Books

Newest Publication:


Lost and Now Found: Explorers, Diplomats and Artists in Egypt and the Near East

Lost and now found

Neil Cooke (Editor); Vanessa Daubney (Editor).

Published by: Archaeopress, Oxford, United Kingdom, 2017.

ISBN 9781784916275 (epublication also available: ISBN 9781784916282)

Available to purchase here


Long distance travel and mass tourism are not recent phenomena. This collection of papers from the 2015 ASTENE Conference in Exeter demonstrates that over the centuries many individuals and groups of people have left the safety of their family home and travelled huge distances both for adventure and to learn more about other peoples and places. Some travels were to help establish trade routes, while others were for personal pleasure and knowledge. Many of those who travelled have left little or no record but in a few cases their travels can be determined from the brief encounters they had with other travellers who noted these chance meetings in their journals and diaries, which they later used to inform and write for publication accounts of their own travels and impressions.

The 18 papers in this rich and varied collection include: finding the lost diary of a member of the Prussian scientific expedition to Egypt of 1842-45 that was hiding in ‘plain sight’ among other books; the illustrated journal of a Croatian travelling through Egypt, Nubia and Sudan in 1853-4 and the hardships endured; the competition between Officers of the East India Company to find the fastest trade routes through Syria between India and the Red Sea; and identifying the Dutch artist who made paintings of Constantinople and later travelled to India before joining the Bombay Artillery as a Lieutenant-fireworker. All 18 papers are the product of hours of careful research by their authors among original manuscripts and books tracked down in archives, libraries and private collections around the world.

This is a publication generated from papers given in Exeter at the 11th ASTENE biennial conference in 2015.


Women Travelers on the Nile: An Anthology of Travel Writing through the Centuries

Women travellers

Deborah Manley (Editor).

Published by: American University in Cairo Press, Cairo, Egypt, 2016.

ISBN: 9789774167874 

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Egypt’s fabled sights through the eyes of women travelers across the centuries

Women travelers in Egypt in the nineteenth century saw aspects of the country unseen by their male counterparts, as they spent time both in the harems of Cairo and with the women they met along the Nile. Some of them, like Sarah Belzoni and Sophia Poole, spoke Arabic. Others wrote engagingly of their experiences as observers of an exotic culture, with special access to some places no man could ever go. From Eliza Fay’s description of arriving in Egypt in 1779 to Rosemary Mahoney’s daring trip down the Nile in a rowboat in 2006, this lively collection of writing by women travelers includes Lady Evelyn Cobbold, Isabella Bird, Norma Lorimer, Harriet Martineau, Florence Nightingale, Amelia Edwards, and Lucie Duff Gordon.


Every Traveller Needs a Compass: Travel and Collecting in Egypt and the Near East

Neil Cooke (Editor); Vanessa Daubney (Editor).

Published by: Oxbow Books, Oxford, United Kingdom, 2015. (ASTENE publication series).

ISBN: 9781785700996

Available to purchase here 


A varied and charming collection of 17 papers that bring something new about the people from many countries and backgrounds who travelled to, from and within Egypt and the Near East, either singly or as a group, and explored, observed and recorded, or stayed for a short period of time to improve their health or simply to enjoy the experience.

While some travellers kept a diary or journal that has survived until today, others did not. Their travels have to be extracted from the wide range of manuscript sources that are thankfully retained in libraries and archives, or which still remain with their descendants. Sometimes, the name of a traveller is only contained in a few words within a single piece of correspondence or journal entry, yet from such small beginnings and through detective work to link the chance meetings between travellers with a location, or news of a shared event, it is often possible to chart part of a traveller’s journey and bring to life a person who has long been forgotten. These minor characters and their travails often bring a new perspective to well-known places and events.

This is a publication generated from papers given in Birmingham at the 10th ASTENE biennial conference in 2013.


A Nile Anthology: Travel Writing through the Centuries

Nile anthology

Deborah Manley (Editor); Sahar Abdel-Hakim (Editor).

Published by: American University in Cairo Press, Cairo, Egypt, 2015.

ISBN: 9789774167232 

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The color and splendor of Upper Egypt in the words of those who traveled the shores of the Nile through time 

The stretch of the longest river in the world that nurtured the world’s first great civilization has drawn and impressed visitors since ancient times. The Greeks were fascinated by the mysterious annual flood of the Nile that brought both water and nourishing silt to the lands along its banks, while nineteenth-century travelers were amazed by the magnificent tombs and temples of Upper Egypt. A Nile Anthology brings together the accounts and reflections of visitors and travelers to the Nile between Luxor and Aswan through the ages, from Herodotus in the fifth century BC, and the Arab geographers of medieval times, to such nineteenth-century luminaries as Amelia Edwards, Florence Nightingale, Jean François Champollion, Edward Lane, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. From the practicalities of river travel to descriptions of the pharaonic monuments, via the sights, sounds, and smells of the teeming souks, our writers guide us through a world and an age long gone. About the series: The elegant, pocket-sized volumes in the AUC Press Anthology series feature the writings and observations of travel writers and diarists through the centuries. Vivid and evocative travelers’ accounts of some of the world’s great cities and regions are enhanced by the exquisite vintage design in small hardback format that make the books ideal gift books as well as perfect travel companions. Designed on cream paper stock and beautifully illustrated with line drawings and archival photographs.


