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From the Holy Mountain: A Journey Among the Christians of the Middle East

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In 587 a.d., two monks set off on an extraordinary journey that would take them in an arc across the entire Byzantine world, from the shores of the Bosphorus to the sand dunes of Egypt. On the way John Moschos and his pupil Sophronius the Sophist stayed in caves, monasteries, and remote hermitages, collecting the wisdom of the stylites and the desert fathers before their f In 587 a.d., two monks set off on an extraordinary journey that would take them in an arc across the entire Byzantine world, from the shores of the Bosphorus to the sand dunes of Egypt. On the way John Moschos and his pupil Sophronius the Sophist stayed in caves, monasteries, and remote hermitages, collecting the wisdom of the stylites and the desert fathers before their fragile world finally shattered under the great eruption of Islam. More than a thousand years later, using Moschos's writings as his guide, William Dalrymple sets off to retrace their footsteps and composes "an evensong for a dying civilization" --Kirkus Reviews, starred review


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In 587 a.d., two monks set off on an extraordinary journey that would take them in an arc across the entire Byzantine world, from the shores of the Bosphorus to the sand dunes of Egypt. On the way John Moschos and his pupil Sophronius the Sophist stayed in caves, monasteries, and remote hermitages, collecting the wisdom of the stylites and the desert fathers before their f In 587 a.d., two monks set off on an extraordinary journey that would take them in an arc across the entire Byzantine world, from the shores of the Bosphorus to the sand dunes of Egypt. On the way John Moschos and his pupil Sophronius the Sophist stayed in caves, monasteries, and remote hermitages, collecting the wisdom of the stylites and the desert fathers before their fragile world finally shattered under the great eruption of Islam. More than a thousand years later, using Moschos's writings as his guide, William Dalrymple sets off to retrace their footsteps and composes "an evensong for a dying civilization" --Kirkus Reviews, starred review

30 review for From the Holy Mountain: A Journey Among the Christians of the Middle East

  1. 5 out of 5

    Markus

    In 587 AD, John Moschos and his acolyte Sophronius started on a journey that would take them all across the Byzantine world, exploring the vast lands of Eastern Christianity. Almost 1500 years later, Scottish writer William Dalrymple follows in their footsteps, through a landscape that has been ravaged by time, fate and a succession of different civilisations. There is something strangely compelling about travel books. Reading about someone else’s journeys can give you the opportunity to join in In 587 AD, John Moschos and his acolyte Sophronius started on a journey that would take them all across the Byzantine world, exploring the vast lands of Eastern Christianity. Almost 1500 years later, Scottish writer William Dalrymple follows in their footsteps, through a landscape that has been ravaged by time, fate and a succession of different civilisations. There is something strangely compelling about travel books. Reading about someone else’s journeys can give you the opportunity to join in with them, albeit only through words on paper and your own powers of visualisation. From the Holy Mountain is the best travel book I have read. William Dalrymple is a brilliant writer, captivating his audience with knowledge, humour and skillful observation. And while this book is mostly to be read as entertainment, it has so much to teach about history, culture, politics and literally everything you can think of that takes place in the Near East. The book is filled to the brim with passion and emotion. In a matter of pages, a book can take you from surprise at how openly corrupt Middle Eastern officials can be, to outrage at the horrible crimes committed by Turkish and Israeli governments. It can put tears in your eyes by telling you the heartbreaking stories of Armenians whose families were "deported", and it can make you laugh at the comments of the Orthodox priests Dalrymple encounters; most of whom are genuinely concerned about his soul since he is a heretic (Catholic), and one who's convinced that the world is about to be taken over by the Freemasons, who already control the Vatican and the United States. Overall, this is a wonderful tale of a land and its peoples, of a lost civilisation, of the history and culture of a whole world region, and of a modern Western man treading the ground where ancient monks once walked. I will of course admit to being heavily biased. As soon as a book has ‘Byzantium’ written on it, my interest and excitement automatically grow to fanatical proportions. But Dalrymple does a remarkable job of telling the stories of my beloved Byzantine Empire, and what has happened to its world of wonders after the fall.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    As in the previous book I reviewed, a traveler decides to go on pilgrimage. Inspired by the writings of the monk John Moschus (ca. 550-619), William Dalrymple, a Scottish journalist and travel-writer, sets off to retrace the route this pilgrim and his friend Sophronios of Jerusalem had traveled so many centuries before. Dalrymple's book is an attempt to rediscover the traces of ancient Christian history in the Middle East, some of them surviving in unexpected ways, some of them tragically disappe As in the previous book I reviewed, a traveler decides to go on pilgrimage. Inspired by the writings of the monk John Moschus (ca. 550-619), William Dalrymple, a Scottish journalist and travel-writer, sets off to retrace the route this pilgrim and his friend Sophronios of Jerusalem had traveled so many centuries before. Dalrymple's book is an attempt to rediscover the traces of ancient Christian history in the Middle East, some of them surviving in unexpected ways, some of them tragically disappearing fast. He travels through Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt. In each place he discovers Eastern Christian communities and attempts to piece together what has brought them to the situations in which they currently find themselves. There are curious cases of (relatively) peaceful co-existence and cooperation between various religious communities, of the type described in some of the novels of Louis de Bernieres. I had always thought his description of Turks and Greeks living happily cheek-by-jowl was idealistic and humorous but probably exaggerated for dramatic effect. I was surprised and pleased, on reading Dalrymple, to find that, as late as 1997, such situations did indeed exist. Sadly, ethnic conflict, political upheaval, civil war and fundamentalism have contributed to some tragic situations, especially for the Syrian Orthodox, the Maronites, the Palestinian Christians, the Armenians and the Copts. Dalrymple shows, however that the fault usually does not lie all on one side. So the picture is never black and white, and no one party is totally innocent or totally guilty. The style is very engaging. The author knows a lot about history, religion, iconography, chant and archaeology. As we accompany him on his travels, he introduces us to a colourful and variegated cast of clerics, monks, drivers, crooks, politicians, border-guards, hotel managers, refugees and others. From the Holy Mountain was published in 1997, so by now the political situations have further altered. Some of the monuments displayed in the photographs have been further damaged or destroyed. So the book is also important as a snapshot of a certain moment in time when these storms were still gathering.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Hana

