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Landfalls: On The Edge Of Islam From Zanzibar To The Alhambra


For Ibn Batuttah of Tangier, being medieval didn't mean sitting at home waiting for renaissances, enlightenments and easyJet. It meant travelling the known world to its limits.

Seven centuries on, Tim Mackintosh-Smith's passionate pursuit of the fourteenth-century traveller takes him to landfalls in remote tropical islands, torrid Indian Ocean ports and dusty towns on the shores of the Saharan sand-sea. His zigzag itinerary across time and space leads from Zanzibar to the Alhambra (via the Maldives, Sri Lanka, China, Mauritania and Guinea) and to a climactic conclusion to his quest for the man he calls 'IB' - a man who out-travelled Marco Polo by a factor of three, who spent his days with saints and sultans and his nights with an intercontinental string of slave-concubines.

Tim's journey is a search for survivals from IB's world - material, human, spiritual, edible - however, when your fellow traveller has a 700-year head start, familiar notions don't always work.


'Landfalls is a beautifully written account of Islamic life and culture in the 21st century. Whether he is looking for proof of demons off the coast of an island in the Maldives or indulging in a delirious dance to the sound of an ancient Guinean musical instrument, his book is a joyous celebration of cultural diversity' (Sunday Times)

'Well paced, erudite, amusing . . . almost always fascinating . . . Landfalls proves that reports of the death of the travel book are premature. Far from it. With its mix of literary adventure, biography and autobiography, this book suggests that, in the right hands, the genre can be as flexible, energetic and rewarding as ever' (Literary Review)

'Captivating' (Scotsman)

'In this exquisitiely written volume, Mackintosh-Smith establishes himself as a pre-eminent travel writer of his generation, comparable to an earlier D. H. Lawrence of Eric Newby' (Toronto Globe and Mail)

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