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Motoring with Mohammed: Journeys to Yemen and the Red Sea Paperback – February 4, 1992

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage departures ed edition (February 4, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067973855X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679738558
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #200,368 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

In 1978 Eric Hansen found himself shipwrecked on a desert island in the Red Sea. When goat smugglers offered him safe passage to Yemen, he buried seven years' worth of travel journals deep in the sand and took his place alongside the animals on a leaky boat bound for a country that he'd never planned to visit.

As he tells of the turbulent seas that stranded him on the island and of his efforts to retrieve his buried journals when he returned to Yemen ten years later, Hansen enthralls us with a portrait -- uncannily sympathetic and wildly offbeat -- of this forgotten corner of the Middle East. With a host of extraordinary characters from his guide, Mohammed, ever on the lookout for one more sheep to squeeze into the back seat of his car, to madcap expatriates and Eritrean gun runners- and with landscapes that include cities of dreamlike architectural splendor, endless sand dunes, and terrifying mountain passes, Hansen reveals the indelible allure of a land steeped in custom, conflicts old and new, and uncommon beauty.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Hansen's quest for his buried notebooks is a compelling story in itself.
Upon reading this book, you are left with the essence of Yemen, her people, and Mr. Hansen himself.
Craig Derksen
I also think that most of his description of Yemen, at least during the late 70s is very accurate.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By R. Peterson on January 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
Autobiographical in nature, Eric Hansen takes us from a shipwreck on a desert island in the Red Sea in the late 1970s to a decade later in Yemen.  Prior to the shipwreck, Hansen had spent a number of years traveling the globe and had kept journals of his travails and encounters around the world.  He buries the journals on the island once rescue is imminent for fear of losing them to people who might destroy them.  Ten years later, he decides that he needs to come back to grips with that parts of him life and returns to Yemen in the hopes of retrieving the journals.  Hansen spends months in Yemen meeting anyone he thinks might be able to help him pull the right strings, and write the necessary permissions to allow him to return to the little island which is deep in militarily strategic waters.  Although we hope he eventually does retrieve the journals, the stories, the smells, the tastes, the experiences and the wildly odd-ball people he encounters make for an extremely engaging tale in the meantime.  He chews qat, he visits bathouses, he climbs mountains, he suffers in the oppressive heat of the deserts, he avoids being taken as a western hostage (a common practice among Yemeni tribes in their negotiation efforts with the government), and he makes some very unusual acquaintances.  "...in a country where Allah was calling most of the shots, there was little sense in distinguishing between five hours and five weeks." ...we are left with very slight feelings of desolation for the lives of the Yemeni and the state of this country, fairly unknown to the Western world.  To anyone who has traveling in the Middle East, or even those who have done the `young single person in the world' trips in Asia, Africa, or Latin America, will enjoy the spots Hansen gets into and the spirit and resourcefulness he uses to get out of them.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By hugh riminton on April 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
Within three hours of finishing this book, my copy was flogged by a friend who's off for a year in India on an antique motorbike. These adventurers must have some kind of tribal recognition.
"Motoring with Mohammed" is a book in three parts. The first bit is true adventure, storms at sea, a shipwreck, a desert island, the revelation of character among the survivors, brigands, and an unlikely rescue. It's great writing, deft and light, touching beauty and terror.
The second, and major, part of the book recounts Hansen's return to Yemen ten years later to look for a personal treasure he left on the island. In truth, not much happens, but in Eric Hansen's hands it always manages to not happen in an interesting way. His introduction to the local narcotic "qat", his subtle dance with intransigent bureaucracy, his unwise wanderings in high, misty mountains and along the edge of great deserts of The Empty Quarter make this a great read.
Hansen never meets an uninteresting person. Even the hostile and the dull are intriguing or comical in his hands. He gets to travel with sheep and mystic woodsmen, to meet an ageing Frenchwoman under a tragic spell, a toilet inspector, and the ghost of his grandmother. Along the way, he gets to play with his favorite theme: the essence of "destination". He doesn't labour it, but you know what he means.
The third, and briefest, part of his story is an unexpected twist, which neatly closes the circle even if by that stage we hardly require it.
A friend of mind informed me that Yemen ranks bottom of the world for gender equality. Certainly no woman could have written this book. The more reason for us to be grateful for this window on a little-known world. Eric Hansen has written a beguiling and joyous story.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Peggy Vincent on December 10, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book nearly at one sitting, literally sitting, up in bed one night when I should have been sleeping. Four or five times I awakened my husband, shaking the bed with my laughter, especially when Mohammed moved a sheep into the back seat of his taxi for the next five days, saying, "The sheep won't mind."
Eric Hansen has scored with this book, and I've recommended it to probably 40 people and given it as a gift to 5-6.
Read it and enjoy in - on many levels.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Linda Linguvic HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
When Eric Hansen, an American, found himself shipwrecked on an island off the coast of Yemen in 1978, he buried his journals in the sand. Ten years later, he returns to try to retrieve these journals. This book is a result of those travels.
The sights, sounds, and smells surround his narrative, whether describing a storm at sea, impressive architecture or the scent of perfume that follows the veiled women.
There are government restrictions, of course, but he still is treated with hospitality wherever he goes. He joins the men in their communal qat-chewing sessions where whole afternoons are spent under the intoxicating effects of this slightly narcotic drug. He hikes for miles over extremely dangerous terrain. He visits the baths, the bazaars, the prison. And considering the fact that he only speaks English, he manages to have conversations with a wide variety of people. Always, his observations are clear and show his respect for the people of Yemen and their culture.
As an armchair traveler I was delighted with this book. It was wonderful seeing the world through Mr. Hansen's eyes. However, he is a man and so therefore his experiences were that of the male world. This is no fault of the book or of his writing. After all, he only could write about what he experienced.
I recommend this book heartily. It brought me to Yemen, taught be about the land and the people, and expanded my appreciation and depth of understanding of a place I will likely never visit. For this I thank the author.
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