The tale of Islam in 15 cities

In The Sunday Telegraph last weekend, the historian Noel Malcolm reviewed Islamic Empires by Justin Marozzi (Allen Lane), a “deeply engaging and fascinating” history of the Islamic world as a series of accounts of 15 cities, from Mecca to Doha. Malcolm says it’s an episodic, impressionistic work, and also, here and there, a personal one. “Marozzi is an Arabic-speaking journalist with decades of experience of the Islamic world; he is good at evoking the atmosphere of these places in the present or the recent past. In Egypt, he tells us, he has been ‘pursued down narrow alleys by incandescent taxi drivers’ and has travelled up the Nile ‘in prostitute-filled riverboats’. Oh well, I concluded, on balance that must be better than being chased down the alleys by incandescent prostitutes, and finding the riverboats full of taxi drivers.”

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