e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

Archive for the tag “Afghanistan”

‘Empires of the Indus:’ The story of a river

I’ve just finished reading this book by Alice Albinia, and can recommend it to anyone who likes true-life adventure, history or travel.

The author makes a journey along the Indus from the mouth to the source. This is not easy. Much of the river’s route is through unmapped tribal country, and on the borders of India and Pakistan military tensions add to the difficulties.

As she describes her journey she also delves into the history that has passed over this river and its surroundings. Working backwards along the river, she works backwards through time, describing the peoples and events that have left their mark on this part of the subcontinent.

At the mouth she speaks of modern Pakistan, then, as she moves through Sindh, Punjab, Afghanistan and other places her descriptions progress through the British then Moghul empires, Alexander’s conquests, and the arrival of the Aryans and their Rig Veda based religion.

Along with the empires we meet the Sheedis from Africa, the ruined cities of an unknown people, numerous Muslim saints and the spread of Buddhism along the silk road. Further still, in Ladakh and Tibet, are the descendants of ancient peoples and stone-age carvings.

The book ends at what the locals claimed is the source, somewhere on the roof of the world in Tibet.

This is a complex story with many intertwining threads, but I found it easy to keep track of what was happening in the present and had happened in the past.

Not only is this an exciting and readable book, but I learned something new on almost every page – for me, one of the main reasons for reading travel or history writing.

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