Deborah Manley, one of the co-founders of ASTENE, has died on January 24, 2020, aged almost 88. Deb had a long career as an editor and published many books of original works and compilations on a wide range of topics.  It was a holiday in Egypt with her sister Peta Ree and their joint work on a biography of Henry Salt which led to their meeting first Jaromir Malek at the Griffiths Library and through him a number of others studying Travellers in Egypt and the Near East.  A conference in Durham,  in 1995, organised by John Ruffle and Janet Starkey and a symposium for Harry James held at Kingston Lacey brought together a group of people with similar interests but differing backgrounds who wanted to continue to meet to share their mutual fascination for this subject. ASTENE was founded to promote further study and hold regular conferences which have been an important part of the association’s history.

Deb was a very active member until ill health made this impossible. She organised conferences with Janet Starkey, she set up several very successful study days at Rewley House in Oxford, she edited the bulletin for two years, she organised the first ASTENE holiday in Cairo and was a member of the committee.


Deb very firmly believed in the importance of encouraging younger people to be involved and that it should be a very inclusive society blending academics and everyone with an interest in travellers in the ASTENE area regardless of background or age. This belief, shared with many of the other members, has undoubtedly contributed to the friendly atmosphere conference attendees have always felt and the variety (sometimes even eccentricity) of contributions to the papers. Despite  having many other interests, Deb’s concern with ASTENE was the core of her thoughts and activities for many years.

She was an inspiration to many in ASTENE, greatly encouraging to younger members and always generous in sharing her time, knowledge and research. A conference bursary in her name is already in place to commemorate her role in the establishment and ongoing development of ASTENE.

TIOL 2017

Travellers in Ottoman Lands The Botanical Legacy
Saturday May 13–14, 2017. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh



Presented by the Association for the Study of Travel in Egypt and the Near East (ASTENE) in conjunction with the Centre for Middle Eastern Plants, part of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Contributions are welcome from a wide range of disciplines and interests. It is envisaged that the Seminar will cover many fascinating subjects on (though not restricted to) the following main themes:
– Travellers’ accounts related to the botanical legacy of any part of the former Ottoman Empire (e.g. present-day Turkey, the Levant, Egypt, the Balkans, Arabian Peninsula etc.)
– The flora of the region, including their heritage, preservation and medicinal uses
– Bulbs of the region, especially tulips, and their cultural significance; Tulipomania
– Ottoman garden design and architecture
– Floral and related motifs in Ottoman art, including textiles, ceramics etc.
– Culinary aspects of the botanical legacy of the region
– Literary, pictorial and photographic depictions of any aspect of the botanical and horticultural legacy of the region
– Orientalism as applicable to any of the seminar’s main themes.

The Seminar Booking Form and the Draft Seminar Programme will be available on Eventbrite in early January 2017 with the deadline for bookings being 15 April 2017. Tickets will also be available at the event. In the meantime, any enquiries should be addressed to


Please email your offers of papers to together with a working title, a brief abstract of not more than 250 words, and the names of authors and their affiliations. We also welcome the offer of pre-organised panels of up to four speakers on specific themes. Participants will be informed about the acceptance of their paper by 15 February 2017. Seminar Bursaries are also offered: please contact for information.

Deadline for submission of abstracts:
Sunday 15 January 2017

For more information see Ottoman Lands Flyer

For booking information see the Ottoman Conference Form

Private View of Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum at the British Museum

Our colleagues from the British Egyptian Society have kindly extended to ASTENE members an invitation to join their private view of the Pompeii-Herculaneum exhibition on Tuesday 20th August, from 6:30 – 8:15 pm. The private view is further enhanced by an introductory talk about the exhibition by one of the curators of the British Museum.

In order to attend the private view of this highly acclaimed exhibition, follow the instructions set forth in the invitation and booking form issued by the Secretary of the British Egyptian Society. Please write ‘ASTENE Member’ on the booking form.

More information and booking form

2013 Tenth Biennial ASTENE Conference

ASTENE held its 10th biennial conference from Friday 12 to Monday 15 July 2013 at Aston University, Birmingham, UK. The four-day programme included sessions on all aspects of interest to ASTENE members, from archive research and archaeological travel to writers of both real and fictional travelogues. A full report of the Conference will be included in the next Bulletin. It is intended to publish a selection of the Conference papers in 2015.

