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For Ibn Batuttah of Tangier, being medieval didn’t mean sitting at home waiting for renaissances, enlightenments and easyJet. It meant travelling the known world to its limits.

Seven centuries on, Tim Mackintosh-Smith’s passionate pursuit of the fourteenth-century traveller takes him to landfalls in remote tropical islands, torrid Indian Ocean ports and dusty towns on the shores of the Saharan sand-sea. His zigzag itinerary across time and space leads from Zanzibar to the Alhambra (via the Maldives, Sri Lanka, China, Mauritania and Guinea) and to a climactic conclusion to his quest for the man he calls ‘IB’ – a man who out-travelled Marco Polo by a factor of three, who spent his days with saints and sultans and his nights with an intercontinental string of slave-concubines.

Tim’s journey is a search for survivals from IB’s world – material, human, spiritual, edible – however, when your fellow traveller has a 700-year head start, familiar notions don’t always work.

Reviews

Praise for The Hall of a Thousand Columns '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
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
'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
'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
Praise for The Hall of a Thousand Columns '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
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
'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
'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