Souvenirs and New Ideas: Travel and Collecting in Egypt and the Near East 

Diane Fortenberry (Editor).

Published by: Oxbow Books, Oxford, United Kingdom, 2013. (ASTENE publication series).

ISBN: 9781842178157

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During the 18th and 19th centuries, many travellers aimed to record their travels through Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Levant and Turkey by collecting souvenirs and mementos of places they had visited. This natural inclination took many different guises: from innocent activities such as making diaries and sketches, gathering academic knowledge or taking photographs, to acquiring souvenirs, very often antiquities. Other, more unscrupulous, travellers undertook journeys specifically to ‘collect’ antiquities to form the basis of museum collections or to profit by re-selling them. Souvenirs and New Ideas explores the human desire to retain the memory of a journey by ‘collecting objects’ with a series of essays examining the motivation of a variety of different travellers ranging from intrepid female solo travellers to European royalty. The acquisitions of these individuals ranged from tales of folklore and academic knowledge to the wholesale looting of Egyptian antiquities. Although the habit of ‘collecting antiquities’ is deplored and condemned today, this volume sheds light on the attitudes behind the practice and seeks to strengthen our current beliefs about the value of cultural patrimony.

This is a publication generated from papers given in Oxford at the 9th ASTENE biennial conference in 2011.


A Cairo Anthology: Two Hundred Years of Travel Writing

Cairo anthology

Deborah Manley (Editor).

Published by: American University in Cairo Press, Cairo, Egypt, 2013.

ISBN: 9789774166129  

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Cairo has long been recognized as one of the great cities of the world, and many travelers have recorded their descriptions of it over the centuries—from the early eye-witness account of Herodotus to the reflections of Sir Richard Burton, Florence Nightingale, and Mark Twain. A Cairo Anthology gathers together the impressions of many of these writers: with them we experience the excitement of exploring the great city, through its crowded streets and colorful bazaars, we enter the hotels, hire donkeys, ascend to the historic Citadel, and look out across the Nile toward the Sphinx and the Pyramids, and we visit those vast monuments that are in reality always larger and more extraordinary than one can believe, and climb to their summits to gaze back at Cairo, the Mother of the World. About the series: The elegant, pocket-sized volumes in the AUC Press Anthology series feature the writings and observations of travel writers and diarists through the centuries. Vivid and evocative travelers’ accounts of some of the world’s great cities and regions are enhanced by the exquisite vintage design in small hardback format that make the books ideal gift books as well as perfect travel companions. Designed on cream paper stock and beautifully illustrated with line drawings and archival photographs.


Knowledge is Light: Travellers in the Near East

Katherine Salahi (Editor).

Published by: Oxbow Books, Oxford, United Kingdom, 2011. (ASTENE publication series).

ISBN: 9781842174487

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For thousands of years travellers wandered to, and spread out through, Egypt and the Near East, seeking trade, adventure and knowledge. For centuries travellers to – and from – the Near East carried knowledge with them and then carried home the new knowledge acquired in the region. And knowledge, as the Arabic proverb states, is light. The travels which are the subjects of these nine papers continue to represent the work of The Association for the Study of Travel in the Near East, which was set up to follow, study and record the experience of travel and travellers in the Near East.

The book features travellers of great character. John Covel was in Constantinople in the 1670s where he became Chaplain and took away in his little-known diaries an extraordinary account of what it was like to be an Englishman in late 17th-century Greece and Asia Minor. James Rennell came to be considered as “one of the first geographers of this or any other age”. He spent thirty years researching classical and modern sources on the geography of the Near East, including his splendidly intriguing study of the rate of travel by camels to establish distances.


Saddling the Dogs: Journeys through Egypt and the Near East

Diane Fortenberry (Editor); Deborah Manley (Editor).

Published by: Oxbow Books, Oxford, United Kingdom, 2009. (ASTENE publication series).