Desert Travellers from Herodotus to T E Lawrence:
by Janet Starkey and Okasha El-Daly eds

Desert Travellers from Herodotus to T E Lawrence
Review by: Denys Johnson-Davies

The present book contains a series of studies first presented as papers at conferences at Durham, Oxford and Cambridge Universities in the United Kingdom, all of them dealing with travellers in Egypt and the Near East. As the book’s title indicates, desert travellers are concentrated on, and many of these, it seems, tried to come to terms with themselves through the harsh experiences they had in the desert. The studies cover a wide time span, from half a century before Christ in the case of the Greek Herodotus to the 20th-century British traveller T E Lawrence.

For the Greek travellers, Charles Foster writes on the zoology of Herodotus and on that of his Greek descendants, particularly in relation to Egypt. In their accounts these early travellers talked of Egypt and of the Nile as the source of life, and they described how amphibians could emerge from the Nile mud. Knowledge recorded by the Greeks about the zoology of the Middle East, both real and imagined, was passed on through the Romans to become part of European culture. Through the Dark Ages little was added to this knowledge, and it was only in the 13th century that these animals, first given attention by Greek travellers centuries earlier, lived again in the various mediaeval bestiaries, those strange books created in monasteries that sought to describe the various animals the Creator had brought into being. Among the more exotic species that Herodotus himself brought into being were the unicorn and, even more spectacularly, the phoenix with its ability to rise out of its own ashes.

In his essay in the book Okasha El-Daly, an Egyptian who teaches Egyptology in London, presents us with a short study of mediaeval Arab writers who have left accounts of their travels. He admits that, sadly, these travellers are outnumbered by those who wrote in languages other than Arabic, pointing out that such Arabs as did write about Egypt’s deserts were mostly passing through them rather than staying in any one particular area. Of such writers, however, the historian Al-Mas’udi, in his well-known work Muruj Al- Dhahab, wrote of various desert areas, while Ibn Hawqal has left in his work Surat Al-Ard a detailed map of Egypt’s oases and mountains. Other Arab travellers referred to include Al-Idrisi in the mid-12th century, and also of course Ibn Jubayr. The visits of two pilgrims to Saint Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai, as described by Anne Wolff, make amusing and instructive reading. The site first became a place of refuge for monks fleeing from Roman persecution. In the fourth century the Empress Helena, mother of Constantine, had a sanctuary built on the supposed site of Moses’s Burning Bush. Later the Emperor Justinian gave orders for a fortified monastery to be constructed enclosing a basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Later, owing to the cult of the legendary Catherine of Alexandria, it was named after Saint Catherine. The fame of Saint Catherine quickly spread, and many European Renaissance artists depicted her, religious indulgences being granted to those making the pilgrimage to her monastery. The author tells us that in many depictions she was granted three haloes: white for virginity, green for learning and red for martyrdom.

The first pilgrim dealt with, Niccolo di Poggibonsi, a Franciscan friar, who visited the monastery in the 14th century. He was probably the first person to write of his travels in vernacular Italian, and the dangers encountered by his party were typical of the time. Obtaining supplies en route was merely one of the party’s difficulties, though it is said that among the provisions they took with them were hens and a cock to wake them in the morning. In this context, the writer tells us that when the Mameluke Sultan Al-Nasir Mohamed Ibn Qalawun made his journey through the desert to Mecca, he took with him “portable vegetable gardens carried on frames on camels’ backs.”

The second pilgrim Wolff describes is a certain Christopher Harant, who paid his visit to the monastery at the end of the 16th century. Harant was a nobleman, having served as a councillor at the court of the Holy Roman Emperor in Prague, and he apparently had a knowledge of five languages, as well as many other accomplishments. Upon the death of his wife, he left his two children in the care of his parents and set off on a pilgrimage, of which he left a detailed account. Wolff suggests that since Harant was a military man and a confidant of the Emperor’s, he had been asked to provide information about the Ottoman Turkish Empire that then controlled the area. However, it seems that Harant had a much more precarious journey than did Niccolo two centuries earlier: after braving numerous dangers, he eventually arrived back in Cairo, took a ship back home from Alexandria, but arrived in Prague to find the city in a state of religious unrest. Harant was a Protestant Christian, and he paid for this with his life when the Catholics regained the ascendant. “His last words,” Wolff tells us, “were to give thanks to Almighty God for preserving him during all his travels, so that he could die in his own country at the hand of the executioner.”

