The Places in Between

( 45 )


In January 2002 Rory Stewart walked across Afghanistan-surviving by his wits, his knowledge of Persian dialects and Muslim customs, and the kindness of strangers. By day he passed through mountains covered in nine feet of snow, hamlets burned and emptied by the Taliban, and communities thriving amid the remains of medieval civilizations. By night he slept on villagers' floors, shared their meals, and listened to their stories of the recent and ancient past. Along the way Stewart met heroes and rogues, tribal ...

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In January 2002 Rory Stewart walked across Afghanistan-surviving by his wits, his knowledge of Persian dialects and Muslim customs, and the kindness of strangers. By day he passed through mountains covered in nine feet of snow, hamlets burned and emptied by the Taliban, and communities thriving amid the remains of medieval civilizations. By night he slept on villagers' floors, shared their meals, and listened to their stories of the recent and ancient past. Along the way Stewart met heroes and rogues, tribal elders and teenage soldiers, Taliban commanders and foreign-aid workers. He was also adopted by an unexpected companion-a retired fighting mastiff he named Babur in honor of Afghanistan's first Mughal emperor, in whose footsteps the pair was following.

Through these encounters-by turns touching, con-founding, surprising, and funny-Stewart makes tangible the forces of tradition, ideology, and allegiance that shape life in the map's countless places in between.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher


"A striding, glorious book . . . Learned but gentle, tough but humane, Stewart . . . writes with a mystic’s appreciation of the natural world, a novelist’s sense of character and a comedian’s sense of timing . . . A flat-out masterpiece . . . The Places in Between is, in very nearly every sense, too good to be true."—The New York Times Book Review
 "A splendid tale that is by turns wryly humorous, intensely observant, and humanely unsentimental."—Christian Science Monitor
"Stupendous . . . an instant travel classic."—Entertainment Weekly
"Stewart’s 36-day walk across Afghanistan, starting just weeks after the fall of the Taliban, sets a new standard for cool nerve and hot determination . . . His description of the landscapes he traverses makes you feel you’re accompanying him through a shifting, sculpted painting . . . Sublimely written."—The Seattle Times
"Stunning . . . That he has written a remarkable memoir of his trek might contribute greatly not only to our reading pleasure, but to our understanding of Afghanistan in the 21st century . . . The Places in Between effectively depicts the spectacularly stark landscape, the utter poverty and the devastation of decades of war. But far more interesting are the men . . . Stewart met along the way." —The Plain Dealer


Seattle Times
"Sets a new standard for cool nerve and hot determination...Sublimely written."
The New York Times Book Review
"A flat-out masterpiece...In very nearly every sense, too good to be true."
Entertainment Weekly
" instant travel classic."
Christian Science Monitor
"A splendid tale that is by turns wryly humorous, intensely observant, and humanely unsentimental."
The Plain Dealer
"Stunning...Contribute[s] greatly not only to our reading pleasure, but to our understanding of Afghanistan."
Tom Bissell
The book is replete with fascinating, if fearfully context-dependent, travel tips. If you are forced to lie about being a Muslim, claim you're from Indonesia, a Muslim nation few non-Indonesian Muslims know much about. Open land undefiled by sheep droppings has most likely been mined. If you're taking your donkey to high altitudes, slice open its nostrils to allow greater oxygen flow. Don't carry detailed maps, since they tend to suggest 007 affinities. If, finally, you're determined to do something as recklessly stupid as walk across a war zone, your surest bet to quash all the inevitable criticism is to write a flat-out masterpiece. Stewart did. Stewart has. The Places in Between is, in very nearly every sense, too good to be true.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
We never really find out why Stewart decided to walk across Afghanistan only a few months after the Taliban were deposed, but what emerges from the last leg of his two-year journey across Asia is a lesson in good travel writing. By turns harrowing and meditative, Stewart's trek through Afghanistan in the footsteps of the 15th-century emperor Babur is edifying at every step, grounded by his knowledge of local history, politics and dialects. His prose is lean and unsentimental: whether pushing through chest-high snow in the mountains of Hazarajat or through villages still under de facto Taliban control, his descriptions offer a cool assessment of a landscape and a people eviscerated by war, forgotten by time and isolated by geography. The well-oiled apparatus of his writing mimics a dispassionate camera shutter in its precision. But if we are to accompany someone on such a highly personal quest, we want to know who that person is. Unfortunately, Stewart shares little emotional background; the writer's identity is discerned best by inference. Sometimes we get the sense he cares more for preserving history than for the people who live in it (and for whom historical knowledge would be luxury). But remembering Geraldo Rivera's gunslinging escapades, perhaps we could use less sap and more clarity about this troubled and fascinating country. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
"Engaging and eminently readable...A masterly job."
Kirkus Reviews
"Remarkable...Gripping account of a courageous journey, observed with a scholar's eye and a humanitarian's heart."
Seattle Times
"Sets a new standard for cool nerve and hot determination...Sublimely written."
Library Journal
There are many ways a Westerner can travel to new lands and experience new cultures. One way is to fly in comfort and stay in luxury hotels. Then there is the old-fashioned way, as experienced by Stewart (The Prince of the Marshes), the author of this engaging and eminently readable book. A Scotsman who has written for periodicals on both sides of the Atlantic, he decided to explore Afghanistan by walking across the country. This book is the resulting narrative of what turned out to be a 20-month trek from Herat to Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, a journey that Stewart began in January 2002 after he had spent 16 months walking across Iran, Pakistan, India, and Nepal. Stewart has done a masterly job of relating stories of many of the villages and villagers that he encountered, receiving shelter and food and kindness from strangers. He successfully conveys the intricacies of Afghanistan's culture and tradition. Highly recommended for all public libraries.-Nader Entessar, Spring Hill Coll., Mobile, AL Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Just after the fall of the Taliban, a doughty Scot walks across Afghanistan from Herat to Kabul, observing, studying, starving, freezing, encountering poverty, cruelty, ignorance, generosity, warmth and terror. Published in the U.K. in 2004, this remarkable text paves the way for Stewart's account of his subsequent adventures in Iraq, The Prince of the Marshes, to be released in the U.S. in August. His stroll through Afghanistan was part of an extensive peregrination across Iran, Pakistan, India and Nepal, and the author confesses that he can't really explain why he did it. Instead, he records in plain prose a frightening journey across a land only the naive could call a nation. Stewart passed from the control of one "big man" to another, plagued by dysentery and always in danger from the elements. But the locals' repeated warnings to not travel alone had less to do with the weather than with the whims of the Afghans he was likely to meet, armed and governed by only the most primitive moral codes. In various harrowing moments, Stewart was roughed up by young warriors, had to listen while armed men discussed raping young women (or one another) and kept walking while fully expecting a bullet in the back. His keen sense of when to persist and when to yield enabled him to survive. Stewart generally found shelter and simple food along his tortuous route, though often only with much complication. (It helped that he spoke several Persian dialects and was familiar with the region's history, mythology and religious customs.) He saw unspeakable poverty and encountered deep ignorance of the outside world. Along the way, a huge, nearly feral earless dog joined him after being tormented in itsvillage. Their eventual parting is only one heartbreaking moment in a narrative of painful poignancy. Gripping account of a courageous journey, observed with a scholar's eye and a humanitarian's heart.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780156031561
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 4/24/2006
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 190,606
  • Lexile: 980L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Rory Stewart