ISBN: 9781842173671

Available to purchase here

Special ASTENE member price for Saddling the Dogs is £14.95 (full price £20). See: how to order


“In the absence of horses, saddle the dogs.”
This Arab proverb, suggesting the uncompromising determination of nomads to keep moving, whatever the obstacles, epitomizes also the travelling ethos of many early visitors to the ‘exotic East’. The journeys examined here are linked by the light they shed on the experience of travel in Egypt, Greece and the Ottoman Balkans, and the Near East from the 17th to the early-20th century, not so much what was seen as how one got there and how one got around once arrived; the vicissitudes and travails, both expected and strange that characterised the passage. The purpose of the trips examined range from religious pilgrimages to diplomatic, commercial and military journeys, and to middle-class package tours. Each of them is of interest for what it reveals about the realities of travel in Egypt, the eastern Mediterranean and the Near East at different times: the means by which travel was carried out, the dangers and discomforts encountered, and the preparations made.


Traveling through the Deserts of Egypt: From 450 B.C. to the Twentieth Century

travelling through deserts

Deborah Manley (Editor); Sahar Abdel-Hakim (Editor).

Published by: American University in Cairo Press, Cairo, Egypt, 2009.

ISBN: 9789774163135 

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Travelers’ observations on Sinai and the Monastery of St. Catherine from the 4th to the 21st century

For generations, travelers have been lured by the beauty and mesmerizing stillness of Egypt’s deserts, leaving behind the comfort of what is familiar in a quest for adventure, knowledge, and escape, and for others still, a taste of eternity. Traveling Through the Deserts of Egypt is a compilation of some of the most fascinating and beautiful writings to come out of the experiences of desert travelersthrough the ages. Seen through their eyes, the desert emerges as possessed of a multitude of identities, a source of majesty and life-giving natural beauty, barrenness, and yet incalculable mystery. By reading in the footsteps of those who crossed the desert’s valleys, slept in its caves, and rode its camels, we discover that the desert in its boundlessness and utter unpredictability shatters all our notions of time and holds out the offer of an intensity of meaning and renewed self-awareness that is as irresistible as it is rewarding. The collection includes extracts from the writings of Herodotus, Ibn Khaldun, Ferdinand Lepsius, Leo Tregenza, Harriet Martineau, Ahmed Fakhry, and Ahmed Hassanein.


Traveling through Egypt. From 450 B.C. to the Twentieth Century

Deborah Manley (Editor); Sahar Abdel-Hakim (Editor).

Published by: American University in Cairo Press, Cairo, Egypt, 2008.

ISBN: 9789774161698 

Available to purchase here


“Egypt is one of the two wings of the world, and the excellences of which it can boast are countless. Its metropolis is the dome of Islam, its river the most splendid of rivers.” —al-Muqaddasi, c. 1000

To travelers, Egypt is a place of dreams: a country whose lifeblood is a mighty river, flowing from the heart of Africa. Along the fertile fringe of its banks an astonishing civilization raised spectacular monuments that our modern minds can hardly encompass. For centuries this past dominated travelers’ minds—yet the present and its great buildings too engaged their interest and admiration and gave them pleasure. The experience of Egypt has over the centuries inspired travelers to write of what they saw and tried to understand. These travelers’ observations are part of the history of modern Egypt, for seeing ourselves through others’ eyes helps us to understand ourselves. The compilers of this anthology have selected records of travelers from many countries and cultures over many centuries, and, mainly using the Nile for a pathway, here offer these travelers’ observations on the many facets of Egypt. The collection includes extracts from the writings of Herodotus, Strabo, Ibn Hawkal, al-Muqaddasi, Pierre Loti, Rudyard Kipling, Florence Nightingale, and many more.

Review: “In presenting their work the editors have managed to weave a rich tapestry of Egyptian history from the viewpoint of outsiders covering a time span of centuries.”—Al-Ahram Weekly.


Egypt and the Nile. Through Writers’ Eyes

Deborah Manley (Editor); Sahar Abdel-Hakim (Editor).

Published by: American University in Cairo Press, Cairo, Egypt, 2008.

ISBN: 9789774161742 

Available to purchase here


No land on earth has been so comprehensively observed as Egypt, which was attracting awestruck travelers back in the days of Herodotus and Julius Caesar. This rich and varied collection brings the diversity and the continuity of Egypt together to give a picture of this country, its many places, its long history, and its people: the pharoahs, sultans, pilgrims to Sinai, Crusaders, and Napoleon, followed by the Grand Tourists of the eighteenth century and those less grand with Thomas Cook in the nineteenth. The range of voices gathered here is dazzling: an ancient myth from a papyrus next to Naguib Mahfouz’s account of Alexandria, Florence Nightingale describing Abu Simbel side by side with Ahdaf Soueif’s description of Sinai. A description of medieval Cairo by Ibn Jubayr walks hand in hand with one of the modern city by the Egyptian thinker Taha Hussein. Lucie Duff-Gordon sails up the Nile, Edward Lane crawls through a sand-filled temple, and Isambard Kingdom Brunel struggles up the cataract above Aswan.