    Update: For those who enjoyed this book or are interested in the Byzantines, don't miss this CBS News-60 Minutes documentary on the monasteries of Mt. Athos, online at http://www.cbsnews.com/news/mt-athos-... Most Westerners know little about the varied ancient communities that date back to the great Christian Empire of Byzantium. As I write this review, nearly twenty years after this book was first published, Eastern Christian communities as old as the religion itself are under siege yet again a Update: For those who enjoyed this book or are interested in the Byzantines, don't miss this CBS News-60 Minutes documentary on the monasteries of Mt. Athos, online at http://www.cbsnews.com/news/mt-athos-... Most Westerners know little about the varied ancient communities that date back to the great Christian Empire of Byzantium. As I write this review, nearly twenty years after this book was first published, Eastern Christian communities as old as the religion itself are under siege yet again and that lent the story a certain poignancy. From the Holy Mountain: A Journey among the Christians of the Middle East is Dalrymple’s 1994 travelog retracing the pilgrimage of two monks, John Moschos and his pupil Sophronious the Sophist. The monks set out in 587 A.D. to visit the holy places and monasteries of Byzantium and left an extraordinary chronicle of their travels. Dalrymple, a Scottish Roman Catholic, is at his best when he allows his own spiritual sensibility to shine through; in those moments, he opens a door onto cultures and rituals of mystical, unearthly beauty. Dalrymple has a real gift for sensing the deep connectedness of the regions' religious traditions. At Mar Gabriel in Turkey, 5:15 Matins is chanted in Aramaic: “The entire congregation began a long series of prostrations. From their standing position, the worshipers fell to their knees and lowered their heads to the ground. This was the way the early Christians prayed and is exactly the form of worship described by John Moschos in A.D. 587 in The Spiritual Meadow.” It is also, as Dalrymple points out, remarkably similar to the format of the Moslem ritual prayer or salat. Dalrymple loves the ancientness of Eastern ritual—and sometimes gets a little lost in metaphorical fancies in the process—but such ephemeral moments are hard to convey. In Aleppo he visits a congregation of Christians who came originally from Urfa in Turkey. The Urfalees nearly suffered the same fate as the region’s Armenian population, but remnants found their way to temporary safety in Asad’s Syria. The chants of the Urfalees may be among the oldest in Christendom dating back, perhaps, to the hymns of St. Ephram of Edessa composed in 370 A.D. and set to melodies derived from Gnostic sources. "A cortege of elderly priests conducted the service, accompanied by a string of echoing laments of almost unearthly beauty, sinuous alleluias which floated with the gentle indecision of falling feathers down arpeggios of dying cadences before losing themselves in a soft black hole of basso profundo. At the elevation, the altar boys rattled flabellae, ecclesiastical fans which are often depicted on Pictish and Irish cross slabs, but which died out in the West before the Norman Conquest…" With an eye for telling detail, he finds the past everywhere: north of Damascus "littered throughout the olive groves was another complete Byzantine ghost town. At the edge of the trees the largest and airiest of the villas was still inhabited. A Syrian woman in a patterned headscarf was peeping out of a late Roman window. A washing line ran from the final pillar on her colonnade to the handle of a massive Roman sarcophagus." Given all these layers and fragments of history, the memories of war, of inter-religious and inter-ethnic strife always lurk just below the surface. In Bsharre, Lebanon, a younger member of a powerful clan of Maronite Christians recalls the country’s descent into chaos in 1975: “I was studying to be an architect…Then suddenly this strange mentality developed: everything became polarized into Christian versus Muslim. All my life I had never asked anyone whether he was a Christian or not. Then quite suddenly you had to give up half your life: half your friends, half the places you knew…It was amazing to see how the hysteria evolved.” I suppose I should hardly have expected it, but Dalrymple has no sympathy to spare for Israel (his second to last stop). Dalrymple is a lover of things past and ways that change as little as possible while Israelis are passionately, intensely attached to the here-and-now and to the future and tend to seize both with unstoppable energy. So it's probably not surprising that he decries Israelis for turning their land into "an American suburb" and cruelly mocks a young Jewish immigrant for her enthusiasm and Canadian accent. Still, on balance, this a fascinating book and—in light of the latest violence engulfing the Christian communities of Egypt, Syria and Iraq—a valuable record that's sometimes eerily prescient. Standing in the Egyptian desert near the Coptic necropolis of Bagawat, Dalrymple writes, "Darkness was drawing in, and behind me at the top of the hill a chill wind was howling through the tombs." Twenty years is a very long time in the world of Middle East politics, so I’ll add a couple of links here and in the comments section to useful updates. This book landed on my priority reading list because of an article in Hadassah Magazine about the current threat to Middle Eastern Christian communities and to their holy places. http://www.hadassahmagazine.org/2014/... Here are two updates from William Dalrymple, writing for The Guardian in 2014 and 2012: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisf... http://www.theguardian.com/commentisf...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Shovelmonkey1

    Travel is a good thing to do. It broadens your horizons, lets you see all manner of crazy things and frequently allows you to get a tan and wear outlandish clothing which you would under no circumstances wear at home in the midst of your own community ever. The wearing of odd garb and putting together your own eclectic holiday wardrobe is a bit like wearing a disguise. You can meet new people and because of your clothes you can be all "hell yeah, look how alternative/cool/zany/ in-touch-with-the Travel is a good thing to do. It broadens your horizons, lets you see all manner of crazy things and frequently allows you to get a tan and wear outlandish clothing which you would under no circumstances wear at home in the midst of your own community ever. The wearing of odd garb and putting together your own eclectic holiday wardrobe is a bit like wearing a disguise. You can meet new people and because of your clothes you can be all "hell yeah, look how alternative/cool/zany/ in-touch-with-the-local-culture I am!!!" This is an easy way to attract new friends and re-invent yourself from the tired grey office-dwelling prole that you normally are in real life. The seeing and doing of crazy goings on is also a great boon allowing the collection of endless new water-cooler world-savvy anecdotes in preparation for when you shed your shalwar, fez and sherpa saddle bag and return to the tired grey office. Of course gallumphing around the globe was not always about inadvisable outfits, wine in straw carafes and fake fendi bags. The original holy day travellers were pilgrims, seekers and seers with a much more high minded agenda and their destinations were less Club 18-30 and more 183AD. In From the Holy Mountain Dalrymple follows the path of the pilgrim John Moschus (ὁ ἐγκρατής The Abstemious) who journeyed from his home in Greece in the 6th Century in order to meet various ascetics and monks in monasteries and cave sites in the Levantine corridor. William Dalrymple follows the path taken by John Moschus, stopping at the same sites and monasteries in order to examine the fate of christianity in the Middle East today. He highlights the fact that, following the creation of Israel, and with the ascendance of Islam as a world religion, people tend to forget that Christianity also began in the Middle East. What he finds are denuded monasteries and small communities hanging by a thread in an environment where they are now very definately in the minority. This is very different to Moschus' own experience. In his hagiographical text The Spiritual Meadow (sometimes mistranslated as the Spiritual Garden), he provided a detailed insight into the lives and practises of pilgrims, monks, monasteries and hermits living lives of austerity and simplicity which are almost unimaginable now. The two stories are woven together with some skill and William Dalrymple is an excellent and engaging travel writer with an eye for the unusual - perhaps even John Moschus would have found him to be a worthy travelling companion?

