Shibli Numani

May 7, 2021

Turkey, Egypt, and Syria

A Travelogue

Syracuse University Press 2019

Turkey, Egypt, and Syria: A Travelogue (Syracuse UP, 2019) vividly captures the experiences of prominent Indian intellectual and scholar Shibli Nu'mani (1857-1914) as he journeyed across the Ottoman Empire and Egypt in 1892. A professor of Arabic and Persian at the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental (MAO) College at Aligarh, Nu'mani took a six-month leave from teaching to travel to the Ottoman Empire in search of rare printed works and manuscripts to use as sources for a series of biographies on major figures in Islamic history. 

Along the way, he collected information on schools, curricula, publishers, and newspapers, presenting a unique portrait of imperial culture at a transformative moment in the history of the Middle East. Nu'mani records sketches and anecdotes that offer rare glimpses of intellectual networks, religious festivals, visual and literary culture, and everyday life in the Ottoman Empire and Egypt. First published in 1894, the travelogue has since become a classic of Urdu travel writing and has been immensely influential in the intellectual and political history of South Asia. 

This translation by Gregory Maxwell Bruce, the first into English, includes contemporary reviews of the travelogue, letters written by the author during his travels, and serialized newspaper reports about the journey, and is deeply enriched for readers and students by the translator's copious multilingual glosses and annotations. Nu'mani's chronicle offers unique insight into broader processes of historical change in this part of the world while also providing a rare glimpse of intellectual engagement and exchange across the porous borders of empire.

Asad Dandia is a graduate student of Islamic Studies at Columbia University.

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