make it so deep and luminous. Each of [the shafts] is bordered with white faience in relief, so that the upper part of each minaret seems to be wrapped in a glittering net. There was never such a mosque before or since.” This mosque was destroyed (by the British), but the same architect made a mosque for the same patron in Mashhad, and that comes a close second.’
Contact Caroline at Caroline Mawer (author website) for details about her first book:
The Shah’s Road: One Woman’s Journey across Iran
It’s time to get off the beaten path. Inspiring equal parts wonder and wanderlust, Atlas Obscura celebrates over 700 of the strangest and most curious places in the world. Talk about a bucket list: here are marvels you’ve never come across – natural wonders, architectural spectacles and mind-boggling events.
Atlas Obscura revels in the weird, the unexpected, the overlooked, the hidden and the mysterious. It is a book to enter anywhere, and will be as appealing to the armchair traveller as the die-hard adventurer. Anyone can be a tourist: this book is for the explorer.
William Least Heat-Moon set out with little more than the need to put home behind him and a sense of curiosity about “those little towns that get on the map-if they get on at all-only because some cartographer has a blank space to fill: Remote, Oregon; Simplicity, Virginia; New Freedom, Pennsylvania; New Hope, Tennessee; Why, Arizona; Whynot, Mississippi.” His adventures, his discoveries, and his recollections of the extraordinary people he encountered along the way amount to a revelation of the true American experience.
It was 1956, and Eric Newby was earning an improbable living in the chaotic family business of London haute couture. Pining for adventure, Newby sent his friend Hugh Carless the now-famous cable – CAN YOU TRAVEL NURISTAN JUNE? – setting in motion a legendary journey from Mayfair to Afghanistan, and the mountains of the Hindu Kush, north-east of Kabul.
Inexperienced and ill prepared (their preparations involved nothing more than some tips from a Welsh waitress), the amateurish rogues embark on a month of adventure and hardship in one of the most beautiful wildernesses on earth – a journey that adventurers with more experience and sense may never have undertaken.
South: The Illustrated Story of Shackleton’s Last Expedition 1914-1917
Sir Ernest Shackleton
(UK: Quarto, 2016; USA: Zenith Press, 2016)
In 1914, the polar explorer Ernest Shackleton announced an ambitious plan to lead the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition – the first trek across Antarctica from the Atlantic to the Pacific via the South Pole. Shackleton’s third expedition would prove fraught with adventure – and peril.
South is the remarkable tale of that ill-fated expedition as told in Shackleton’s own words, and illustrated here with the photography of expedition photographer Frank Hurley, as well as modern colour imagery of the fauna and stunning vistas the men encountered.
Available in the UK via ‘My Local Bookshop‘ search engine or Amazon (South: The Illustrated Story of Shackleton’s Last Expedition 1914-1917)
Available in the USA via Amazon (South: The Illustrated Story of Shackleton’s Last Expedition 1914-1917)
The Places In Between
(UK: Picador, 2014; USA: Mariner, 2006)
Caught between hostile nations, warring factions and competing ideologies, at the time, Afghanistan was in turmoil following the US invasion. Travelling entirely on foot and following the inaccessible, mountainous route once taken by the Mohgul Emperor, Babur the Great, Rory Stewart was nearly defeated by the extreme, hostile conditions. Only due to the help of an unexpected companion and the generosity of the people he met on the way, did he survive to report back with unique insight on a region closed to the world by 24 years of war.
Wilfred Thesiger, repulsed by what he saw as the softness and rigidity of Western life – ‘the machines, the calling cards, the meticulously aligned streets’ – spent years exploring in and around the vast, waterless desert that is the ‘Empty Quarter’ of Arabia. Travelling amongst the Bedu people, he experienced their everyday challenges of hunger and thirst, the trials of long marches beneath the relentless sun, the bitterly cold nights and the constant danger of death if it was discovered he was a Christian ‘infidel’. He was the first European to visit most of the region, and just before he left the area the process that would change it forever had begun – the discovery of oil.