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    This was a book which came to me from two totally disconnected directions; a recommendation from Shovelmonkey but then almost on the back of her gentle nudge I was given a sharp kick in the pants by the bookshelf elf who is evidently steering my reading habits when this was also given to me quite independently as a good book to read in preparation for my, then, upcoming visit to the Holy Land by a priest friend of mine. In the event, though I began it before heading Middle-east-side, I did not co This was a book which came to me from two totally disconnected directions; a recommendation from Shovelmonkey but then almost on the back of her gentle nudge I was given a sharp kick in the pants by the bookshelf elf who is evidently steering my reading habits when this was also given to me quite independently as a good book to read in preparation for my, then, upcoming visit to the Holy Land by a priest friend of mine. In the event, though I began it before heading Middle-east-side, I did not complete it until this morning. It has accompanied my breakfasting and thus has sometimes assisted the digestion but sometimes made quite a lot of stuff hard to swallow. It is the excellently readable account of Dalyrymple following in the footsteps of a Seventh Century monk called John Moschos. Moschos wrote a book of these travels called 'The Spiritual Meadow' and though this book might not, from the sound of it, wholeheartedly appeal to modern minds, even those of believers, Dalrymple uses it as the guiding rope which he holds to keep him on the safeish path as he picks his way through the minefield that it the modern Middle East. His account ranges across the Golden Age of Christianity in the Middle East through its swiping by the Persians and then its fairly riotous rout by the rise of Islam right up to the historical confusions, pains and disasters of the present day. No stone is left unturned in his wanderings and it is interesting how many of these stones, once turned, reveal that they are not common or ordinary pebbles but cornices or pieces from some long forgotten palace or Church or somesuch wonder. This countryside, if such awards were given, would get the Gold medal for recycling as he discovered ancient pillars and architraves being piled up on top of each other to act as sheepfolds. This I found amazing though it was not a lone example as he told stories of monks using ancient and precious rolls of parchment as bottle stops and of how he found himself, whilst searching out the site of the ancient city of Oxyrhyncus....and for the record, I want to live there cos it knocks Poole of Dorset as an address into a cocked hat..., wading across piles of shattered and crushed ancient pottery and jars. 'Pulling at an amphora handle jutting out of the ground, I broke a Byzantine pot, and its contents, a pile of chaff winnowed perhaps whilst Justinian still ruled the Empire, floated away in the winter breeze' I loved this sense of continuing history which he captured. The fact that you were looking at vistas and images that had been gazed upon by people from long ago, these people held wildly different views from mine and yet in the collected papyri from this ancient site the same worries of recalcitrant children or job insecurity or political dubious deals still held sway. Moschos described the religion of the 7th Century with its cascade of odd and eccentric holymen but Dalrymple as he made his way from monastic community to monastic community or spoke to the different communities of nationalities that peppered the area, certainly encountered his fair share of.....hmmm how shall i put this.....unique and interestingly opinioned individuals?...yes that will do. One will be good to be going along with. The rampantly insane, as far as I can see, Fr Theophanes who is a former greek policeman from Athens but now a monk at Mar Saba who lives in great hate and loathing of the Freemasons who Dalrymple had mentioned as just organizing whist drives. This was as a red rag to a particularly tetchy bull: 'Wheest drives?' said Fr Theophanes, pronouncing the word as if it were some sort of Satanic ritual. 'Probably this wheest drive also but their main activity is to worship the Devil. there are many steps but the last, the final step is to meet with the Devil and have homosexual relations with him. After this he makes you Pope or sometimes President of the United States'. This man was not, you understand, the norm but was a big enough character to make me ckoke over my museli on a number of occasions. Dalrymple writes with great animation and, of course, no doubt with some exageration but his genuine fondness for people and his ability to endear himself even to the Roman Catholic hating Fr Theophanes means that his accounts are never dull and the atmosphere he creates in his writing makes you feel the dryness of the desert air and feel the chill of the ice cold monastic cells. His descriptive writing could be sublimely lovely but I also loved his simple word paintings which did the deed just as much. Describing a late antique mausoleum 'It had a six-sided pyramidal roof and its stone was of a wonderfully rich colour, like the crust on Cornish clotted cream' i loved the setting one alongside the other. His is a lovely and easy style of writing which belies a genuine love of exploration and discovery and it enables armchair travellers like myself to imagine and walk with him. His was a great book to challenge preconceptions one of which is the Western tendency to look upon Islam as somehow alien and Christianity to be nice and cosy. His point, well made through numerous examples, is the way in which Islam grew from the foundations of Middle eastern Christianity 'For the former grew directly out of the latter and still, to this day, embodies many aspects and practices of the early Christian world now lost in Christianity's modern Western incarnation ' He explores the development of ornament and decoration and imagery in religion and shows how influence and counter-influence ebbs and flows across not just the area he was specifically exploring but also the way it flowed to affect and transform the monastic art and liturgy of the celts and the picts and the ikonography of Eastern Europe and how in turn other touches from the Middle east may have had hidden but deeply significant influence on the whole movement of the Renaissance. He encountered ancient languages still being used in ancient liturgies which, which like the papyri already mentioned, served to make him and his reader aware of that marvelous interconnectedness of civilizations seemingly aeons apart but echoing back and forth across those centuries. I loved the way this book kept pulling me up and made me gaze at something so real and living that i had to think again about my own sense of history and when ancient influences can truly be said to have withered. He kept coming into contact with the ancient not as something in a glass case to be admired and adored, static and unchanging but as something breathing and moving which still held power to unnerve and inspire. He describes the vicious history of claim and counterclaim, he interviews those who have and are still being horrendously oppressed and he mourns the fact that much culture and the wonder of the interweaving communitites who so often lived side by side in peace are now being riven by artificial or unnecessary hates. I do not want to go into any great analysis of this vicious cruelty but just to say he seems to write a balanced reflection on the present situation. One example, the percentage of Christians in the Middle East has crashed through the floor in the last few decades and, from his travels and conversations I would not hold out hope for any real resurgence. This is a tragedy for the families who are losing their sense of belonging but also perhaps a tragedy for the wider world where we have a tendency to think of the Middle east as being a place of turmoil and violence and intolerance; the haemorrhage of the long established communities flooding from resurgent prejudice from wherever it stems serves to exacerbate this false view Dalrymple seems to be implying. He has a great line which came about halfway through the book and to which i clung like a shipwrecked loser when I began to get all depressed and down about the hopelessness of it all 'In the Middle East, the reality of continuity has always been masked by a surface impression of cataclysm' Not sure if it is totally reassuring but it does undeline what i took from this splendid book, that this wonderful area, enriched by so much history and beauty and courage and character will not be able to be destroyed by the acts of brutes and tyrants. Around every corner, ruins and shrines and communitites speak of a deep vein of history which pulses and burbles along and though sometimes it might seem to flag and stumble there is always a renewal and a reinvigoration. This book was witty and amusing in his asides and encounters with the characters of his travels, it was challenging and unnerving in its ability to bring the past right in front of me as I delved into my muesli bowl, tragic and shocking in its accounts of the past brutality but actually much more by the uptodate intolerance, injustice and violence that still is very much alive and active but most of all it was one of those books that made me yearn to go to those places and breathe that air. Journeying to the Holy Land back in mid-March I encountered only a small part of the wonder that is this part of the world. Maybe I will get to explore more another day but even if i don't the fact that there are books like this and writers like William Dalrymple is a great comfort. A really goodread.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    Hana has done some fab research into things. Her review here 'Mor Gabriel is an ancient Syrian Orthodox monastery in Southeastern Turkey, founded in 397 AD on the ruins of a Zoroastrian temple. When Dalrymple visited in 1994 the monastery was already under siege. In 2008 Erdogan's government attempted to seize the monastery and its farmland on the pretext that the monks were "occupiers" who had built the monastery on top of a mosque--an especially strange claim since the monastery predates bot Hana has done some fab research into things. Her review here 'Mor Gabriel is an ancient Syrian Orthodox monastery in Southeastern Turkey, founded in 397 AD on the ruins of a Zoroastrian temple. When Dalrymple visited in 1994 the monastery was already under siege. In 2008 Erdogan's government attempted to seize the monastery and its farmland on the pretext that the monks were "occupiers" who had built the monastery on top of a mosque--an especially strange claim since the monastery predates both the Turks and Islam. International pressure and a lawsuit filed with the European Court of Human Rights has won an apparent partial victory. How much daily threats will abate for the monks is still an open question.' Article here Fab work Hana. I love the readers on this site - love 'em, I tellee.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Justin Evans