Elsewhere in the volume Carl Thompson provides an intriguing examination of the character of James Bruce, a European traveller in Abyssinia. Thompson considers Bruce to have had a complex personality similar to that of the 19th-century British orientalist Richard Burton, whom he oddly calls “that rather less than eminent Victorian.” Edward Said is, however, quoted as saying that Burton tried to see Oriental life from the viewpoint of a person immersed in it, “having shaken himself loose of his European origins,” and Thompson, for all the faults he finds in Bruce’s writings, makes a convincing case for seeing the Abyssinian traveller as someone who identified himself with the people of the country in which he travelled. The writer talks of a “narratorial generosity” on Bruce’s part, by which he means that Bruce considered that the Abyssinians “can be every bit as intelligent or courageous as Europeans.”

Two items in the book of special interest to this writer are, firstly, a piece in French by Marcel Kurz and Pascale Linant de Bellefonds concerning Louis-Maurice Linant de Bellefonds’s journey in the Nubian desert in the early 1830s looking for gold mines, and secondly the following piece, on the same area, by Janet Starkey entitled “Gold, Emeralds and the Unknown Ababda.” De Bellefonds’s journey was made at the instigation of Egypt’s ruler, with the object of discovering the gold and emerald mines for which Nubia was then famous. This was the myth of “l’opulence nubienne” [Nubian riches], which was very much alive in the ruler’s mind. De Bellefonds, for his part, was delighted to be given this opportunity to travel in a part of the world so little visited, having a passion for deserts and an admiration for their Bedouin inhabitants. He had previously travelled widely in both Egypt and the Sudan, but this was his only retirement expedition; he wrote it up in great detail, giving minute details of this great tract of desert that stretches from far inland to the Red Sea.

Janet Starkey’s contribution also gives us a vivid picture of this inhospitable region and of the few who have travelled there since Al-Maqrizi wrote of it that he who escapes from it is “as if risen out of his winding sheet, entirely altered in his features.” She gives information about the Ababda people, most of whom inhabit an area east of Luxor at Daraw where they control the camel market, and which the present writer visited some years ago. Starkey summarizes the opinions of classical authors on the area, and then gives the views of European explorers, particularly those of the British writer Lucie Duff Gordon who lived in Egypt from 1863 till her death in 1869, most of the time in Luxor, and of a certain Karl Klunzinger, who seems to have had a particular aptitude for adapting to life in the Red Sea port of Al-Qusayr and who wrote in great detail — with instructive drawings — about the daily life of the Ababda.

The final contribution to the volume is by John Rodenbeck and is about the British writer T E Lawrence. Not so much a piece about travel, though Lawrence certainly qualifies as a traveller, it is a fascinating examination of this enigmatic character whose charisma has intrigued so many people. Rodenbeck focuses on the well-known incident at Deraa, obliquely related in Lawrence’s autobiographical The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, where Lawrence was captured by the Turks and apparently subjected to a beating and the sexual attentions of the local Turkish governor. The author quotes from Lawrence’s official report of the incident, made no less than 18 months after it occurred, in which he attributes his capture and identification to “Abd el-Kadir’s description of me.”

Some nine months before filing the report, Lawrence had made his entrance into Damascus, taken over from the Turks by the British under General Allenby. Abdel-Kadir and his brother, however, grandsons of the Algerian patriot Abdel-Kadir Al-Jazairi had previously tried to declare the city to be an Arab possession, ruled by King Hussein of the Hijaz, thus trying, as Rodenbeck points out, to “put paid to the bland ceremonial envisaged by the Franco-British technical team charged with stage-managing the event, of which an important member was Lawrence.” Later Lawrence declares that he had tried to have the two brothers shot, and at the very least his report from Deraa seems to have had the intention of discrediting them.

The whole incident is puzzling, and some of Lawrence’s biographers are of the opinion that it was a piece of fiction put in to spice up the narrative of The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. As Rodenbeck puts it, “The episode has been a god-send to professional and amateur psychologists, [as well as] to playwrights and movie-makers.” He also points out that the British playwright Terence Rattigan’s play Ross hinges on the supposed happenings at Deraa, while “for certain Zionists it has been useful in providing the basis from which to suggest that “any friend of the Arabs must be mentally deficient, perverted, or plain loony.”

Rodenbeck strengthens his case by collating the two versions of the Seven Pillars text, indicating where passages have been altered. Most surprising of all, however, is the fact that neither of the two texts of the book contains any reference to the supposed treachery of Abdel-Kadir referred to in Lawrence’s report. In general, Rodenbeck’s meticulous examination of the Deraa incident shows that Lawrence was less than honest about it, as well as, perhaps, that the whole incident was a fabrication. In fact, towards the end of this well-researched piece, Rodenbeck tells us that Peake Pasha, one-time commander of the British-controlled “Arab League” army, is on record as having said that he had once challenged Lawrence about the veracity of the Deraa story and that Lawrence had replied, “Oh, give the public what it wants!” This comment perhaps shows that those of us who had always entertained doubts about this “best known public relations avatar” were right all along.

