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All the best armchair travellers are sceptics. Those of the fourteenth century were no exception: for them, there were lies, damned lies, and Ibn Battutah’s India.

Born in 1304, Ibn Battutah left his native Tangier as a young scholar of law; over the course of the thirty years that followed he visited most of the known world between Morocco and China. Here Tim Mackintosh-Smith retraces one leg of the Moroccan’s journey – the dizzy ladders and terrifying snakes of his Indian career as a judge and a hermit, courtier and prisoner, ambassador and castaway. From the plains of Hindustan to the plateaux of the Deccan and the lost ports of Malabar, the author reveals an India far off the beaten path of Taj and Raj.

Ibn Battutah left India on a snake, stripped to his underpants by pirates; but he took away a treasure of tales as rich as any in the history of travel. Back home they said the treasure was a fake. Mackintosh-Smith proves the sceptics wrong. India is a jewel in the turban of the Prince of Travellers. Here it is, glittering, grotesque but genuine, a fitting ornament for his 700th birthday.

Reviews

This is his first venture into India but he comes upon the scene like a breath of fresh air.
Charles Allen, author of <i>Duel in the Snows</i>
Esoteric, raunchy, hilarious, erudite and transporting, The Hall of a Thousand Columns is a marvellous traveller's tale like no other. I sense that Ibn Battutah has finally met his match.
Eric Hansen
Tim Mackintosh-Smith has recreated, with enviable intimacy and elegance, the extraordinary life and times of the greatest traveller of pre-modern times.
Pankaj Mishra, author of <i>The Romantics</i> and
Funny, cultured, humane and highly idiosyncratic
Barnaby Rogerson, <i>Literary Review</i>
Few writers have the talent to pull off a notable trilogy in any genre . . . Mackintosh-Smith's is not in doubt . . . Rich and fascinating
<i>Sunday Times</i>
With his hallmark combination of irreverence and empathy, Mackintosh-Smith . . . has confected a curiously addictive blend of history, travel and jokes . . . an engaging portrait of modern-day India - the charm, humour and quirkiness
<i>Guardian</i>
A book that travels in time as well as in space . . . Intersperses dizzying glimpses of 14th-century Islamic court life with [the author's] own comic attempts to navigate modern-day India
<i>Daily Mail</i>
Mixing Ibn Battutah's account with his own encounters and journeys, Mackintosh-Smith creates an enchanting text.
Ziauddin Sardar, <i>Independent</i>
This is his first venture into India but he comes upon the scene like a breath of fresh air.
Charles Allen
A deft use of language, anecdote, scholarship and a daunting appreciation for all that is wonderful and absurd in the world. Esoteric, raunchy, hilarious, erudite and transporting, The Hall of a Thousand Columns is a marvellous traveller's tale like no other. I sense that Ibn Battutah has finally met his match.
Eric Hansen
Tim Mackintosh-Smith has recreated, with enviable intimacy and elegance, the extraordinary life and times of the greatest traveller of pre-modern times.
Pankaj Mishra, author of <i>The Romantics</i> and
'A rich texture of multiple perception . . . Beneath this funny, cultured, humane and highly idiosyncratic travelogue there is a darkly tragic theme. For interwoven with the real-time journey of Mackintosh-Smith through India is an enquiry into the nature of Islam in India'
Barnaby Rogerson, Literary Review
A first-rate travel book, enlivened by the author's erudition, subtle humour, and sheer enthusiasm for his subject
Traveller
Few writers have the talent to pull off a notable trilogy in any genre . . . [Mackintosh-Smith's] talent is not in doubt. . . . The author appears as an enthusiastic researcher, a thirsty drinker, and a traveller who allows little to deter him from his path . . . Rich and fascinating
Anthony Sattin, Sunday Times
With his hallmark combination of irreverence and empathy, Mackintosh-Smith ... has confected a curiously addictive blend of history, travel and jokes. But above all, he engages with ideas, and his aim is that of the novelist - to send a bucket down into the subconscious.
Guardian Weekly
Wisecracking . . . One of the most enjoyable things about Mackintosh-Smith's narrative is the way it intersperses dizzying glimpses of 14th-century Islamic court life with his own comic attempts to navigate modern-day India. A book that travels in time as well as in space
Daily Mail
Mixing Ibn Battutah's account with his own encounters and journeys, Mackintosh-Smith creates an enchanting text . . . This is an engrossing book