    As good as advertised, and perhaps even more so twenty years after publication, given all that has happened in the meantime. If you're not inclined to sadness over lost traditions, you probably won't care, but I almost cried when the Taliban blew up the Bamiyan Buddha, and I have literally no social or cultural connection to Buddhism whatsoever, so I was basically free for the taking on this one.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Martin

    The most engrossing and moving travel essay I've ever read. Once you read this, you'll want to read everything else Dalrymple has written.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Dhanaraj Rajan

    Four and Half Stars. I am not sure how to express my feelings. I certainly can not say I enjoyed reading this book. For it narrates the plight of the Christians of the Middle East. It is a travelogue. The author travels in the same route that was taken by two monks in the 6th century. The two monks were John Moschos and his companion Sophronius. They started their journey on foot from their monastery in Palestine the crisscrossing the Christian Byzantium visiting various monasteries on their way. Four and Half Stars. I am not sure how to express my feelings. I certainly can not say I enjoyed reading this book. For it narrates the plight of the Christians of the Middle East. It is a travelogue. The author travels in the same route that was taken by two monks in the 6th century. The two monks were John Moschos and his companion Sophronius. They started their journey on foot from their monastery in Palestine the crisscrossing the Christian Byzantium visiting various monasteries on their way. The intention was to collect the great sayings of the desert fathers. John Moscos accomplished this in the form of a book of memoirs titled The Spiritual Meadow of John Moschos. John Moschos had undertaken the journey to escape the continuous threats to the monasteries by the Persian, Arab and Muslim attacks. It was clearly he time when Islam was gaining power and Christianity was losing its hold in the Byzantium (Middle East). Wlliam Dalrymple undertaking a similar passage in the 20th century fears rightly that if John Moschos had seen the beginning of the end of Christian Byzantium, then Dalrymple's travel revealed to him the end of the beginnings. The travels crisscross the Byzantine Levant. Dalrymple has wonderfully divided the book into six sections coinciding with travels in six countries in the present day political scenario. He begins the travel in Greece. From there goes to Turkey, to Syria, to Lebanon, to Palestine/Israel and ends in Egypt. The narration wears different colours depending on the different terrains. It reads like an adventure story in some places, in other places it reads like a great escapade, yet in other places it reads like a real travelogue writing depicting the pleasant surprises. The main thrust however is the presence of Christians in these places. It was the thriving Christian Empire once. The region was filled with monasteries and churches. The deserts were populated by hermits and monks. But as the author made his journey in the 20th century, the situation had turned totally different. The Christians are reduced to a minority and in many places suffer great discrimination. There is a great migration of Christians from the Middle East. In many of the places where Christianity once thrived (eg. Alexandria), the author hints that in another fifty years there will be no presence of Christians. And certain governments (Eg. Turkey and Israel) are systematic in razing down the Christian monuments (Churches, Monasteries and even graveyards) revealing their intention to wipe the slate clean of any Christian presence. The interviews that the author conducted with the Christians in these regions are mostly spiritually nourishing. There is a woman (Palestinian Christian) who had lost everything and lives as a refugee in Lebanon, who says that God still protected her. She never slackened in her faith. She also utters that it is the Christian duty to forgive one's enemies. There is a monk in St. Anthony's (Egypt) who theologizes the Christian suffering by a single statement ('What is Christianity without the Cross?'). There are also interesting passages where the Muslims were more helpful for the Christians (Lebanon) than the Christians themselves. There are places where all people belonging to different faiths gather together to worship depicting the tolerance and peaceful coexistence of many religions. Christians in Middle East find it difficult to understand why Christians in the West hardly come to their aid. Reading those passages hit me hard (I am not from the West. But the fact that Christians could turn a blind eye to their own brothers in the East is a solid fact to digest easily for any good Christian). A real good book. May not be a serious research. But it is more of a history from the ground. People speak and you hear. And it is hard hitting. More than ten years have passed since the publication of the book. But I wonder whether the situation has changed. In fact, I worry that it has only worsened in some places (Syria and Lebanon). Why is it so? Can God truly allow such things for His faithful? Answer: He alone knows. Let us trust Him. Let us keep trusting Him.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Selim Oz

