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Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah, vol 1 by Sir Richard Francis Burton
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Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah, vol 1

by Sir Richard Francis Burton

5 ratings, 1 review

A man with more titles than one can shake a stick at, Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton KCMG FRGS (1821 - 1890) was an English explorer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist, ethnologist, linguist, poet, hypnotist, fencer and diplomat. He traveled extensively in Africa and Asia, and could claim fluency in 29 different languages. One of his greatest achievements was his journey to Mecca and Medina, the two holiest cities in Islam, while disguised as a pilgrim. His book A Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah, is an account of that journey.

After Burton had gotten permission from the Royal Geographical Society for the trip and had taken leave from the army, he planned to undertake a Hajj, or pilgrimage to the holy cities. It was this journey in 1853 that would make Burton famous. He had extensive knowledge of muslim culture from his time in India, and he carefully studied and practiced the language and intricate mannerisms of the people he would find there. And, to top it off, had himself circumcised to reduce the risk of detection. Burton donned various disguises for his mission, including that of a Pashtun, whose funny accent would hopefully get him off the hook. The trip was quite dangerous: his caravan was attacked by bandits, and once inside the cities, the threat of being torn limb from limb by an angry mob was imminently real. After his visit he could officially be called a Hajji and was "allowed" to wear the sacred green head wrap. Burton was nearly detected a few times by his own party, but escaped detection narrowly. Enjoy this account of one of history's most fascinating and brazen explorers.

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Rita Morris

December 02, 2013

Very erudite. Pity footnotes not at bottom of pages. Need access to detailed map of Arabia to follow his journey. Maybe there was one in the original publication.