Sunday, April 20, 2008

From The Holy Mountain By William Dalrymple

William Dalrymple is that sort of a writer you would love to read just because he has written it. For me, he will always be such a writer. Every book of his has been good than the other one. He surely writes a lot about Middle East and Indian Subcontinent. In "From The Holy Mountain: A Journey Among The Christians Of The Middle East", he travels the Silk Route of ancient Byzantium through the present day Middle East retracing the AD 578 journey of John Moschos, a well known Byzantine monk, traveller and historian. All along the way he only sees a dying heritage in form of neglected monasteries, declining number of Christians and great sort of confusion among different religions in the region.

He begins his journey on Mt. Athos after seeing the older manuscript of 'The Spiritual Meadow' (the book by John Moschos), travels to Istanbul, eastern Turkey, Tur Abdin, then on to Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt. Wherever he went, he retraces Moshos' route, visits remains of his era and tries to stay in the same monasteries as Mochos has done centuries ago.

All the while he notices that early Christian presence in the area was very significant and it has been declining steadily ever since. It has been sometime due to political suppression or sometimes just due to better opportunities outside - but in nearly each instance it has taken its toll on the region's culture and heritage. Some of the monasteries mentioned by Mochos are now extinct or destroyed either by time or governments. On the one hand, he notices the differences between Islam and Christianity getting wider and wider down the ages. On the other hand, he still find these religions intermingled together at some holy places praying together for miracles or babies.

Certainly worth a read for its rich description of the place, early times and understanding of current scenarios.

No comments: