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Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Mecca - Volume 1

Sir Richard Francis Burton

Book Overview: 

Sir Richard Francis Burton was an English explorer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist, ethnologist, linguist, poet, hypnotist, fencer and diplomat. He was known for his travels and explorations within Asia and Africa as well as his extraordinary knowledge of languages and cultures. According to one count, he spoke 29 European, Asian, and African languages.

Burton's best-known achievements include traveling in disguise to Mecca, his seven years in India gave Burton a familiarity with the customs and behavior of Muslims and prepared him to attempt a Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca and, in this case, Medina). It was this journey, undertaken in 1853, which first made Burton famous. He had planned it whilst traveling disguised among the Muslims of Sindh, and had laboriously prepared for the adventure by study and practice. Burton's own account of his journey is given in A Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Medinah and Meccah.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .am, the blessing of two hearts-"

"Then why don't you buy me?"

and so on. Most effectual gag to Cupid's eloquence! Yet was not the plain-spoken Maryam's reply without its moral. How often is it our fate, in the West as in the East, to see in bright eyes and to hear from rosy lips an implied, if not an expressed, "Why don't you buy me?" or, worse still, "Why can't you buy me?"

All I required in return for my services from the slave-dealer, whose brutal countenance and manners were truly repugnant, was to take me about the town, and explain to me certain mysteries in his craft, which knowledge might be useful in time to come. Little did he suspect who his interrogator was, and freely in his unsuspiciousness he entered upon the subject of slave hunting in the Somali country, and Zanzibar, of all things the most interesting to me. I have, however, nothing new to report concerning the present state of bondsmen in. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Very detailed and informative.


Humans on earth are interesting

Burton is one of the great characters of the Victorian age. Brave and adventurous like many of his contemporaries but with a personal attitude that was very different from the hypocritical and puritanical attitude commonplace in Victorian society.

This book tells of how Burton made th...more

So interesting. Written in diary format with the occasional sketch.

Very engaging and extremely detailed and informative. I enjoyed this book very much. Except for his usage of phrases and quotes in languages other than English, I never felt clueless about anything he wrote of, thanks to his footnotes and descriptions. I wish more travel/adventure books were like...more

Richard Francis Burton was a multi-talented man - linguist, swordsman, explorer, proto-anthropologist - yet one talent he sorely lacked was editing. His journey disguised as an Afghan dervish setting out from Egypt to do the Hajj to Al Madinah and Meccah was a high risk, fascinating adventure fil...more

As a huge fan of Sir Richard Burton, I've snapped up every book of his I can get my hands on. The two volumes detailing his 1853 pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina is the perfect place to start. Burton is most famous for this pilgrimage and his account does not disappoint if you are interested in Ara...more

It tells us more about Richard Burton and the era in which he lived, than it does about the Hajj (the pilgrimage that all Muslims are supposed to take once during their lifetimes, if they can)--although it's still worth reading to learn about both of those things.

Had high hopes of this classic, unfortunately the Penguin abridged version I'd read had all the best parts without the dull obsession with race and architecture characteristic of 19th century travel writing. Maybe I'll come back to it one day when I'm feeling more patient with Burton's style whic...more

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