The Hall of a Thousand Columns : Hindustan to Malabar with Ibn Battutah, Paperback Book

The Hall of a Thousand Columns : Hindustan to Malabar with Ibn Battutah Paperback

Illustrated by Martin Yeoman

4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


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.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 352 pages, line drawings and maps
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton General Division
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Travel writing
  • ISBN: 9780719565878



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Review by

Author certainly has a way with words - puns that might be come off as "over the top" from others work brilliantly here! Terrific overview of current, and historical India, but, I'd recommend reading Tangerine first (if possible) for context.

Review by

Mackintosh-Smith at first seems to be rather less at ease with the chaos of India than with the more orderly Islamic world he describes in <i>Travels with a Tangerine</i>, but ultimately the interaction between his variety of islamophile Englishness and the Hobson-Jobsonness of postcolonial India is a very fertile one. This is very much the India of R.K. Narayan, rather than that of Salman Rushdie: we are shown small-scale stories and learn about the big issues as marginal notes to the local history that Mackintosh-Smith is really interested in. He doesn't conceal the death and destruction of past or present, but he tries to put it into the context of a country where people of different faiths have mostly managed quite successfully to live side-by-side and learn from each other. What we don't get in this book is a great deal of Ibn Battutah: try as hard as he might, Mackintosh-Smith finds very few actual traces of the 14th century in modern India, and even fewer that he can link confidently to IB. He does come up with plausible solutions to a couple of minor mysteries along the way, but by and large either IB's descriptions of this part of his travels are too vague to go on, or there is simply nothing left. In Mangalore the coast has moved; elsewhere everything has been obscured by new building in the Mughal period and later.

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