Denys Johnson-Davies

Travellers in Egypt (second edition) by Paul Starkey & Janet Starkey
Review by: Jessamine Price

Travellers in Egypt (second edition)
Review by: Jessamine Price

The Arab Studies Journal, Vol. 10/11, No. 2/1 (Fall 2002/Spring 2003), pp. 175-178
Published by: Arab Studies Institute
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In 1980, Paul Fussell wrote in his “elegy” for a by-gone age of luxury travel, “Travel is now impossible and.. .tourism is all we have left.”1 Nostalgia per meated Fussell’s study of British traveler-authors of the 1920s and 1930s, in which he described the last days of “real” travel, at the tail end of the slow “decline” of travel from elite exploration to mass tourism. Happily, this kind of writing about travel has been joined in the past twenty-five years by less nostalgic works that seek to analyze the place of travelers and travel writing in the colonial encounter.

Edward Said’s critique of Orientalist scholarly and literary production in Orien talism (1978) kicked off extensive debates about the role European travelers to the Middle East played in extending European power over the region. Recent years have seen numerous works on widely varying aspects of this subject, such as Maiy Louise Pratt’s study of travel writing in Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (1992), Billie Melman’s work on women travelers in Women s Orients: English Women and the Middle East, 1718-1918 (1992), and Timothy Mitchell’s provocative analysis of the ‘metaphysics of modernity’ which informed travelers’ perceptions in Colonis ing Egypt (1988). These works and the many others on the subject vary in theoretical approach but share a rejection of nostalgia. They raise difficult questions about the role travel writing?and the act of travel itself?has played in constructing ideologi cal boundaries between the ‘West’ and the Middle East. Unfortunately, in the edited volume under review, most of the articles embrace Fussellian nostalgia, and base their discussions in a somewhat na?ve rejection of Said’s work.

Travellers in Egypt, edited by Paul Starkey and Janet Starkey, contains the pro ceedings of a conference held at the Oriental Museum at the University of Durham in 1995. Subsequently, the Starkeys were among the founders of the Association for the Study of Travel in Egypt and the Near East, which holds conferences that bring together a wide variety of academics, biographers, museum curators, Egyptologists, and enthusiastic amateurs. These conferences draw eclectic groups of people who share an interest in travelers of all kinds to the Middle East. Recent conferences have included presentations on varied subjects such as early modern Muslim rihla literature, Disraeli’s ‘Middle Eastern’ novels, and European graffitti on Pharoanic temples. The unifying theme of these conferences and this volume is an emphasis on the factual rather than the theoretical.

Travellers in Egypt consists of twenty-seven short essays and an introduction by the Starkeys that summarizes the articles to follow without interrogating the scholarship at hand. A majority of the articles discuss Egyptologists, artists, and litterateurs, and recount the biographies and travelogues of individual travelers. Other essays in the volume include: Hussein M. Fahim on Orientalist travelers in general, Hossam M. Mahdy on travelers as conservationists, Philip Sadgrove on travelers’ cultural institutions in Cairo, Paul Starkey on Egyptian travelers in Europe, and Michael J. Reimer ‘s comparison of two nineteenth-century descriptions of al-Azhar.

Amongst the travelers discussed are well-known figures such as the Italian circus-strongman-turned-Egyptologist Giovanni Baptista Belzoni, and lesser-known figures such as the painter Nester l’H?te. The majority of articles recount the travelers’ journeys in great detail, which is occasionally interesting, as in Caroline Williams’ description of Francis Frith’s logistical difficulties with early photography in Egypt. Often, however, the details are excessive for the general reader, as in John Ruffle’s article on Lord Prudhoe’s Egyptological expedition of 1826-1829. Some of the biographical essays collected here appear to be aimed at museum curators or biographers rather than scholars generally interested in travel. The editors attempt to bridge the gap between Said’s and Fussell’s approaches to travel by including Hussein M. Fahim’s analytical essay, “European Travellers in Egypt: The Representation of the Host Culture.”

