- 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 0.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 50 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #402,924 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Motoring with Mohammed: Journeys to Yemen and the Red Sea Paperback – February 4, 1992
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From the Inside Flap
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
About the Author
Eric Hansen lives in San Francisco, but over the last twenty-five years he has traveled throughout Europe, the Middle East, Australia, Nepal, and Southeast Asia. He is the author of Stranger in the Forest, Motoring with Mohammed, and Orchid Fever. His articles, photographs, and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, National Geographic, Travel & Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, and Outside magazine, among other publications worldwide.
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Eric Hansen's book reveals so much of the culture of life in Yemen in the late 20th century, and I am truly grateful to him for this gift of wisdom. Plus, what an adventure. He went through many wonderful travel dreams that many of us have thought of, but in reality they are probably just as dangerous or even more so than what happened to Hansen during his first trip to Yemen. I still focus on his description of the beauty of living in solitude after the shipwreck with his companions and, for a certain time, being free from the constraints and expectations of the outside world. How many of us have not dreamed of spending some time on a deserted island?
What also resonated with me was the basis of his return to Yemen ten years after the shipwreck. Ever since reading "Into the Wild", I learned of the possible utility of burying valuables and coming back for them later. This was beneficial and successful for McCandless, but for Hansen it turned in to a adventure that by necessity gained him access to the colorful spectrum of Yemeni culture that could only be experienced by a "Westerner" years ago, and even then it was fraught with difficulty.
This was the second book I have read by Hansen and I am truly impressed and fulfilled by the way he creates the narrative. This book is a beautiful and brilliantly unique journey and it was amazing to experience it through his eyes, ears and spirit.
Peripatetic scribblers wander to such obvious destinations as Italy, France, Greece, China, India, Australia, the Amazon, or Alaska, then write a book to tell the rest of us vegetables all about it. Here in MOTORING WITH MOHAMMED, accomplished travel writer Eric Hansen immerses the reader in North Yemen. (Where, you say?) North Yemen squatted next to the Red Sea just to the south of southwest Saudi Arabia, and joined with South Yemen in 1990 to become the Republic of Yemen.
Hansen's narrative is served up in two parts. Well, three, actually. The first takes place in 1978 when, after a 7-year period of wandering in other backwaters, the author is shipwrecked in the yacht "Clea", on which he was part of a five-person crew, on the uninhabited North Yemen island of Uqban. The first four chapters describe this experience, during which, for safekeeping, he buried on the island the wrapped journals of his previous adventures. The trouble is, he forgot to take them along when he and his companions were eventually rescued after fourteen days.
The book's second part - thirteen chapters - takes place during a ten-week period a decade later when Hansen returns to North Yemen to retrieve his cached journals. Unbeknownst to him, however, is that Uqban Island lay in a security zone virtually inaccessible to foreigners. This fact becomes frustratingly clear as he unsuccessfully conspires with local help to cross the twenty miles of water separating the mainland from the island. Meanwhile, he cools his heels exploring, and falling in love with, much of the rest of the country. It's this developing love affair with North Yemen that's the basis for most of MOTORING WITH MOHAMMED.
Whether he's tiptoeing across a precarious slope in the interior mountains, or witnessing the execution of a murderer, or participating in a communal qat chew, or sweating in a bathhouse, or feasting on stewed sheep's heads, Eric has a talent for observing the details that enrich the subsequent tale:
"There is a trick to cracking open the skulls. You place the thumb of one hand in an eye socket (with the eyeball still intact), and span the skull and grip the roof of the mouth with the fingers. The other hand grasps the lower jaw. A sharp twisting motion is accompanied by a sickening snap and a popping sound. When done properly, the slippery skull and jawbone come away in two pieces. Then you prise open the cranium." (Happily, this passage refers to the feast, not the execution.)
As the eighteenth and last chapter reveals, the author made the fortuitous acquaintance of the Yemeni ambassador to the United States at a Washington, D.C. photo exhibit of his nation's architecture eight months after the former returned to America sans journals. In the Middle East especially, it's all about whom you know. Thus, five months after that, Eric, shovel in hand, is sloshing through the Yemeni surf to a "fishing boat that smelled of rancid shark oil and pureed dates", which, Allah willing, can convey him and an agent of the National Security Police across the sea to Uqban. Truly, as the title of this chapter implies, "It was written."
I shall most certainly never make it to Yemen. Yes, researching "San'a", the capital of Yemen, on the Web does almost compel me to visit on a whim. But, being married, my own happy-go-lucky journeying days are over. Besides, Yemen seems at times to be, um, a bit too raw. But, through Hansen's eyes and wonderfully evocative prose, I'm taken there in fine style, and that's what a five-star travel essay is all about.
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.
I shall read it again. It's one I saved just for that purpose.
I really recommend this book for anyone interested in the Yemeni culture or just for the appreciation of this author's wit and writing skills.