With Tim Mackintosh-Smith's journey into Yemen, we are again in that special world: A place of mystery beckons, and a child of England travels deep into it, delights in its wonders and is kept going, after another adventure, a day's ride away, by the spell of the place. Though Mackintosh-Smith doesn't say much about himself, the promptings of his journey are familiar to us. He was young and studying Arabic at Oxford. He tired of the "abstruse and arcane mysteries" and "wrought prose" of classical Arabic and talked his tutor into helping him to go to Yemen. He had had that Yemen fixation for some time, contracted it as a young boy after a visit to the Museum of Mankind in London, where he had seen a recreation of a corner of the market of Yemen's capital city, San'a. For years, Mackintosh-Smith had lived with a Yemen of his imagination, "peopled with faces seen in books; faces which were proud but not ignorant, grave but not severe, delicate but not weak, their eyes intensified by kohl and calligraphic eyebrows." He journeyed to Yemen in 1982, has been there ever since, and the love of that country animates and fills this arresting and passionate book.
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