The volume as a whole, however, embodies Fussell’s notion that travelers are interesting in that they represent a lost past of elite adventure. A few articles provoke useful questions. For instance, John Rodenbeck aims to resuscitate the reputation of one of Edward Said’s targets, Edward Lane, in a detailed discussion of Said’s com ments on this figure in Orientalism. Rodenbeck is not the first to point out that Said was unnecessarily harsh in his portrayal of the relatively sympathetic Lane. Rodenbeck argues that Lane was a remarkable figure who spent many years acquainting himself with the inhabitants of Egypt, more than any other scholar or traveler of the period. Rodenbeck’s article is an informative companion to Said’s well-known passages on Lane. However, Rodenbeck’s attempt to discredit Said by stating that Said never actu ally read Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians does not have any bearing on Said’s main argument that travelers, even Lane, contributed to colonialism because of their social and political position.

Another piece that attempts to complicate Said’s monolithic view of European travelers is John David Ragan’s essay on French women travelers, which includes a discussion of Suzanne Voilquin, the Saint-Simonian who worked in Egypt from 1834 to 1836. Voilquin’s experiences as a working-class French woman who worked closely with Egyptian reformers are in striking contrast to the normative experiences of male leisure travelers. Her 1866 memoir remains relatively unknown in comparison to those by Th?ophile Gautier and Gustave Flaubert. Ragan argues that Voilquin’s absence from the canon of travel writers reflects the way that Orientalism operated as a popular consensus that determined which books received public attention, circulation, and renown.

Ragan’s point about reception is further illustrated by Marianna Taymanova’s piece on Alexandre Dumas in Egypt, in which she convincingly argues that he never set foot in Egypt in order to produce his 1839 travel memoir Quinze jours au Sinai. In fact, to write his account, Dumas relied entirely on reading other travelers’ memoirs (much like Jules Verne, another famous French author who wrote about travel without traveling himself). The fact that this apocryphal ‘memoir’ achieved great popularity, whereas a ‘genuine’ and unusual memoir like Voilquin’s disappeared quickly from circulation, reveals a great deal about the formations and limitations of the canon of travel literature.

The authors in this volume unfortunately tend to reproduce many of the Romantic images of the traveler in Egypt. For the most part, they assume, like Fussell, that the category of ‘traveler’ is self-evident and that it is intrinsically different from, and superior to, the category of ‘tourist.’ The majority of the travelers who appear here are Egyptologists, writers, and artists, who left behind writings and images of their journeys. It is unfortunate that we know less about travelers who did not leave such detailed records, and that there has been relatively little effort to research leisure travelers. In fact, rather than discussing ‘travelers in Egypt, ‘ this book primarily covers British and French scholarly and literary travelers of the 1830s and 1840s.

Moreover, by focusing on strict biographical accounts of these scholarly and literary travelers, the authors in this book give the impression that European travel in Egypt is only interesting because of its impact on European Egyptology and literature. By refusing for the most part to engage with Edward Said’s critique of Orientalist travelers, these authors attempt to ignore three decades of academic discussion over the production of colonial knowledge. Only Hussein M. Fahim’s article mentions one of the main effects of European travel writing?the creation of Europe’s dual image of Egypt, as both ‘Oriental’ and Pharaonic. Travel writing encourages visitors to see Egypt in a certain way, according to preconceived images. The best discussion of this phenomenon to date is that in Timothy Mitchell’s Colonising Egypt. Mitchell argues that tourists and travelers, like government officials and sociologists, all shared a common view of the ‘ world-as-exhibition. ‘As the nineteenth century progressed, travelers increasingly came to Egypt expecting to see ‘Oriental life,’ and this expectation shaped the relationship between Europe and the Middle East. The act of travel itself remains undertheorized, for most of the major works on travel and tourism in sociology and anthropology do not address travel in a colonial or post-colonial context. Thus, there is a need for discussion of travelers in Egypt that goes beyond ‘elegy’ ? la Paul Fussell. The few in this volume who do address these critiques focus primarily on factual corrections to Orientalism, and, thus, fail to introduce new ideas to the debate.

Jessamine Price

Jessamine Price is a doctoral candidate in the joint program in the Departments of Middle Eastern Studies and History at New York University.

Travellers in Egypt by Paul Starkey & Janet Starkey
Review by: H. T. Norris

Travellers in Egypt
Review by: H. T. Norris

Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of School of Oriental and African Studies
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Theoretical advances in broader fields. The volume under review is an attempt to fill this gap, to provide a work of synthesis in which the new theoretical analyses are applied to the broad range of Arab nationalisms as they developed from the period of the Great War onwards.

