Sojourner in Islamic Lands
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: University of South Carolina Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
Sojourner in Islamic Lands, as its title suggests, tells of time spent in Islam. It is more than a travel book, however. Its primary concern is with Islamic history and culture, in particular art and architecture. I became interested in Islam a generation ago when I went to Constantinople (Istanbul) to write...
1: Islam Past and Present
A loose and baggy monster, Asia sprawls like Tolstoy’s novels, but its Islamic heartland imparts a shape to the whole. If I run my eye over the map, beginning to the east of the mountains in China, it runs west to the Caspian Sea. Along the way the eye takes in the five “Stans” on the western side of the...
2: The Roof of the World
I am en route to Central Asia from my domicile in Hawaii, halfway round the world. I can fly east or west, pretty much a tossup. This time I take the easterly route via Frankfurt, across Russia and on to the former Soviet republics, the Stans. “Stans” is a suffix giving each of these five countries its grammatical...
3: Looking for Tamburlaine
A four-lane highway takes me southwest to Samarkand, from ancient times the heart of the Silk Road. Not bothering with a rental car, I go by bus. I am looking for Tamburlaine, Central Asia’s greatest hero. Staring out the window at the endless fields of cotton, I try to imagine what he looked like. I...
4: Shakhrisabz and the Once and Future King
The Khudjum Embroidery Factory in Shakhrisabz, the birthplace of Tamburlaine, is having its annual gala. So reads the colored brochure handed to me by the clerk at the checkout counter in Samarkand’s Hotel Afrosiab. The colors in the brochure are garish, too bad, for it is promoting Oriental...
5: Medea’s Magic Bath
Shakhrisabz is behind me, but before getting under way again, I want to rethink the ground I’ve covered. What strikes me most about it is the recurring of the past in the present. But though it keeps confronting me, I don’t find it inevitable, like the Marxist reading of history. On the contrary: it...
6: Thieves of Mercy
When I first traveled to Central Asia, I took the westerly route, over the Pacific to Beijing. An ongoing flight brings you to Lanzhou in the center of China—a huge city, but I remember coming in when darkness had fallen and nary a light was visible below the wings of the plane. You can continue on by...
7: The Storks of Bukhara
Like the Time Traveler in H. G. Wells, I can move from past to present, enabled by language. Reliving time past, I have been traveling through western China. Now, quitting the Macartneys and their villa in Kashgar, I return to the long parabola I began with, from Kazakhstan to the Caspian Sea. My...
8: Khiva and the Pot of Basil
The desert has a new skin west of Bukhara. Sloughing its old one, it teems with noisy life, birdcalls in the near distance, gophers and foxes flitting across the sands. Deeper in are lowing cattle, heard before seen. A beaten path, obviously trod by man, leads toward them but breaks off, whisked away...
9: Ashkabad, City of Love
My destination is Ashkabad, the capital of Turkmenistan, a new country carved out of the erstwhile Soviet Union. Of old a nomad encampment, it has metamorphosed overnight to an Asian-style Las Vegas. To get there I cross the border and pick up a plane at Dashoguz. The choice between lounging...
10: The Return of the Mongols
My next venue is Mary, a small industrial city to the east in Turkmenistan. The limo driver who takes me out to the airport is a talker like cabbies everywhere. “Famous men of Islam,” he says, as we pass a pair of worthies aloft on their pedestals. “Famous men” gets me thinking. What did they do to boost...
11: Persia of the Ages
Ashkabad lies just above the Iranian border. I need to cross the border and head west for Tehran, where I have arranged to meet with Mary. My wife is a “multi-tasker,” too busy at a multitude of chores to come with me. Now, however, she has got her life in order, and we can do the last leg of the trip...
12: The Pattern of the World
Modern Iran is huge, bigger than France and Spain, seven times larger than the United Kingdom. But greater Iran, an intermediate area between the limits it reached in history and the present-day state, its territory fixed in 1907, is much larger. All of what is now Iraq used to be part of it. Spreading north...
13: The Pilgrim of the Heart
When Marco Polo returned to Europe after years in the East, he made the journey by camelback, horseback, and sail. It pleases us to follow him. We leave the Fertile Crescent behind and go north before going west, getting on the old branch of the Silk Road that went through Anatolia to the Black Sea...
Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2013
OCLC Number: 868068814
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