    I think this book is very informative for Westerns who thinks everyone from Middle East is Usama bin Laden however it is very biased on Christianity. It is true that Christians in Middle East do suffer a lot (perhaps as a result of what Christians in the West are doing). However, I didn't enjoy taking this book with me during my tour around the Middle East because in a travel book I don't think every paragraph shouldn't be about how much do the Christians suffer. It should include the culture, e I think this book is very informative for Westerns who thinks everyone from Middle East is Usama bin Laden however it is very biased on Christianity. It is true that Christians in Middle East do suffer a lot (perhaps as a result of what Christians in the West are doing). However, I didn't enjoy taking this book with me during my tour around the Middle East because in a travel book I don't think every paragraph shouldn't be about how much do the Christians suffer. It should include the culture, especially if we are talking about one of the most hospitable and rich in culture places on earth. It might be a good theology book but not very focused on the diverse culture of Middle East. Even if we consider that this is a travel book only based on the areas that Christians live, it is so much focused on the negative things that I barely get any information about the cultures and habits of Christians that live there but just the pain.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Wanda

    7 MAR 2015 - This book comes very highly recommended by Dear Bettie. A five-star review from hergoodself. I received a coupon from Barnes & Noble via email. I used the coupon to order this book. I have waited a very long time to read this book (since 2013). Now, I have only to wait 3 days and victory will be mine! I am very excited! Thank you Barnes & Noble. 10 MAR 2015 - my copy is scheduled to be delivered today. HUZZAH! I am very excited. 21 MAR 2015 -- Exquisite! I loved reading this book. I 7 MAR 2015 - This book comes very highly recommended by Dear Bettie. A five-star review from hergoodself. I received a coupon from Barnes & Noble via email. I used the coupon to order this book. I have waited a very long time to read this book (since 2013). Now, I have only to wait 3 days and victory will be mine! I am very excited! Thank you Barnes & Noble. 10 MAR 2015 - my copy is scheduled to be delivered today. HUZZAH! I am very excited. 21 MAR 2015 -- Exquisite! I loved reading this book. I will be reading more by Mr Dalrymple.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Steve Walker

    A brief mention of the classic "Spiritual Meadows", itself a collection of saying from 7th Century Monks in the Middle East, in Sir Steven Runciman's "History of the Crusades" leads William Dalrymple to replicate the journey, taken long ago, in the late 20th century. This is the story of that journey and of the story of the decline of the native Christian population of the Holy Lands. The only other book on this topic that comes close to being this well written is "The Body and the Blood" by Charl A brief mention of the classic "Spiritual Meadows", itself a collection of saying from 7th Century Monks in the Middle East, in Sir Steven Runciman's "History of the Crusades" leads William Dalrymple to replicate the journey, taken long ago, in the late 20th century. This is the story of that journey and of the story of the decline of the native Christian population of the Holy Lands. The only other book on this topic that comes close to being this well written is "The Body and the Blood" by Charles Sennott. Dalrymple,and justifiably so, has inherited the mantle worn by the late Sir Steven Runciman and the recently deceased Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor. I read this book every year. I can't say enough good things about it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    Dalrymple began his journey from Mount Athos in northern Greece and travelled through Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt. The main reason for his travels was to visit monasteries along the way, which were founded in the late antique and early Byzantine period. He blends travel, history and politics. He reminds us that Christianity is an oriental, eastern religion, something that westerners tend to forget. Dalrymple undertook his travels in the mid-1990’s and records a rising anti-Christian Dalrymple began his journey from Mount Athos in northern Greece and travelled through Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt. The main reason for his travels was to visit monasteries along the way, which were founded in the late antique and early Byzantine period. He blends travel, history and politics. He reminds us that Christianity is an oriental, eastern religion, something that westerners tend to forget. Dalrymple undertook his travels in the mid-1990’s and records a rising anti-Christian sentiment coupled with increasing Islamic extremism in parts of the areas he travelled through. Over twenty years later, travel is off-limits in so many of the countires he visited. This is highly recommended.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    Very promising beginning which soon detoured into ruminations on geopolitics and along the way found it self stretched in the muddy fields of scripture and doctrine. The geopolitics appears dated, of course, which is no one's fault. The scripture and doctrine appear methodical, which I regard as alarming. If it wasn't for the encounter with Robert Fisk I would've aborted the book while it was in Lebanon. It is a revealing view into the incestuous proximity between Islam and Christianity, even if Very promising beginning which soon detoured into ruminations on geopolitics and along the way found it self stretched in the muddy fields of scripture and doctrine. The geopolitics appears dated, of course, which is no one's fault. The scripture and doctrine appear methodical, which I regard as alarming. If it wasn't for the encounter with Robert Fisk I would've aborted the book while it was in Lebanon. It is a revealing view into the incestuous proximity between Islam and Christianity, even if the lengths explored lapse into Rorystewartism. That said, a neutral can appreciate the symbiosis of these desert faiths.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Here is travel book from the end of the last century by a writer who is clearly knowledgeable on the matter of early Christian religions in the Levant (The Levant (Arabic: شَام‎, Shām, English /ləˈvænt/) is an approximate historical geographical term referring to a large area in the Eastern Mediterranean region of Western Asia. In its narrowest sense, it is equivalent to the historical region of Syria, which included present-day Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Palestine. In its widest histori Here is travel book from the end of the last century by a writer who is clearly knowledgeable on the matter of early Christian religions in the Levant (The Levant (Arabic: شَام‎, Shām, English /ləˈvænt/) is an approximate historical geographical term referring to a large area in the Eastern Mediterranean region of Western Asia. In its narrowest sense, it is equivalent to the historical region of Syria, which included present-day Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Palestine. In its widest historical sense, the Levant included all of the Eastern Mediterranean with its islands; that is, it included all of the countries along the Eastern Mediterranean shores, extending from Greece to Cyrenaica in eastern Libya.) The writer has based his travels on the writings from a sixth century Byzantium monk John Moschos' Spirtual Meadows. So William Dalrymple starts on a Holy Island In Greece and then travels to Istanbul, Anatolia, Syria, Libanon, Israel and ending his voyage in a Coptic monastery in Egypt. While the writers seeks for the Byzantium and Christian past on his travels he is very observant in his views upon the society and its direction in the places he visits and he encounters everywhere fundamentalism that seems to rewrite the history of the region. And he also shines a light upon the experiences of religious people that live on the path he travels. It is an eye-opening tale that also informs you about the politics of the region and somehow it feels like not so much has changed only everything is close to 25 years later but nothing changed only the early Christian religions seem to disappear from the regio as well as most physical evidence from the past The writer actually manages to explain in depth quite a lot of recent troubles in the middle east and quite some interesting facts about how some came about. A truly interesting and eye opener of a travel-book, I have not read any so absorbing and well informed view on a region that is most likely to cause us trouble in the near future. Very well written and very informative about a region, its history and religion, it is not a dated book but an interesting book that does explain quite decently some of its problems. Well advised and a book that remains interesting with good anecdotes and history insights.

