Yemen, Travels in Dictionary Land (U.S title Yemen, the Unknown Arabia)

Yemen, the unknown Arabia 

Published in hardback in 1997 and paperback in 2001.

"Mackintosh-Smith's is a book of irresistible digressions, and whether they deal with coffee or astrology or the history of Yemen's rulers, they are so lightly folded into the text that you are seldom aware of how much necessary and fascinating detail has been put across. Mackintosh-Smith seems incapable of writing a dull sentence, and in him the scholar, the linguist and the storyteller swap hats with marvelous speed....It is a fact that Westerners go to pieces over Arabia, go half mad trying to express its essence and appeal [but] Mackintosh-Smith has kept his cool, enough to know what we want and what we are due. He delivers it grandly." New York Times Book Review

"In travel literature there always lurks the risk of the traveler's disappointment, the place at the end of the journey turning out to be a swindle or a counterfeit. There is nothing of that in Mackintosh-Smith. Through his eyes, Yemen, the Arabia Felix of travelers past, is the repository of some deep, uncontaminated truth...." Washington Post

Against the advice of his Arabic teacher ("Why don't you go somewhere respectable?"), Mackintosh-Smith decided to go to Yemen in 1982 and has "been there ever since." As a result, this is no ordinary travelogue, but an impressionistic exploration of a non-Western land by an experienced observer. A latter-day Lawrence of Arabia without the military exploits, the author has taken up many of the customs of his adoptive land: he's become addicted to qat, a plant that is chewed, often in groups, for its calming effects. The book, a bestseller in Britain, takes the reader on Mackintosh-Smith's travels throughout this south Arabian land, introducing the reader to both wizened Yemenis and the perils of roughing it--even in the late 20th century--throughout a mainly unexplored land. Sleepless nights on rocky inclines mix with desert heat and scorpions on one trip through the countryside, while an odd visit to a Yemeni dancing club highlights his trip to the city of Aden. An engaging writer with a journalist's eye for detail, Mackintosh-Smith never loses his sense of humor: his description of his visit to an English class, where the teacher asks the students, "How many noses does Professor Tim have?" is sidesplitting. The book offers an opportunity for dedicated armchair travelers to delight in a land few Westerners will actually visit. Publishers's Weekly

Not merely a book about Yemen, but about how one person has come to find contentment there, despite the vicissitudes of civil war and violence, and despite those aspects of daily life in Yemen which make one realise how precarious life itself can be. Al Bab

Yemen, the unknown Arabia