Who Travels Sees More: Artists, Architects, and Archaeologists Discover Egypt and the Near East

Diane Fortenberry (Editor)

Published by: Oxbow Books, Oxford, United Kingdom, 2007. (ASTENE publication series).

ISBN: 9781842172735

Available to purchase here

Special ASTENE member price for Who Travels Sees More is £9.95 (full price £45). See: how to order


Who Travels Sees More is an Arab proverb appropriate for this book – and for ASTENE in general. This impressive book is a collection of essays based on papers given at our biennial and overseas conferences and study days.
The travellers included had backgrounds as artists and architects of one sort or another – and so responded to what they saw in visual ways – in many cases taking the revelations of their travels home with them to inspire their own work.


Traveling through Sinai, from the Fourth to the Twenty-first Century

Deborah Manley (Editor); Sahar Abdel-Hakim (Editor).

Published by: American University in Cairo Press, Cairo, Egypt, 2006.

ISBN: 9789774160226

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Sinai has long attracted travelers to its ancient caravan routes and haunting landscapes. From early Christian pilgrims to medieval merchants and nineteenth-century Europeans on the Grand Tour, visitors to Sinai have frequently left written accounts of their experiences in this historic peninsula. In this wide-ranging anthology, Deborah Manley and Sahar Abdel-Hakim have collected dozens of accounts and observations from travelers who have written about Sinai, its people, its sights, and its historical and biblical landmarks. Starting with Egeria, a fourth-century Christian who relates her visit to Mt. Sinai and the Burning Bush, “Traveling Through Sinai” offers a diverse collection of voices over the centuries. Among them are the German friar Felix Fabri, who visited in 1492, and nineteenth-century antiquarian William Flinders Petrie, giving his impressions of the Bedouins of the peninsula. French novelist Alexandre Dumas writes of meeting two monks in the desert carrying a letter signed by Napoleon, while others describe crossing the canal at Suez, the ancient inscriptions of Wadi Mukattab, and the harrowing experiences of desert travel.


Women Travellers in the Near East

Sarah Searight (Editor).

Published by: Oxbow Books, Oxford, United Kingdom, 2005.

ISBN 10: 1842171615 / ISBN 13: 9781842171615

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Contents: Introduction (Sarah Searight); Travelling to post: Lady Liston, an ambassadress in Constantinople (Deborah Manley); Two feisty ladies in the Levant: Princess Caroline and Lady Craven (Charles Plouviez); Travels in the Slavonic provinces of Turkey-in-Europe: Miss Muir Mackenzie and Miss Irby (Dorothy Anderson); Three travellers in nineteenth-century Egypt: Sarah Belzoni, Amelia Edwards and Margaret Benson (Megan Price); Lucie Duff Gordon: a woman’s perception of Egypt (Sarah Searight); Governess to the Grand Pasha of Egypt: Emmeline Lott (Alix Wilkinson); The unknown pilgrimage to Sinai (Deborah Manley); Archaeologists’ wives as travel writers (Elizabeth French); Women’s perceptions of, and perceptions of women in, Egypt’s Eastern desert (Janet Starkey).


Travellers in the Near East

Charles Foster (Editor).

Published by: Stacey International, London, United Kingdom, 2004.

ISBN-10: 1900988712

Available to purchase here


The Orientalists were a breed apart. Amateur enthusiasts with a thirst for adventure, entrepreneurs hunting for eastern treasures,scientists and early anthropologists and individuals desperate to escape the confines of Europe, these men and women were pioneer tourists in unknown lands. They have left us a legacy of fascinating romantic and enlightening insight into the Near East from a European perspective, and Charles Foster brings together a collection of studies of some of the most vivid and memorable of them in this book, which is published in conjunction with the Association for Study of Travellers in Egypt and the Near East.

European travellers in the Near East, subject to a shared allure, have left us a legacy of absorbing insights into this region which has forever been, for Europe, ‘so near but yet so far’. Men – and women too – with an appetite for adventure, those in search of ‘eastern’ treasure, scientists, early anthropologists and those seeking no more than to escape the forms and norms of Europe, so often found themselves impelled to record their doings and what they learned, or else they were writers in the first place.
This volume brings together studies of some of the most vivid and memorable of the pioneers of Near Eastern travel, from the Cicero brothers in the first century A.D., to Gertrude Bell (1868-1926).

This is a publication generated from papers given in Edinburgh at the 4th ASTENE biennial conference in 2001.


How Many Miles to Babylon? Travels and Adventures to Egypt and Beyond, from 1300 to 1620

Anne Wolff (Author).

Published by: Liverpool University Press, Liverpool, United Kingdom, 2003.

ISBN-10: 0853236585

Available to purchase here

You can also order from Marston Book Services (http://www.marston.co.uk/), PO Box 269, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, OX14 4YN (Tel: 01235 465500; Fax 01235 465555; email: direct.order@marston.co.uk P&P UK £3.50, Europe £3 surface/£4 air, Rest of World £8. Quote code 200303.