The book is divided into five parts, each concerned with a major theme. The first part, containing essays by Israel Gershoni, Fred Halliday and Gabriel Piterberg, looks at historiography and the scholarly interpretation of Arab nationalisms. Gershoni puts forward a comprehensive survey of the two successive narrative approaches prevailing in Western scholarship about the Arab world, the first in the 1950s and 1960s, the second from the 1970s onwards. He clearly shows how the political fortunes of Arab nationalism impinged on its conceptualization by academics and calls for greater awareness by researchers regarding their own susceptibility to how contemporary currents can influence their reading of the past. Halliday provides an analysis of nationalism in Yemen within the framework of ‘comparative contingency’, a concept he has employed elsewhere to analyse Eritrean nationalism. He defines his aim as being to show not how a Yemeni ‘nation’ has existed for centuries or millennia, or how such a pre-existing ‘nation’
has ‘arisen’ or ‘woken up’ but, rather, how a set of recent processes, some international, some within Yemen, have combined to produce a nationalist movement and discourse and to give them their particular content. The final essay in this section is Piterberg’s discussion of the presence of the Orientalist discourse in non- European nationalist historiographies, with moder Egyptian historiography as a case-study.

The second major theme with which the volume is concerned is that of the modes of presentation employed by nationalists to portray history in their own image. This section begins with William Cleveland’s reconsideration of the foundational text for the study of Arab nationalism, George Antonious’s The  Arab awakening, in terms of recent analyses of nationalist narrative, imagery and symbolism. There then follows an account by Reeva Simon of the efforts made by the monarchical regime in Iraq in the inter-war years to impose the ideological dominance of a unitary Arab nationalism over an ethnically diverse Iraqi population, and a discussion by Beth Baron of the employment by nationalist iconography in Egypt of the image of the woman to symbolize the Egyptian nation, and the significance of this for both nationalism and the position of women in Egypt.

The third section of the book examines the coexistence and competition of alternative understandings of communal identity in the moder Arab world, and contains a fascinating study by Donald Reid of early twentiethcentury Egyptology and the struggles of indigenous
students of ancient Egypt to find a place for themselves in this scholarly field, and a discussion by James Jankowski of the different national orientations competing in the Egypt of the 1950s. The book’s fourth theme is polycentrism, and essays by Rashid Khalidi, Musa Budeiri and Emmanuel Sivan examine the simultaneous presence of various national, and other, identities in both individuals and communities. The final section, containing contributions from Philip Khoury, James Gelvin and Zachary Lockman, focuses on the role played by subaltern groups in the construction and diffusion of the nationalist discourse.

Each of these essays stands alone as a study of a specific facet of nationalism in the Arab world and each possesses considerable intrinsic merit. Furthermore the collection as a whole demonstrates an unusual degree of thematic coherence, and displays to full advantage the rich and varied scholarship currently being undertaken in this field.


PAUL STARKEY and JANET STARKEY ed.): Travellers in Egypt. 319 pp. London and New York: I. B. Tauris, 1998. ?25.

This interesting and informative selection of  essays began as a long-planned conference about travellers in Egypt which brought together some 80 participants at the Oriental Museum, Durham, in July 1995. The publication of the book, within three years and to a high standard of editing, is in itself a feat worthy of praise.

The volume approaches the whole question of the quest of the oriental traveller from many angles and in many aspects, and the style is inviting with not a dull page anywhere. A number of the contributors break new ground with the information they provide, the approach to the topic they adopt and the little known, sometimes all but unknown, travellers, both men and women, they bring to our attention. One section of the book (pp. 120-78) is devoted entirely to travellers in Egypt who were artists, including photographers, and one’s sole regret here is that there are no illustrations to represent their achievements. The curious will need to consult the footnote references, or the lavish reproductions in Alastair Hamilton’s, Europe and the Arab world (1994; revd. BSOAS, 59/1, 1996) where examples of the work of a few of the artists who feature here are to be found, along with that of others who receive little or no mention in the book under review.

Early travellers figure little. They are represented by Professor Holt’s account and assessment of the travels in Egypt in the Ottoman age (1615-16) by Pietro Della Valle, and by Rosemarie Said Zahlan’s portrait of the enigmatic George Baldwin during the latter part of the century which followed (pp. 24-38). It is unfortunate that the most important Western  traveller in Egypt and Arabia at that time, Carsten Niebuhr (1733-1815), is entirely neglected. If one turns to Den Arabiske Rejse, ed. Stig T. Rasmussen (Copenhagen, 1992; revd. BSOAS, 57/3, 1994), 20-38 and 348-66, the unique contribution made by this traveller and his expedition’s companions, ill-fated though it was, is only too obvious.

