Wednesday, March 26

Book: Leo the African, Amin Maalouf Click for more info

A friend lent me this book on hearing about the journey I was to make across Morocco and Andalucia. You see, a big part of the book covers the exile of our protagonist, Hasan as-Wazzan, from Granada to Fes.

So yes, although I did the same journey in reverse, it did add masses of value reading it as I did. Visiting the Medersa Bou Inania, Kairaouine Mosque and Alhambra were all a bit like coming home and it was interesting to see whether reality matched what my mind had conjured up from Maalouf's writing.

The book itself is based on the real life story of Hasan (later known as the Leo of the title), a 15th century traveller, diplomat and thinker as he moved across both African and European continents; I only shared half his journey as he continued to Cairo and ended up in Rome. Deeply, yet simply, written the book is accessible and before you realise it you're sucked into a world containing an Islamic Spain, warring kings and emperors, popes and sultans and wives and slaves. It's worth bearing in mind that I read an English translation of the original's Arabic, although this works well for the book, adding to its poetic appeal.

It does all end abruptly, although since it's based on true events it's probably left to the reader to follow the conclusion via a history book or something. Either way it's a cracking read while it lasts, even if you don't happen to be travelling at the time.