How Many Miles to Babylon? uses the writing of European travellers to Egypt between c. 1300 and c. 1600 to give a picture of the country in the late medieval and early Renaissance periods, drawing on sources that have hitherto been inaccessible to English-speaking audiences. These accounts portray an Egypt ruled by the despotic Mamluk sultans and the early Ottoman governors, a society at once cruel and sophisticated, dangerous and alluring. The Europeans’ wonderment at the exotic flora and fauna, the ancient ruins of temples and pyramids, and the astonishing summer rise of the Nile to irrigate the crops and replenish the lakes and waterways of Cairo is well conveyed by these travellers’ tales. How Many Miles to Babylon? is a fascinating picture of the people, customs and culture of Egypt from the fourteenth century to the beginning of the seventeenth.


Egypt Through the Eyes of Travellers

Nadia El Kholy (Editor); Paul Starkey (Editor).

Published by: Association for the Study of Travel in Egypt and the Near East (ASTENE), Durham, United Kingdom, 2002.

ISBN: 0953970027

Available to purchase here

Special ASTENE member price for Egypt through the Eyes of Travellers is £14.95 (full price £19.95). See: how to order


This volume presents a further fascinating array of images of Egypt, as seen through the eyes of Western travellers, from the Enlightenment onwards. Missionaries, Egyptologists, novelists and painters all offer their own perspectives.

This is the final volume of three books containing papers from the ASTENE conference at Cambridge in 1999. The theme of this title is the 18th and 19th Century European fascination with Egypt. This interest had begun during the Enlightenment and was fuelled by the invasion of Egypt by Napoleon in 1798. For many Europeans of this age, Egypt represented all the exoticism, sensuality and mystery of the Orient, and these nine papers (one of which is in French) seek to explore this relationship. Contents: A public pageant in 1806: Lord Valentia visits Egypt (Deborah Manley); Berths under the Highest Stars: Henry William Beechey in Egypt 1816-1819 (Patricia Usick); Florence Nightingale’s Letters from Egypt (Loubna Youssef); Preparing to be an Egyptologist: Amelia Edwards before 1873 (Joan Rees); Rameses III, Giovanni Belzoni and the Mysterious Reverend Browne (Penelope Wilson); A House, a museum and a legend: Bait al-Kretliya (The Gayer-Anderson Mummy) (Iain Gordon Brown); Silent travellers, articulate mummies: ‘Mummy Pettigrew’ and the Discourse of the Dead (Sahar Sobhi Abdel-Hakim); Les detours fictionnels du recit de voyage: Le Nil, Egypte et Nubie de Maxime du Camp (Veronique Magri-Mourges).

This is a publication generated from papers given in Cambridge at the 3rd ASTENE biennial conference in 1999.


 In the Wake of the Dhow: The Arabian Gulf and Oman

Dionisius A. Agius (Author).

Published by:  Ithaca Press, Reading, United Kingdom, 2002.

ISBN: 9780863723414

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The Arabian dhow, with its characteristic features, is one of the most evocative images of the Gulf, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. The great cargo dhows represented a flourishing trade which stretched from the Mediterranean up to China in the time of the Portuguese and the Dutch from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. When the pearling industry was at its height in the 19th and early 20th centuries, hundreds of pearling dhows were actively employed, carrying thousands of seamen diving for the finest pearls, a commodity much sought by the Western powers. In times of war, the dhows were magnificent fighting vessels and associated with the piracy so prevalent in these waters.This book is a product of over two hundred interviews with shipwrights and seamen in the Arabian Gulf and Oman over a period of nine years. It compares information given firsthand with the literature already written on the dhow and on Arab seafaring in the past seventy years, much of which was simply technical. Documenting the dhow as an important element in the prosperity of the area before the discovery of oil, we find in this book the geographical conditions and the historical-linguistical background of each dhow-type, the life-pattern in its role as cargo, pearl-diving, pirate and slaving vessel and also how the seafaring communities interacted with the dhow world.


Travellers in the Levant: Voyagers and Visionaries

Sarah Searight; (Editor) Malcolm Wagstaff (Editor).

Published by:  Association for the Study of Travel in Egypt and the Near East (ASTENE), Durham, United Kingdom, 2002.

ISBN: 9780953970018 

Available to purchase here

Special ASTENE member price for Travellers in the Levant is £14.95 (full price £19.95). See: how to order


Travelling in the Eastern Mediterranean was a common activity for the more adventurous of North European scholars in the 18th and 19th Centuries and many of the papers in this book discuss the adventures of Colonel Leake, Sir William Gell, Edward Lear and Lady Hester Stanhope. However there are also interesting studies of less well known Muslim and Italian travellers.Orientalists came to the Middle East with their own ideas and agendas. As we try to disentangle fact from fiction, the Middle East is explored from many perspectives, among them those of artists, novelists, archaeologists, tourists – and spies.