Egypt and Nubia were (and still are) a writers’ and artists’ oriental dream country. Over the archaeologist (who as traveller and Egyptologist both, is represented here by Belzoni, for example, pp. 41-50) searching the unsealed chambers for the mummy and its tomb treasures, hover the phantom figures of opera like Aida and Radames. We have here a good cross-section of artists and men of letters,  special attention being given to Alexandre

Dumas, Gustave Flaubert, Th6ophile Gautier and to French women travellers (as well as to women who travelled as brides and honeymooned in Egypt, pp. 97-117). With but one exception, all the travellers discussed came from Western Europe. That exception is the Pole, Juliusz Slowacki, who visited Egypt in1836-37, at a time when the Poles were seeking allies in the Orient and offering their services, especially in the cavalry, to Muhammad ‘Ali. (Juliusz Slowacki (1809-49) is one of the Polish travellers in the East also included in a recent work published in Poland, Polacy a swiatArabski, by Marek M. Dziekan, ‘RocznikTatar6w Polskich’, Warsaw: Niezalezne Wydawnictwo, 1998, 82-3).

As one would expect, Edward Said’s work is referred to by several contributors, especially in the essays by John Rodenbeck and Geoffrey Roper (pp. 233-43 and 244-56, respectively) in Part 6, ‘E. W. Lane and scholarly perceptions’. Lane’s stature amongst both travellers and sojourners in Egypt, and as a foremost Orientalist and Arabist, is a labour of love which has yet to be written and Roper, in his lucid and well annotated essay, is without doubt correct to remark (p. 252) that, ‘There is still room, and indeed a need, for a full biography of Lane.’ Much of the Orient in Lane’s writings (the Lexicon apart) is a vision of Egypt at first hand (e.g., The manners and customs of the modern Egyptians), in the trappings of the Mamluk age (e.g., his translation of One Thousand and One Nights). But one of the most recent critical reassessments of Lane’s translation is in fact not by Edward Said but by Husain Haddawy (The Arabian Nights, New York and London, 1990, revd. in BSOAS, 55/2, 1992). Haddawy deems Lane’s literary attempt to be ‘to guide the prudish Victorian reader through Cairo by introducing him to a higher class of Egyptian society’, (p.  xxii). Earlier (ibid., p. xxi), Haddawy observes that Lane translated ‘the work as a travel guide’; ‘Lane omits sometimes a few details, sometimes whole passages, curiously because he finds them inconsistent with his own observations of life in Cairo.’ A mal de voyageur, in this instance a severe case of myopia it would appear, observed at the highest Orientalist level.

The curious inconstancy of what is ‘standard’  has created a problem for the appraiser. Roper (p. 248) refers to Lane’s ‘translation’ of the Quran–which is far from being suchand quotes A. J. Arberry’s unfavourable view of it. It is indeed an enigmatic work, wedged between the Nights and the Lexicon, although not without its interest. It is the direct opposite of Wahb b. Munabbih’s Kitab al-Tijan, for example. While the latter infuses and interpolates quranic passages into a text full of Arabian folklore, Lane inserts bits of folklore, Arabian lore, Bible parallels and sundry comment into a gloss upon the translated sacred text itself. Strangest to most readers will be the opening to the preface of this work, bearing in mind that it is only a series of’ Selections’ with an ‘interwoven commentary’ and borrowed notes from Sale. Citing Dr Johnson, Lane writes, ‘There are two objects of curiosity-the Christian world, and the Mahometan world:  all the rest may be considered as barbarous.’  How many other scholar-travellers in Egypt (many of them fanatical Egyptologists, including Lane himself perhaps?) would have agreed with him?

It is with such arbitrary and fluctuating judgements that others have to contend in passing an opinion on these travellers, some of them Orientalists of the highest calibre in what they wrote about the peoples of the East (and here Egypt specifically). The book under review grapples with this problem, and Paul Starkey’s essay (pp. 280-6) on ‘Some Egyptian travellers in Europe’ which closes the volume attempts to redress the balance. Michael Reimer’s chapter, which precedes it, on ‘Views of al-Azhar’, pinpoints the problem (p. 272), ‘Herein the first leitmotiv in European travel-writing: the Orient is a museum of changeless artifacts, ” a phenomenon of arrested development”.’

This book explores with an admirable clarity the works that flowed from travellers’ pens, some of them scholars, or pretenders to the title; their work presents a mixture of fascination, delight, hate, greed, prejudice, idealism, the loneliness of a Manfred searching for his lost Astarte, of the scientific pursuit in Egypt itself and ultimately penetrating deeper, into Africa towards the source of the Nile.