  16. 4 out of 5

    John

    This is one of the best travelogues that I have read. Following in the footsteps of a late Byzantine Monk Dalrymple gives a fascinating and all too often heartbreaking view of the Middle East from an entirely new perspective -that of the Greek Orthodox Christians who represent the shattered and scattered remnants of the third major monotheistic religion to come out of the Middle East. Ironies abound. The author uses as his basic "tour guide" the mixture of travel account and collected "miracle t This is one of the best travelogues that I have read. Following in the footsteps of a late Byzantine Monk Dalrymple gives a fascinating and all too often heartbreaking view of the Middle East from an entirely new perspective -that of the Greek Orthodox Christians who represent the shattered and scattered remnants of the third major monotheistic religion to come out of the Middle East. Ironies abound. The author uses as his basic "tour guide" the mixture of travel account and collected "miracle tales" left by a monk who moved from Greece through modern Turkey, Lebanon, and Israel, to Egypt just as the Eastern Empire began its final collapse. Ironies abound as Dalrymple finds surviving Christians discriminated against in Turkey, protected and even encouraged in Syria, torn between warring factions in the Lebanon, and seeing their holy sites bulldozed by Israeli "archaeologists" who seem bent on erasing all non-Jewish traces from Jerusalem and its surroundings. This is WELL worth a read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Alexander McNabb

    A wonderful book that tackles an important issue - the decline of Christianity in the Eastern Mediterranean, but also the marvel of syncretism. His portrait of Robert Fisk is one of the gentlest and yet meanest filletings I've read in a long time, particularly as our Bob is such a brilliant writer whose moral outrage is so essential a counterbalance to our desire to look the other way.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Richard Thomas

    This is an excellent book worth the time needed to take it steadily. It is a fascinating account of the survival of Christianity in the Middle East now made more timeous by events there is Syria and Iraq particularly. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the book gives a real perspective to what is becoming a real tragedy.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Suzannah

    I want to review this in more detail later, but for now suffice it to say that this was magnificent. Learned, witty, endlessly interesting - if this is travel non fiction, sign me up for lots more. Particularly recommended to those who want to learn about indigenous Christianity in the Levant - and not just in the current day.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Yigal Zur

    it was the first of his books i read and i was impressed

  21. 4 out of 5

    Carmen

    Good descriptions, excellent narration, terrible explanation of facts. Partial, antijewish, antiwestern, clearly pro muslim, his explanation of the Lebanon War is a prodigy of inaccuracy and bigotry. Full of clichés, such as "islamist extremism is in a good deal the result of Western humiliation of Islam" or "Islam was tolerant with jews and christians". Well, that doesn't seem to explain where did the MILLIONS of christians and jews that inhabited the Middle East go, does it? Was Islam so wonde Good descriptions, excellent narration, terrible explanation of facts. Partial, antijewish, antiwestern, clearly pro muslim, his explanation of the Lebanon War is a prodigy of inaccuracy and bigotry. Full of clichés, such as "islamist extremism is in a good deal the result of Western humiliation of Islam" or "Islam was tolerant with jews and christians". Well, that doesn't seem to explain where did the MILLIONS of christians and jews that inhabited the Middle East go, does it? Was Islam so wonderful that they converted massively? I don't think so. Big disappointment. Recommend reading "Understanding Dhimmitude", by Bat Ye'or, instead, for instance.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jami Patrick

    The idea of this book was great - explore what was Byzantium and see what has become of the Christian heritage. However, I found the author a bit off in his descriptions. I live in Turkey, and although I am a foreigner here, I have never seen evidence of the persecution he mentions. I also felt like he was very intolerant of Islam: he describes his praying driver as "bobbing up and down", or something like that. In the end, I only read the sections on Turkey and Lebanon, the two countries I was The idea of this book was great - explore what was Byzantium and see what has become of the Christian heritage. However, I found the author a bit off in his descriptions. I live in Turkey, and although I am a foreigner here, I have never seen evidence of the persecution he mentions. I also felt like he was very intolerant of Islam: he describes his praying driver as "bobbing up and down", or something like that. In the end, I only read the sections on Turkey and Lebanon, the two countries I was interested in learning more about.

  23. 4 out of 5

    fourtriplezed

    This was recommended to me and if Dalrymple is of this quality then I am going to keep reading him.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Laila Kanon

    Book Club Book (Only a handful in the group took the trouble to finished it.) This is a story of a man's curiosity to retrace the journey of a Christian holy man by the name of John Moschos which based on his writing: The Spiritual Meadow as a guide in which the holy man visited the Christian sites all across the Byzantine kingdom. It was between amusing, bizarre and what-a-dread kind of read if you don't share the writer's enthusiasm on the subject matter. I noticed the writer's bias towards the J Book Club Book (Only a handful in the group took the trouble to finished it.) This is a story of a man's curiosity to retrace the journey of a Christian holy man by the name of John Moschos which based on his writing: The Spiritual Meadow as a guide in which the holy man visited the Christian sites all across the Byzantine kingdom. It was between amusing, bizarre and what-a-dread kind of read if you don't share the writer's enthusiasm on the subject matter. I noticed the writer's bias towards the Jews in Israel so I looked up what books that he read for references; and high and behold those of Edward Said were among them! Sorry mate, you lost me there. http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/ar... While on the subject of systematic discrimination that the Jews and/or Israeli government did to the Christians in Israel and/or "occupied territory" the writer failed to address what's the lot of the Messianic Jews. Are they fair better? Or are they treated just as badly for being Christians in the Holy Land? Overall, as a Christian, I cannot relate to the fascination of visiting or let alone worshiping some ancient relics or saints to gain favors of any kinds; I'm the kind of a simple Christian who pray straight to the Father with Jesus Christ as my intercessor. This book is a mixed bag for me, I however agree with part of the writer's conclusion: "Christianity is an Eastern religion which grew firmly rooted in the intellectual ferment of the Middle East. John Moschos saw that plant begin to wither in the hot winds of change that scoured the Levant of his day. On the journey in his footsteps I have seen the very last stalks in the process of being uprooted. It has been a continuous process, lasting nearly one and a half millennia. Moschos saw its beginning. I have seen the beginning of its end." (pg. 454) On reflection, Christianity might be dying in Middle East but is thriving in the most hostile and unlikely place at the moment: China.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Revanth Ukkalam