This is a publication generated from papers given in Cambridge at the 3rd ASTENE biennial conference in 1999.


Unfolding the Orient: Travellers in Egypt and the Near East 
Unfolding the Orient

Paul Starkey (Editor).

Published by:  Ithaca Press, Reading, United Kingdom, 2001.

ISBN: 0863722571

Available to purchase here


Egypt and the Near East have enchanted many people over the centuries. Travellers from the West have journeyed to this region for a variety of motives: in pursuit of knowledge, power, diplomacy and trade, for pleasure and adventure, on pilgrimage, and to plunder and discover the exotic – or sometimes simply to discover themselves. Some have been influenced more than others by what they saw; bringing back tangible evidence of their visits, in the form of antiquities or other collectors’ items; others have used their observations and experiences for their own literary and artistic ends. This collection of papers has its origin in the conference “Travellers to Egypt and the Near East” held at St Catherine’s College, Oxford in July 1997. They are arranged approximately in chronological order – though with so many common themes running through them, a strict sequence according to a single criterion has proved almost impossible. In addition to the chronological sequence, the reader will detect a number of common themes – religion, gender, economics, colonialism, perceptions of literature and art and so forth that haunt the essays and form webs of interconnection between them. The papers included in this volume range from those on Mary Wortley Montagu and James Silk Buckingham to the grand tour phenomenon and the ruins of Sardis. These essays provide an array of perspectives on a set of historical, literary and cultural relationships about which debate is certain to continue well into the twenty-first century.


Interpreting the Orient: Travellers in Egypt and the Near East

Interpreting the Orient

Paul Starkey (Editor).

Published by:  Ithaca Press, Reading, United Kingdom, 2001.

ISBN: 086372258X

Available to purchase here


Egypt and the Near East have enchanted many people over the centuries. Travellers from the West have journeyed to this region for a variety of motives: in pursuit of knowledge, power, diplomacy and trade, for pleasure and adventure, on pilgrimage, and to plunder and discover the exotic – or sometimes simply to discover themselves. Some have been influenced more than others by what they saw, bringing back tangible evidence of their visits in the form of antiquities or other collectors’ items; many have used their observations and experiences for their own literary and artistic ends. This collection of papers has its origin in the conference “Travellers to Egypt and the Near East” held at St Catherine’s College, Oxford in July 1997. They are arranged approximately in chronological order – though with so many common themes running through them, a strict sequence according to a single criterion has proved almost impossible. In addition to the chronological sequence, the reader will detect a number of common themes – religion, gender, economics, colonialism, perceptions of literature and art and so forth that haunt the essays and form webs of interconnection between them. The papers included in this volume range from those on Carl Haag and Gertrude Bell to gender politics in a colonial context. These essays provide a fascinating array of perspectives on a set of historical, literary and cultural relationships about which debate is certain to continue well into the twenty-first century.


Desert Travellers: from Herodotus to T.E. Lawrence

Janet Starkey (Editor); Okasha El Daly (Editor).

Published by:  Association for the Study of Travel in Egypt and the Near East (ASTENE), Durham, United Kingdom, 2000.

ISBN-10: 0953970000

Available to purchase here

Special ASTENE member price for Travellers in the Levant is £14.95 (full price £19.95). See: how to order


From the time of the earliest Greek historians, the deserts of Egypt and the Near East have exerted a fascination on travellers. For Herodotus it was the zoological marvels that fascinated him while later explorers found the desert a place to consider their own identities, seeing their reflections in the shifting sands. This book studies the writings of desert travellers, discussing their backgrounds, their discoveries, and the legacy of early accounts that they have left us. Many of the authors presented their work first at meetings of the Association for the Study of Travel in Egypt and the Near East (ASTENE). Contents: Part 1: Crocodiles, Pilgrims and Isolated Villages: The Zoology of Herodotus and his Greek Descendants (Charles Foster); Egyptian deserts in Early Medieval Arabic travel writing (Okasha El Daly); Two pilgrims at Saint Catherine’s Monastery: Niccolo di Poggibonsi and Christopher Harrant (Anne Wolff); Travellers at Tayyibah: the northern desert of Syria 1600-1980 (Norman Lewis). Part 2: Gold, Ruins and Journeys into the Unknown: The Double Voice of James Bruce, Abyssinian Traveller (Carl Thompson); William Easton, a forgotten American voice (Cassandra Vivian); Giovanni Battista Brocchi, an Italian Scientist in the Near East (Paolo Branca); A la decouverte des mines d’or du desert nubien: LMA Linant de Bellefonds en Etbaye, 1831-1832 (Marcel Kurz et Pascale Linant de Bellefonds); Gold, emeralds and the unknown Ababda (Janet Starkey); Ancient Egypt and the Gordon Relief Expedition (David Dixon). Part 3: A Search for Identity? ‘In a position to fathom the Arabs’: Ameen Rihani, traveller to the Arab Near East (Geoffrey Nash); Deraa Revisited (John Rodenbeck).