‘ABD AL-MUHSIN AL-‘ABBAS (ed.): Handlist of manuscripts at the Centre de Documentation et de Recherches Historiques Ahmed Baba, Timbuktu. Compiled by the librarians of the Centre. Vol. 3. (Handlist of Islamic Manuscripts Series VI: African Collections- Mali.)[iv], 864 pp. London: Al- Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation, 1417/1996. ?17.

This massive volume concludes the trio which are devoted to the Ahmad Baba collection, one of the major collections of the Western Sahara and West Africa and remarkable for the breadth of its subject matter. It is a mine of source materials for those who are concerned with research into Sahelian societies and contains documents of major interest to linguists and sociologists, including some concerning topics which are only marginally concerned with Islamic studies proper. (The two previous volumes have been reviewed in the Bulletin: see BSOAS 60/3, 1997, 61/1, 1998).

The present volume has been prepared with care and with commendable accuracy. Where relevant, there are references to Brockelmann (GAL) and to the Encyclopedia of Islam (both editions). The 4,500 entries are comprehensively indexed. The subject matter is organized under the categories of Ethics, Literature and Prosody, Prayers and invocations (adhkar), the Quran, usul, hadlth and fiqh, Sufism, tafstr, tavwhd, Homilies, Astronomy, Chemistry, History, both general and local, Genealogies, fixed calendars, local politics, trade, slavery and biographies. Very many of the texts are fatwas and nawdzil which are concerned with.

Unfolding the Orient: Travellers in Egypt and the Near East.
Reviewed by Daniel Pipes

Unfolding the Orient: Travellers in Egypt and the Near East.
Editors: Paul and Janet Starkey. Reading, U.K.: Ithaca, 2001. 318 pp. £35

Interpreting the Orient: Travellers in Egypt and the Near East
Edited by Paul and Janet Starkey. Reading, U.K.: Ithaca, 2001. 277 pp. £35.

Reviewed by Daniel Pipes
Middle East Quarterly
Winter 2002

Many of the chapters in these companion volumes (which are in rough chronological order) offer pleasant but routine accounts of Europe travelers to the Middle East in past centuries. Some, however, rise above the ordinary to provide real insight into relations between the two civilizations. Philip Mansel’s essay on the Grand Tour to the Ottoman Empire conveys the cheerful sense of superiority Europeans felt toward Middle Easterners (“the dear Arabians and Turks are quite darlings,” was the 1816 comment of the princess of Wales while visiting their dear countries). Mary Ann Fey shows the striking contrast between the observations of Turkey by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu in 1716-18 and those of her male contemporaries; they saw nothing but subjugation of Muslim women but she appreciated their ability to own property (precisely because she lacked this right) and ended up calling the Turkish females “(perhaps) freer than any ladies in the universe.”

The startling chapter by Neil Cooke delves into the practice of some male Britons in Egypt to buy themselves female slaves; he focuses on a man who at times offered their favors to his friends and ended taking one of them back with him to the United Kingdom, where she lived out her days, dying in 1883. Nadia Gindy analyses Anthony Trollope’s two slight but amusing stories about British tourists to Egypt based on his time there, with an emphasis on the characteristically Trollopian humor (a woman who starts handing out baksheesh by the Pyramids resembles “a piece of sugar covered with flies”; she later explains that “she would not go to the Pyramids again, not if they were to be given to her for herself as ornaments for her garden”).

The set’s tour de force is a long inquiry by John Rodenbeck into the European habit of dressing like Turks and Arabs. Starting with a quote from the invariably wrong analysis of Edward Said that this was a source of “secret European power,” Rodenbeck goes on, through a dazzling display of quotations and other references, to show the true reasons for this custom. The main one safety; to dress in Western style before 1850 was to court danger. Sometimes (as for women in Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Afghanistan today), the reason was to comply with local regulations. Or it had to do with fashion or bravura or seduction. The one thing it did not
have to do with, contrary to the ignorant theorizing of Said and his minions, was spying or displaying cultural aggression.

2013 ASTENE Spring Tour of Jordan

2013 ASTENE Spring Tour of Jordan

Jordan has been suggested as the destination for the next ASTENE tour in Spring 2013. We would fly to Amman and visit, amongst others, the key sites of Jerash, the fortress of Kerak and the Dead Sea, with a two day visit to Petra.

Please let us know by contacting Elisabeth Woodthorpe by email at, or on 0207 622 3694 if you would be interested in attending.