    In Dalrymple's third book, the genres of travel writing, history, journalism, and theology mingle very liberally. What is most conspicuous is his conviction that we are a political animal. When one talks, one talks politics. Especially when one talks about God. John Moschos, the Byzantine Monk whose travels Dalrymple retraces, does that. Dalrymple then simply emulates. The author has a very nuanced approach to the withering of Oriental Christianity and the current and continuous challenges that In Dalrymple's third book, the genres of travel writing, history, journalism, and theology mingle very liberally. What is most conspicuous is his conviction that we are a political animal. When one talks, one talks politics. Especially when one talks about God. John Moschos, the Byzantine Monk whose travels Dalrymple retraces, does that. Dalrymple then simply emulates. The author has a very nuanced approach to the withering of Oriental Christianity and the current and continuous challenges that these and other communities face from the Greek archipelago through the Holy Land to Egypt.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Raghu

    William Dalrymple sets out with his backpack, pen and paper and a copy of the book 'The Spiritual Meadow' to travel to Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt over six months in 1994, to take a look at the Christian communities that live there and to see what has become of them and their heritage. The inspiration for the journey comes from the book he was carrying, which was written by John Moschos, a sixth century Byzantine monk, who did a somewhat similar journey and recorded his impressions William Dalrymple sets out with his backpack, pen and paper and a copy of the book 'The Spiritual Meadow' to travel to Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt over six months in 1994, to take a look at the Christian communities that live there and to see what has become of them and their heritage. The inspiration for the journey comes from the book he was carrying, which was written by John Moschos, a sixth century Byzantine monk, who did a somewhat similar journey and recorded his impressions in 'The Spiritual Meadow'. What Dalrymple finds turns out to be sad and heartbreaking and we get the picture of a gradual disappearance of Christian life in the Middle East. Persecution, discrimination and insecurity have driven most of them out, to emigrate to Brazil, US, UK, Australia and Canada. The ultimate irony for Dalrymple occurred when he wanted to meet some remaining Nestorian Christians in Syria. He was told that the largest community of Nestorian Christians can be found in the suburb of Ealing in London! Given the problems in the Middle East nowadays, one would have assumed that the Christians of the region would be mainly threatened in their existence by Islamic Fundamentalism. But, Dalrymple's travels and experiences show that the reality is a lot more complicated than this. In fact, the problems faced by the Christians is quite diverse. Let us look at what the author says of the situation in each of the five countries that he visits. In Turkey, the Syrian Christians are caught in the crossfire between the rival nationalisms and religion of the Turks and the Kurds. Both the ethnic groups see Christians as neither Turks nor Kurds and certainly not as co-religionists. In the past, during the First World War, starvation, deportation and massacre decimated the Suriani Christians in Turkey. The Armenian story is also heartbreaking, with whole villages having been massacred in early 20th century by the Turks. Dalrymple says that Armenian churches have steadily been destroyed and that there is an attempt to erase all traces of Armenians ever having existed in Turkey. In Lebanon, even though there are substantial number of Christians, the author blames the violent militancy of the Maronite Christians and their refusal to compromise with the Muslim majority for the ensuing civil war, which has resulted in mass emigration of Christians. This has contributed to the dimunition in the power of the Maronites themselves. In addition, there is the complication of Israel being a neighbor and the Muslims regarding the Christians as 'not Arabs'. In Israel, the author's account of Christians is a shocker. Since Israel is strongly backed by the West, which is pre-dominantly Christian, I would have thought that Christians as minorities would have it easier in the Jewish state. On the contrary, Dalrymple says that they are treated as second-class citizens and are viewed with suspicion and contempt by the Israeli authorities. In Jerusalem, the pressure on Armenian, Greek and Arab Christians to sell their land is continuous and unyielding. As a result, most Palestinian Christians, being well-educated, have emigrated to the West. They allege that Israel has been at work trying to diminish the Christian heritage in Jerusalem and promote the Jewish heritage of the city. In 1922, the old city of Jerusalem had a 52% Christian population. In 1994, when Dalrymple visits Jerusalem, it was 2.5%. In Egypt, the author finds that the Coptic Christians are threatened by the resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism. But they are also the largest Christian community in the Middle East and this helps a bit in their survival. In 1994, the threats were mostly limited to specific Cairo suburbs and some towns and villages in Upper Egypt. Today, with the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, we see the insecurity of the Copts rising sharply. Finally, it is only in the much-maligned Syria that the author finds the Christian population looking happy and confident and in good numbers. Even here, they were insecure about the future when the Alawites eventually lose power and the Sunni majority assumes the mantle. Again, current events bear witness to such possibilities. Overall, contrary to popular imagination in the Islamic world, the picture that emerges is that Western countries are largely indifferent to the plight of these Eastern Christians and have lent them neither financial nor political support during all these decades of their decline. Even on the issue of emigration, perhaps the over-riding factor would have been their high levels of education and employability rather than affinity of religion. Readers of the book who are of Turkish or Israeli origin might not agree with the description of the treatment of Christian minorities in their countries. However, I feel that one should see this book NOT as an account of history but rather as a travelogue, where Dalrymple has recorded his impressions and conclusions based on his experiences during those six months. It must be said to Dalrymple's credit that he emphasizes the fact that relations between Christians and Muslims in the Middle East was quite healthy under the Ottoman Turkish Empire.The author's final conclusion now, however, is that he has seen the beginning of the end of Christians in the Middle East. A great travelogue!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Chris Ziesler

