In 1177, Pope Alexander III wrote a letter to the legendary PriestKing of the Indies, Prester John. As his emissary he chose his physician Master Philip. No one knew where the elusive monarch's kingdom lay (or whether he even existed), but Master Philip was undeterred and set out from Rome...and was never heard of again. Centuries later Nick Jubber found a copy of the Pope's letter and conceived a plan: to complete Master Philip's mission and deliver the letter, albeit eight hundred and twenty four years late. Crammed full of arcane history and learned trivia, both ancient and modern, The Prester Quest is the author's colourful account of a remarkable journey that began in Italy, encompassed the Middle East and ended in Ethiopia, at the subterranean tomb of a medieval king. Combining a young man's enthusiasm with an historian's understanding of time and place and a traveller's eye for the people and places he meets on the way, it's an ebullient, extremely readable (and somewhat eccentric) account of an extraordinary adventure.
An engrossing blend of travel writing and history, Drinking Arak off an Ayatollah’s Beard traces one man’s adventure-filled journey through today’s Iran, Afghanistan, and Central Asia, and describes his remarkable attempt to make sense of the present by delving into the past.
Setting out to gain insight into the lives of Iranians and Afghans today, Nicholas Jubber is surprised to uncover the legacy of a vibrant pre-Islamic Persian culture that has endured even in times of the most fanatic religious fundamentalism. Everywhere--from underground dance parties to religious shrines to opium dens--he finds powerful and unbreakable connections to a time when both Iran and Afghanistan were part of the same mighty empire, when the flame of Persian culture lit up the world.
Whether through his encounters with poets and cab drivers or run-ins with “pleasure daughters” and mujahideen, again and again Jubber is drawn back to the eleventh-century Persian epic, the Shahnameh (“Book of Kings”). The poem becomes not only his window into the region’s past, but also his link to its tumultuous present, and through it Jubber gains access to an Iran and Afghanistan seldom revealed or depicted: inside-out worlds in which he has tea with a warlord, is taught how to walk like an Afghan, and even discovers, on a night full of bootleg alcohol and dancing, what it means to drink arak off an Ayatollah’s beard.