on

Of all the travels of an adventurous age, none have been more quirky and colorful than this Victorian traverse of the Middle East by canoe. Transported to the Suez Canal by steamer, the Rob Roy — an oak and cedar one-man kayak canoe — slipped into the water at Port Said and began a six-month voyage from Egypt to the Bay of Acre, a trip brimming with incident and hazards recounted with relish by the intrepid paddler. Stalked by jackals, shadowed by bandits, and attacked by crocodiles, MacGregor battles on to be rewarded with the adventure of a lifetime. This is the Middle East seen from a truly unique perspective — airy minarets, colorful markets and Pashas’ palaces give way to solitary marshes full of strange fishes and reed-lined rivers teeming with bird and animal life seen at close range. The scene again changes to eerie stretches dominated by deserted temples and ruins. Crossing deserts by horseback or steam train when no channel can be found, MacGregor follows great rivers to their sources, explores remote shores, and mixes happily with the many peoples he meets along the way, captured here in all their rich diversity. This is as much a portrait of the way life can be lived as it is of a landscape. It is also a remarkable naturalist’s account and a true-life epic worthy of Jules Verne. Illustrated with charming line drawings and practical notes on the design of the canoe, its provisioning, and the clothes and food necessary for the journey, this is a book that cries out not only to be read but also to be followed.

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