    Seeking the Oasis Having previously read Dalrymple's In Xanadu, a book he had written in his early 20s, I had two motivations in reading this book: first of all, I was intrigued to see how his writing had developed over the intervening decade; secondly, I wanted to see if he his idea of following in the footsteps of ancient travelers would work as well with less well known journey than Marco Polo's? On the first question I can report that his style had broadened and deepened since his earlier book Seeking the Oasis Having previously read Dalrymple's In Xanadu, a book he had written in his early 20s, I had two motivations in reading this book: first of all, I was intrigued to see how his writing had developed over the intervening decade; secondly, I wanted to see if he his idea of following in the footsteps of ancient travelers would work as well with less well known journey than Marco Polo's? On the first question I can report that his style had broadened and deepened since his earlier book. In Xanadu had a breathless, almost over-excited air to it, quite fitting for the work of a young author. The style of From the Holy Mountain is more reflective and mature, although it loses nothing of the sense of wonder and excitement of the earlier work. The second question has a more involved answer. The travelers whose journey Dalrymple is recreating are John Moschos and Sophronius the Sophist through the Byzantine Empire to the Holy Land and ultimately to Upper Egypt in the late 6th Century. They set off on their travels during a time of great upheaval and uncertainty in the Byzantine Empire, traveling through and around the Holy Land. Compared with Marco Polo's journey these travels are almost completely unknown. Dalrymple chose to start at Mount Athos which he visited to see the codex of The Spiritual Meadow, Moschos' collection of the tales he heard on the way. It is not far-fetched to say that From the Holy Mountain becomes Dalrymple's Spiritual Meadow as he shares with us the stories of the people he met and the places through which he traveled. He then heads east through Istanbul, Anatolia, Syria, through Lebanon, the occupied West Bank, Jerusalem, Alexandria, Cairo, and ultimately into Upper Egypt to conclude his journey in the Great Kharga Oasis. This journey took Dalrymple nearly six months and during that time he passed through some of the most troubled and contentious areas in the world. In all that time he never loses sight of the primary purpose of his journey which was to chronicle what had become of the Christian communities in the region in the 1500 years since Moschos and Sophronius had passed that way. Dalrymple's two great strengths are his deep knowledge of ancient culture and history, and his genuine fondness and empathy towards the people whose lives he briefly encounters during his journey. These two aspects of his writing complement each other wonderfully in that he is able to give a sympathetic and knowledgeable account not only of the present situation in which communities find themselves but also to provide insight into how they came to be there. He is fully engaged in the problem of understanding how this region has became a place in which such deep animosities and hatred are daily acted out between three of the world's great religions, the three peoples of the Book. It will come as no surprise that he offers no simplistic or easy answers, but what he does provide is a detailed and insightful account of a region that has become more, rather than less, troubled in the 20 years that have passed since he wrote his account. The answer to my second question then is a resounding, "yes". In my view this is an even better book than In Xanadu. Dalrymple has taken a less promising theme and turned it into a grand narrative encapsulating three of the world's most important religions over a period of immense historical change. He manages to chronicle the political, historical and religious developments that have turned this part of the world into such culturally rich, but politically and religious difficult place to understand. Reading this book has significantly improved my understanding of the region and its people.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas Whyte

    http://nhw.livejournal.com/913672.html[return][return]It is a tremendous book. Dalrymple travels through Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, the West Bank and Egypt, following the seventhy-century travels of John Moschos, looking for the remaining evidence of Christianity in archtitecture, culture and population. It is a terrifically sad book. Many of the communities he visits were dwindling at the time of writing, in 1994; several of them wonder if they will even still be there in ten years http://nhw.livejournal.com/913672.html[return][return]It is a tremendous book. Dalrymple travels through Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, the West Bank and Egypt, following the seventhy-century travels of John Moschos, looking for the remaining evidence of Christianity in archtitecture, culture and population. It is a terrifically sad book. Many of the communities he visits were dwindling at the time of writing, in 1994; several of them wonder if they will even still be there in ten years' time. He is fantastic at capturing the characters he meets, especially among the dwindling Christians: some are stupid, some are bigoted, some are deluded, but all are part of a chain of culture going back two thousand years.[return][return]He is also at pains to stress that Islamic fundamentalism is not really the problem. In south-eastern Turkey, the local Christians are bit-players in the war between the Turkish state and the PKK. In Lebanon, sections of the Christian community have been the authors of their own misfortune. In the Holy Land, Christian Palestinians face the same pressure from Israel as their Muslim neighbours (and do not understand why their co-religionists in the West do not speak up for them). In 1994, Islamic fundamentalists were a big part of the picture only in Egypt.[return][return]Turks and Israelis may well feel that Dalrymple's picture is not balanced. I would agree; but I think it is fair. He is writing here of a particular religious tradition at a particular time, and the systematic destruction of their monuments and erosion of their population base is a big part of the story. Of course there are and have been Christian cities and countries where other religions have been oppressed, but that sort of point-scoring is not relevant to Dalrymple's approach. Instead he is at pains to avoid essentialism; to attribute government policies to government leaders themselves, rather than to their religion or race; and to look for links between the cultures of the region, and for insights into how the past remains present.[return][return]It would be interesting to read a follow-up of what the situation is now for some of these communities. I can't imagine that many of them (except perhaps the Lebanese) have seen much improvement in their lot since 1994. Anyway, this is fascinating stuff. Strongly recommended.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I read this while travelling in Bali, after months of being in Asia and wandering about the power of religion and faith to move people. This book is a remarkable combination of a travelogue, historical examination of religion and manual on classical art and architecture. It combines the author's interest in following a monk who detailed his travels through the Middle East with a fascination with modern travel and religion and particularly the situation of modern Christians in the Middle East. I I read this while travelling in Bali, after months of being in Asia and wandering about the power of religion and faith to move people. This book is a remarkable combination of a travelogue, historical examination of religion and manual on classical art and architecture. It combines the author's interest in following a monk who detailed his travels through the Middle East with a fascination with modern travel and religion and particularly the situation of modern Christians in the Middle East. I had the good fortune to read it nearly two decades after its original publication date and so was able to see the impact of the continuing pattern of the trends the author describes in places like Syria and Egypt. A fascinating read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Diane Ramirez

    William Damryple tours the Middle East, seeking Christians in Greece, Turkey, Syria, Israel, and Egypt. He follows the footsteps of John Moschos, a monk who'd done the same thing 1,500 years earlier, at the beginning of what is the unraveling of the Christian presence in the regions, as Damryple says, much like his tour represents the beginning of the end. It took me much longer to read this book than I thought it would, partly because I needed to slow down to appreciate the exactness of beauty William Damryple tours the Middle East, seeking Christians in Greece, Turkey, Syria, Israel, and Egypt. He follows the footsteps of John Moschos, a monk who'd done the same thing 1,500 years earlier, at the beginning of what is the unraveling of the Christian presence in the regions, as Damryple says, much like his tour represents the beginning of the end. It took me much longer to read this book than I thought it would, partly because I needed to slow down to appreciate the exactness of beauty of his words, partly because I needed to slow down to process everything he describes (and believe me, I don't mean understand what he has to say. I feel no more enlightened than I did before.), and partly because I at times couldn't stomach reading about injustice upon intolerance upon unthinkable destruction, over and over and over again. But I loved this book, and highly recommend it to anybody with an interest in history, migration, cultural and religious development, archaeology, what is going on in the Middle East today, and what some of the background might be. Incredible travelogue, too -- Dalrymple knows how to travel (That is, if you've got the fortitude that he does!).

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