Travellers in Egypt

Janet Starkey (Editor); Paul Starkey (Editor).

Published by: I.B. Tauris, London, United Kingdom, 1998.

ISBN-10: 1860643248

Available to purchase here


The urge of 19th-century travelers to write down and record their experiences of Egypt has provided material of great interest and value. This large and varied collection of accounts will appeal not only to the specialist investigating the European rediscovery of ancient Egypt but also the general reader concerned with Western perceptions of the Orient. Its themes range from the contribution made to Egyptology by early travelers and the study of Egyptian society and its artistic, architectural, and literary heritage to the history and culture of European travel in the Middle East. Travellers in Egypt concludes with an examination of European influences on Egypt and a reminder that travel across the Mediterranean in the 19th century was not all from West to East.

This is a publication generated from papers given in Durham at the 1st ASTENE biennial conference in 1995.


Selection of Reviews for ASTENE publications


Some European Travellers in the Middle East. By M.E Yapp

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

Unfolding the Orient: Travellers in Egypt and the Near East. Editors: Paul and Janet Starkey

Travellers in Egypt: by Paul Starkey & Janet Starkey

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


 Books by ASTENE members


Wonderful Things: A History of Egyptology: 3: From 1914 to the Twenty-First Century

By Jason Thompson

(Cairo & New York: AUC Press, 2018; ISBN: 9789774167607)

Wonderful things 3

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The discovery of ancient Egypt and the development of Egyptology are momentous events in intellectual and cultural history. The history of Egyptology is the story of the people, famous and obscure, who constructed the picture of ancient Egypt that we have today, recovered the Egyptian past while inventing it anew, and made a lost civilization comprehensible to generations of enchanted readers and viewers thousands of years later. This, the third of a three-volume history of Egyptology, follows the progress of the discipline from the trauma of the First World War, through the vicissitudes of the twentieth century, and into Egyptology’s new horizons at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Wonderful Things affirms that the history of ancient Egypt has proved continually fascinating, but it also demonstrates that the history of Egyptology is no less so. Only by understanding how Egyptology has developed can we truly understand the Egyptian past.


Wonderful Things: A History of Egyptology: 2: The Golden Age: 1881–1914

By Jason Thompson

(Cairo & New York: AUC Press, 2016; ISBN: 9789774166921)

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The discovery of ancient Egypt and the development of Egyptology are momentous events in intellectual and cultural history. The history of Egyptology is the story of the people, famous and obscure, who constructed the picture of ancient Egypt that we have today, recovered the Egyptian past while inventing it anew, and made a lost civilization comprehensible to generations of enchanted readers and viewers thousands of years later. This, the second of a three-volume survey of the history of Egyptology, explores the years 1881-1914, a period marked by the institutionalization of Egyptology amid an ever increasing pace of discovery and the opening of vast new vistas into the Egyptian past. Wonderful Things affirms that the history of ancient Egypt has proved continually fascinating, but it also demonstrates that the history of Egyptology is no less so. Only by understanding how Egyptology has developed can we truly understand ancient Egypt.


Wonderful Things: A History of Egyptology 1: From Antiquity to 1881 

By Jason Thompson

(Cairo & New York: AUC Press, 2015; ISBN: 9789774165993)

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The discovery of ancient Egypt and the development of Egyptology are momentous events in intellectual and cultural history. The history of Egyptology is the story of the people, famous and obscure, who constructed the picture of ancient Egypt that we have today, recovered the Egyptian past while inventing it anew, and made a lost civilization comprehensible to generations of enchanted readers and viewers thousands of years later. This, the first of a three-volume survey of the history of Egyptology, follows the fascination with ancient Egypt from antiquity until 1881, tracing the recovery of ancient Egypt and its impact on the human imagination in a saga filled with intriguing mysteries, great discoveries, and scholarly creativity. Wonderful Things affirms that the history of ancient Egypt has proved continually fascinating, but it also demonstrates that the history of Egyptology is no less so. Only by understanding how Egyptology has developed can we truly understand the Egyptian past.


