A rich blend of history and spirituality, adventure and politics, laced with the thread of black comedy familiar to readers of William Dalrymple's previous work. In AD 587, two monks, John Moschos and Sophronius the Sophist, embarked on an extraordinary journey across the Byzantine world, from the shores of the Bosphorus to the sand dunes of Egypt. Their aim: to collect the wisdom of the sages and mystics of the Byzantine East before their fragile world shattered under the eruption of Islam. Almost 1500 years later, using the writings of John Moschos as his guide, William Dalrymple set off to retrace their footsteps. Taking in a civil war in Turkey, the ruins of Beirut, the tensions of the West Bank and a fundamentalist uprising in Egypt, William Dalrymple's account is a stirring elegy to the dying civilisation of Eastern Christianity.
'Compulsively readable.' John Julius Norwich, Observer 'Everything a really good travel book should be: witty, learned and also very funny.' Eric Newby 'Any travel writer who is so good at his job as to be brilliant, applauded, loved and needed has to have an unusual list of qualities, and William Dalrymple has them all in aces. Dalrymple's ear for conversation is as good as Alan Bennett's. The best and most unexpected book I have read since I forget when.' Peter Levi 'A rich stew of history and travel narrative spiced with anecdote, opinion and bon mots...The future of travel literature lies in the hands of gifted authors like Dalrymple who shine their torches into the shadowy hinterland of the human story - the most foreign territory of all.' Independent 'Dalrymple stands out as one of our most talented travel writers. Energetic, thoughtful, curious and courageous.' Sunday Times 'William Dalrymple has effortlessly assumed the mantle of Robert Byron and Patrick Leigh Fermor.' Guardian 'A splendid, effective and impressive book.' Financial Times