Ziauddin Sardar, Independent
'An engaging portrait of modern-day India - the charm, humour, quirkiness and the way in which the country constantly juxtaposes the extraordinary with the mundane'
Guardian
'The wellspring of his writing is his profound immersion in a Muslim culture . . . the strength of his work derives from his position as both insider and outsider in the Arab world . . . Mackintosh-Smith is in that same learned yet good-humoured tradition [as Leigh Fermor]'
Daily Telegraph
'An engaging homage to one of travel writing's founding fathers'
Henry Day. London Review of Books
This is his first venture into India but he comes upon the scene like a breath of fresh air.
Charles Allen, author of <i>Duel in the Snows</i>
Esoteric, raunchy, hilarious, erudite and transporting, The Hall of a Thousand Columns is a marvellous traveller's tale like no other. I sense that Ibn Battutah has finally met his match.
Eric Hansen
Tim Mackintosh-Smith has recreated, with enviable intimacy and elegance, the extraordinary life and times of the greatest traveller of pre-modern times.
Pankaj Mishra, author of <i>The Romantics</i> and
Funny, cultured, humane and highly idiosyncratic
Barnaby Rogerson, <i>Literary Review</i>
Few writers have the talent to pull off a notable trilogy in any genre . . . Mackintosh-Smith's is not in doubt . . . Rich and fascinating
<i>Sunday Times</i>
With his hallmark combination of irreverence and empathy, Mackintosh-Smith . . . has confected a curiously addictive blend of history, travel and jokes . . . an engaging portrait of modern-day India - the charm, humour and quirkiness
<i>Guardian</i>
A book that travels in time as well as in space . . . Intersperses dizzying glimpses of 14th-century Islamic court life with [the author's] own comic attempts to navigate modern-day India
<i>Daily Mail</i>
Mixing Ibn Battutah's account with his own encounters and journeys, Mackintosh-Smith creates an enchanting text.
Ziauddin Sardar, <i>Independent</i>
This is his first venture into India but he comes upon the scene like a breath of fresh air.
Charles Allen
A deft use of language, anecdote, scholarship and a daunting appreciation for all that is wonderful and absurd in the world. Esoteric, raunchy, hilarious, erudite and transporting, The Hall of a Thousand Columns is a marvellous traveller's tale like no other. I sense that Ibn Battutah has finally met his match.
Eric Hansen
Tim Mackintosh-Smith has recreated, with enviable intimacy and elegance, the extraordinary life and times of the greatest traveller of pre-modern times.
Pankaj Mishra, author of <i>The Romantics</i> and
'A rich texture of multiple perception . . . Beneath this funny, cultured, humane and highly idiosyncratic travelogue there is a darkly tragic theme. For interwoven with the real-time journey of Mackintosh-Smith through India is an enquiry into the nature of Islam in India'
Barnaby Rogerson, Literary Review
A first-rate travel book, enlivened by the author's erudition, subtle humour, and sheer enthusiasm for his subject
Traveller
Few writers have the talent to pull off a notable trilogy in any genre . . . [Mackintosh-Smith's] talent is not in doubt. . . . The author appears as an enthusiastic researcher, a thirsty drinker, and a traveller who allows little to deter him from his path . . . Rich and fascinating
Anthony Sattin, Sunday Times
With his hallmark combination of irreverence and empathy, Mackintosh-Smith ... has confected a curiously addictive blend of history, travel and jokes. But above all, he engages with ideas, and his aim is that of the novelist - to send a bucket down into the subconscious.
Guardian Weekly
Wisecracking . . . One of the most enjoyable things about Mackintosh-Smith's narrative is the way it intersperses dizzying glimpses of 14th-century Islamic court life with his own comic attempts to navigate modern-day India. A book that travels in time as well as in space
Daily Mail
Mixing Ibn Battutah's account with his own encounters and journeys, Mackintosh-Smith creates an enchanting text . . . This is an engrossing book
Ziauddin Sardar, Independent
'An engaging portrait of modern-day India - the charm, humour, quirkiness and the way in which the country constantly juxtaposes the extraordinary with the mundane'
Guardian
'The wellspring of his writing is his profound immersion in a Muslim culture . . . the strength of his work derives from his position as both insider and outsider in the Arab world . . . Mackintosh-Smith is in that same learned yet good-humoured tradition [as Leigh Fermor]'
Daily Telegraph
'An engaging homage to one of travel writing's founding fathers'
Henry Day. London Review of Books