Review: Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah

Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah
Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah by Richard Francis Burton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton’s 19th travelogue is simply fascinating. In disguise and (I’m assuming he’s accurate in this) at great risk to himself, Burton made a pilgrimage to Medina and Mecca. His intimate observations of customs, daily life, and travel in a foreign land are the sort that one sees best through the fresh eyes of an outsider, but normally an outsider would be denied that vantage. Burton pulled it off, and he did a damned good job of putting it all on paper.

I don’t care much for Burton himself, but neither did Victorian society. If we met in person I’d probably consider him as genuinely dangerous as he is morally offensive, but none of that prevents me from appreciating his peculiar sort of genius. If you have them, I recommend overlooking any reservations you may have about the man. The Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah is too rich a treasure to ignore.

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