In an antique land The cover proclaims IAAL “History in the guise of a traveller’s tale,” and the multi-generic book moves back and forth between Ghosh’s. Once upon a time an Indian writer named Amitav Ghosh set out to find an Indian slave, name unknown, who some seven hundred years before had traveled to. In An Antique Land is written by the anthropologist, Amitav Ghosh and the publishers marketed it as ‘..a subversive history in the guise of a.

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Then, towards the middle of the thirteenth century, the flow dried to a trickle, and only swelled again some three hundred years later, when the Spanish Inquisition sent yet another wave of Jewish immigrants flooding in to Egypt. This is abtique your average history history book, but lends some interesting insight into a bygone era just the same. But before I could say anything, Shaikh Musa changed the subject: But he has grown in stature now: They would have to go and hide with their maternal relatives until their uncles and the shaikhs of the land could talk to the dead man’s family and persuade them to come to a council of reconciliation.

The Definitive Guide to Living in the Capital , Cairo , Egypt

Once, for instance, some thieves who were escaping with a herd of stolen water-buffalo were frozen to the ground, buffaloes and all, when they drew abreast of the Sidi’s tomb. Later, he’d even gone on to college in Damanhour, which was unusual at the time for a fellah boy, the son of an unlettered peasant.

Yet the young men working like dogs in Iraq pay the price. Not least because, it explodes in our faces the presumption that we are more free or more global or more a,itav than our ancestors.

In an Antique Land

I came upon Professor Goitein’s book of translations in a library in Oxford in the winter of It was as though the borders that were to divide Palestine several decades later had already been drawn, through time rather than territory, to kn a choice of Histories. You wish it were indeed the old Geniza, but it cannot be. The moped was normally used by one of his older sons, who drove it to his college in Damanhour every day. In his account of his stay in Cairo, Adler mentioned the private synagogue of the Cattaouis and their adjoining residence, a magnificent palace that had once belonged to a Pasha.

But Cairo, like Delhi or Rome, is actually not so much a single city as an archipelago of townships, founded on neighbouring sites, by various different dynasties and rulers. For Babylon, ironically, the moment of capitulation marked its greatest triumph for it was then that this tiny fortress fixed the location of the country’s centre of gravity, once and for all. Then, when the grief of the dead man’s family had eased a little, an amnesty would be declared.


Now at last, the time had come to pay the city a proper visit. Incredible as it may seem, this putrefying pit marks the site of what was perhaps the single most important event in the history of Cairo, indeed of Egypt: The history part, however, is a disorganized, random info dump – it seemed to me he just put all his research notes into the book, without a narrative vhosh cohesion. I only finished it as …more I found this a difficult read. He was very jealous of his custodianship of the vehicle and would never allow his brothers or cousins to use it — but akitav father, of course, was another matter altogether.

I guess clever people across cultures and national geographies understand this, they are actually the ones who profit by these conceptions; in fact, they actively create them. It so happened that his house sat astride the one major road in the area, a narrow, rutted dirt track just about wide enough to allow two lightweight vehicles to squeeze past each other without toppling into the canal that ran beside it.

This page was last edited on 16 Novemberat Soothsayers are said to have named the town al-Qahira, the Martial, or the Victorious, because the planet Mars, al-Qahir, was in the ascendant at the time of the foundation ceremony.

But the people who used the Geniza would not have countenanced the modern distinction between the ‘secular’ and the ‘religious’: Loath to invite misfortune by antjque the bird, he left the tent behind and upon lanr to Babylon after his successful assault on Alexandria, laid out his new city around the nest-topped tent. They looked at one another in xn at first, and when I recounted the story that Jabir had told me they began to laugh.

I would try to shut out the noise by concentrating on my book or my diaries or by turning up the volume of my transistor radio, but Abu-‘Ali’s voice always prevailed, despite the thick mud walls of his house and the squawking of the ducks and geese who lived around my room.

But it so happened that he was taken completely by surprise. The vignettes from the life of a tiny poor Egyptian town are fascinating un a rare and vivid view into an isolated culture. His eyes widened and I added hastily: The kids who used to pester him have now grown up and many are working in Iraq to send money back home. We sat in silence for a while, and then his two young grandchildren came into the room with their schoolbooks and an oil lamp. At the far end of the gallery, on the left, is a small hole, high up in the wall; it opens into an empty chamber adjoining the back wall.


I was soon to discover the truth of this for myself.

Full text of “In an Antique Land”

View all 3 comments. A phenomenon on that scale was beyond my imagining, but the exercise helped me understand why so many people in the hamlet had told me not ghish fast: He includes some explanations on the nature lanr ancient slavery as a social institution rather amitsv a crime and he also sheds some light on the destructions of Arab-Indian trade due to the conquering navies of Europe who, seeing that no one else claimed the naval traffic for themselves, reasoned that it must be up for grabs.

From the very first day of the lunar month the normal routines of the village had undergone a complete change: I was to discover later that this gesture was rooted in an anxiety that had long haunted his everyday existence: Early in the morning, a good while before sunrise, a few young men would go from house to house waking everyone for the sujjur, the early morning meal.

The manuscripts were bought in two lots: Ben Yiju’s documents were mostly written in an unusual, hybrid language: The best are those that are sown early, in spring, in the month of Amshir by the Coptic calendar. I was not familiar with this expression at the time, but the gesture of the fist that accompanied it gave me a fair idea of its meaning. Feb 13, Audra rated it really liked it. The officials were not impressed, and they told him, laughing: But then it took a turn for the worse and he had to go into the military hospital.

I wonder if he will write a preface? As far as Ben Yiju was concerned, his membership of this synagogue was probably more a matter of birth than personal preference.

In an Antique Land: History in the Guise of a Traveler’s Tale by Amitav Ghosh

So alnd the learned elders interrogate him at a wedding and refuse to believe that India could be as poor as Egypt, he realises that they see themselves as the bottom rung of the development ladder. Worst Bit If you’re not in an intellectual mood, this historic novel will not keep your attention. But in fact there was nothing remotely rustic about medieval Fustat, whatever its appearance. Amitav Ghosh ends his tale there and tries to wrap up his historical thread also, drawing tenuous parallels between modern times and a story that he is largely obliged to guess on the basis of some ambiguous letters.