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North Africa and the Middle East




Between the Desert and the Deep Blue Sea, Gill Suttle - “This is the finest book ever penned about equestrian travel in Syria. It’s full of adventure, as well as being poetic in its search for a deeper meaning to the journey.”

To those for whom the name of Syria conjures up images of George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil”, or who picture the Middle East in general to be a place of endemic unrest or squabbling religious factions, this book will come as a revelation. Here they will discover a nation where all clans and creeds live in enviable harmony, their goodwill towards each other exceeded only by the warmth of their welcome to an eccentric foreigner.

Syria’s people represent the top layer of a multi-dimensional mosaic;  for few countries possess such a diversity of culture, religion, topography or historical legacy. This is the story of a journey into more than one landscape.

A passion for Arab horses and a long acquaintance with Syria inspired the author to travel on horseback into the backwoods of this fascinating land in 1998. Here is an account greatly differing from those of some recent equestrian travel books, which describe heavily organised expeditions complete with logistics team, back-up lorry, spare horses and all the latest equipment. In contrast, this traveller enjoyed a relaxed, spontaneous ramble, living out of home-made saddlebags, enjoying the hospitality of local people and often sleeping rough. Best of all, her companion was that of her wildest childhood fantasies: an Arab stallion.

Together horse and rider traversed the gorges and cornfields of the Orontes valley, where Roman water wheels still work alongside modern irrigation; lost themselves among the ridges and passes of the Alawi Mountain, whose various minority sects live happily together and whose ruined castles recall the times of the Crusades; briefly touched the Mediterranean shore, before crossing the western reaches of the Badiat ash-Sham, or Syrian Desert, on the way down to the Damascus Oasis. They trod where an Egyptian Pharaoh gave battle, supped with descendants of Biblical Assyrians and mediaeval Assassins, and visited the Jebel-ad-Din, or Mountain of Faith, where villagers still speak Aramaic, the language of Christ.

While briefly informed by history, Islam and its offshoots, geography and - where absolutely unavoidable - politics, this delightful book is principally an account of the people of Syria - and of a gallant and memorable horse.

Illustrated with maps and a fine selection of photographs.

For more information about this book, please visit Barnes & Noble or Amazon.co.uk.


By Desert Ways to Baghdad and Damascus, Louisa Jebb - Every age witnesses the birth of some great soul. Sometimes events bring these people to the attention of the world. More often than not, they alter the lives around them, then pass on quietly. Such a soul belonged to the author of this cherished book.

There was nothing in Louisa Jebb’s comfortable Victorian youth to indicate she would one day take to the saddle and pen one of the most eloquent equestrian travel books ever written.

Yet in the early years of the 20th century, Jebb set out with a female companion to cross the Turkish Empire on horseback. To say they were unprepared to become Long Riders would be an understatement. Neither of them could speak the local language. Furthermore, both wore cumbersome full-length skirts and rode side-saddles. They were, in a word, enthusiastic amateurs who believed courage and common sense would see them through. Remarkably, it did.

Having hired a picturesque guide and reliable horses, they set out to explore the secret corners of the Sultan’s empire. What they discovered were guarded harems and regal Pashas, fabled rivers and a desert world of intense beauty. If Jebb rode into Turkey expecting to find adventure, she found it. Yet she discovered something else – nomadic freedom. It is her personal observations about this subject that set “By Desert Ways to Baghdad and Damascus” apart from other equestrian travel books. “In the untravelled parts of the East you reign supreme, there is no need to go about securely chained to a gold watch. Ignore Time, and he is your servant,” she observed wisely.

Sadly, revolution and death soon swept across this fabled land, wiping away the kingdom of the Turkish Caliphs and laying the foundations for the grief which enshrouds this unhappy part of the world today. Upon her return to “civilization” the author lamented about what she had found, then lost. “Last night we were dirty, isolated and free, tonight we are clean, sociable and trammelled. Last night the setting sun’s final message was burnt into us. Tonight the sunset passed unheeded as we sit imprisoned and oppressed by the confining walls of Damascus Palace Hotel. We are no longer princesses whose hands are kissed. We are now judged by the cost of our raiment.”

Few books contain as many great abiding truths as this one does.

Click here to go to Amazon.co.uk or Barnes & Noble

ISBN 1590481771

Mogreb-El-Acksa, Robert Cunninghame Graham - What rare spark motivates a man to do the impossible – again and again?  What manner of man destroys the boundaries of the word “unobtainable” and replaces it with the words “why not”?  Meet Robert Cunninghame Graham, the author of this book and a living legend of the late 19th century.

Disillusioned with politics, the famous horseman sought solace in the saddle.  His mission?

To journey across Morocco in 1897 by riding through the Atlas mountains and reaching the city of Taroudant

Of course there was one small problem.

The Sultan had forbidden outsiders, especially Christians, from going there.

Don Roberto flouted the danger, saddled his Barb horse and galloped straight into the teeth of one of the greatest desert stories ever told. Disguised in local clothes and calling himself “Sheikh Mohammad El Fasi,” the Scottish author posing as a Turkish doctor was only hours away from the elusive city when he was captured and kidnapped.

This book, an instant best-seller, brought praises from Joseph Conrad, H.G. Wells and Bernard Shaw, who all agreed it was a rare book written by a man so kaleidoscopic in character that he defied belief.  Visit Barnes & Noble or Amazon.co.uk


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