American Travelers on the Nile: Early U.S. Visitors to Egypt, 1774–1839 

By Andrew Oliver

(Cairo & New York: AUC Press, 2014; ISBN 9789774166679 )

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The Treaty of Ghent signed in 1814, ending the War of 1812, allowed Americans once again to travel abroad. Medical students went to Paris, artists to Rome, academics to Göttingen, and tourists to all European capitals. More intrepid Americans ventured to Athens, to Constantinople, and even to Egypt. Beginning with two eighteenth-century travelers, this book then turns to the 25-year period after 1815 that saw young men from East Coast cities, among them graduates of Harvard, Yale, and Columbia, traveling to the lands of the Bible and of the Greek and Latin authors they had first known as teenagers. Naval officers off ships of the Mediterranean squadron visited Cairo to see the pyramids. Two groups went on business, one importing steam-powered rice and cotton mills from New York, the other exporting giraffes from the Kalahari Desert for wild animal shows in New York.Drawing on unpublished letters and diaries together with previously neglected newspaper accounts, as well as a handful of published accounts, this book offers a new look at the early American experience in Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean world. More than thirty illustrations complement the stories told by the travelers themselves.


Westcar on the Nile: A Journey Through Egypt in the 1820s

By Heike C. Schmidt

(Menschen – Reisen – Forschungen) (Wiesbaden : Reichert Verlag, 2011;  ISBN: 9783895008528)

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In November 1823 a young English gentleman, by the name of Henry Westcar, landed in Alexandria to discover the glory of ancient Egypt. He was neither an archaeologist, nor of famous stock, but only one more member of the English gentry taking the Grand Tour. His name might have easily fallen into oblivion, would it not have been connected to one of the most famous ancient Egyptian literary papyri: the papyrus Westcar. Most probably it was acquired by him on occasion of his trip up the Nile as far as the second cataract and back. But Westcar’s voyage is remarkable not only for the probable purchase of the famous papyrus. In Egypt he became eyewitness of a revolution against the ruling pasha. His diary is one of the main sources to supply information about the rebellion that rose in Upper Egypt, as well as the means taken by the pasha and his army to quell it. Westcar and his three fellow travellers, all of them promising young architects, suddenly found their trip, which was started to explore the temples and tombs of the pharaohs, change into a flight downriver to escape the rebellion.For the first time the entire travelogue of Henry Westcar is published, together with an overview of the reign of Muhammad Ali Pasha as well as an appendix in which the ownership of the papyrus Westcar is discussed. The text is elaborately illustrated not only with photos but also with sketches and drawings, the latter ones whenever possible executed by Westcar’s companions or artists travelling in the same period of time. Almost 200 years after Henry Westcar has returned from his trip to the Nile, his diary is finally published.


Edward William Lane, 1801–1876: The Life of the Pioneering Egyptologist and Orientalist 

By Jason Thompson

(Cairo & New York: AUC Press, 2010; ISBN: 9789774162879)

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This is the first full-length biography of the eminent Victorian scholar. Few Western scholars of the Middle East have exerted such profound influence as Edward William Lane. Lane’s Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians (1836), which has never gone out of print, remains as a highly authoritative study of Middle Eastern society. His annotated translation of the “Arabian Nights” (1839-41) retains a devoted readership. Lane’s recently recovered and published “Description of Egypt” (2000) shows that he was a pioneering Egyptologist as well as orientalist. The capstone of his career, the definitive “Arabic-English Lexicon” (1863-93), is an indispensable reference tool. Yet, despite his extraordinary influence, little was known about Lane and virtually nothing about how he did his work. Now, in the first full-length biography, Lane’s life and accomplishments are examined in full, including his crucial years of field work in Egypt, revealing the life of a great Victorian scholar and presenting a fascinating episode in east-west encounter, interaction, and representation.


Adventures in Egypt and Nubia: The Travels of William John Bankes (1786–1855) 

By Patricia Usick

(London: British Museum Press, 2002; ISBN: 9780714118031)

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William John Bankes (1786-1855) was a brilliant and remarkable man: rich, charming, witty and good-looking, he studied Classics at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he became a close and lifelong friend of Byron. In 1812 he went to Spain and Portugal to pursue a Bohemian lifestyle among the gypsies. This was followed by travels in the Near East, where he sought out danger and excitement, from clandestine trips to the forbidden mosque in Jerusalem to the very real perils attending early travellers in Egypt and Nubia. Bankes amassed a vast portfolio of notes, manuscripts and drawings by the artists who accompanied him on his Egyptian travels. Their extremely high degree of accuracy makes them a very valuable record of the ancient monuments, many of which have since been damaged or lost. His intuitive detective work and the many copies of hieroglyphic inscriptions he accumulated were instrumental in the struggle to decipher hieroglyphs. Bankes spent his later years in self-imposed exile in Italy to avoid the repercussions of a charge brought against him for a homosexual offence involving a guardsman in Green Park.His art collection and an obelisk he removed from Philae remained at Kingston Lacy, the family seat in Dorset, where the drawings and manuscripts from his Egyptian travels also languished in a cabinet, unpublished and forgotten. This book tells Bankes’ story, describing his travels in detail and assessing his contribution to Egyptology.


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