Nasir Khusraw, The Ruby of Badakhshan: A Portrait of the Persian Poet, Traveller and Philosoph

Alice Hunsberger

Two-hundred and fifty years before Marco Polo, another traveler journeyed from East to West. This important and highly readable book is the first comprehensive study of one of the foremost Persian poets, who is also a medieval traveler and philosopher. Following Nasir's first-person account of his seven-year journey in the 11th century, the book takes the reader on a journey from Central Asia to Iran, Armenia, Turkey, Syria, Jerusalem, Egypt, Mecca, and the return trip across Arabian deserts and desolate oases to Basra, across Iran and back to Central Asia. Besides rich descriptions of society and culture of the time, with vivid images of Cairo's markets and bazaars, the annual opening of the Nile River canals, the Hajj to Mecca and its dangers for travelers, and Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock and many shrines to Biblical prophets, the Ruby of Badakhshan liberally sprinkles Alice Hunsberger's original and fresh translations of Nasir's spiritual and philosophical poetry along with careful descriptions of his Shi'ite theology in the Ismaili school. The Ruby of Badakshan is such an accessible work that it has been translated into five languages: Persian (2002); Tajik (2003); Arabic (2005); Russian (2005), Urdu (Karachi 2012). Nominated for British-Kuwaiti Friendship Prize for best book in Middle East Studies by the British Institute for the Study of Middle East Societies (2001).