RORY STEWART is the bestselling author of The Places in Between and The Prince of the Marshes. A former director of the Carr Centre for Human Rights Policy and Ryan Professor of Human Rights at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, he was awarded the Order of the British Empire for services in Iraq. He is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Penrith and The Border, a constituency in Northern Cumbria, where he lives with his wife.

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Read an Excerpt

The New Civil Service
I watched two men enter the lobby of the Hotel Mowafaq.
           Most Afghans seemed to glide up the center of the lobby staircase with their shawls trailing behind them like Venetian cloaks. But these men wore Western jackets, walked quietly, and stayed close to the banister. I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was the hotel manager.
           “Follow them.” He had never spoken to me before.
           “I’m sorry, no,” I said. “I am busy.”
           “Now. They are from the government.”
           I followed him to a room on a floor I didn’t know existed and he told me to take off my shoes and enter alone in my socks. The two men were seated on a heavy blackwood sofa, beside an aluminum spittoon. They were still wearing their shoes. I smiled. They did not. The lace curtains were drawn and there was no electricity in the city; the room was dark.
           “Chi kar mikonid?” (What are you doing?) asked the man in the black suit and collarless Iranian shirt. I expected him to stand and, in the normal way, shake hands and wish me peace. He remained seated.
           “Salaam aleikum” (Peace be with you), I said, and sat down.
           “Waleikum a-salaam. Chi kar mikonid?” he repeated quietly, leaning back and running his fat manicured hand along the purple velveteen arm of the sofa. His bouffant hair and goatee were neatly trimmed. I was conscious of not having shaved in eight weeks.
           “I have explained what I am doing many times to His Excellency, Yuzufi, in the Foreign Ministry,” I said. “I was told to meet him again now. I am late.”
           A pulse was beating strongly in my neck. I tried to breathe slowly. Neither of us spoke. After a little while, I looked away.
           The thinner man drew out a small new radio, said something into it, and straightened his stiff jacket over his traditional shirt. I didn’t need to see the shoulder holster. I had already guessed they were members of the Security Service. They did not care what I said or what I thought of them. They had watched people through hidden cameras in bedrooms, in torture cells, and on execution grounds. They knew that, however I presented myself, I could be reduced. But why had they decided to question me? In the silence, I heard a car reversing in the courtyard and then the first notes of the call to prayer.
           “Let’s go,” said the man in the black suit. He told me to walk in front. On the stairs, I passed a waiter to whom I had spoken. He turned away. I was led to a small Japanese car parked on the dirt forecourt. The car’s paint job was new and it had been washed recently. They told me to sit in the back. There was nothing in the pockets or on the floorboards. It looked as though the car had just come from the factory. Without saying anything, they turned onto the main boulevard.
           It was January 2002. The American-led coalition was ending its bombardment of the Tora Bora complex; Usama Bin Laden and Mullah Mohammed Omar had escaped; operations in Gardez were beginning. The new government taking over from the Taliban had been in place for two weeks. The laws banning television and female education had been dropped; political prisoners had been released; refugees were returning home; some women were coming out without veils. The UN and the U.S. military were running the basic infrastructure and food supplies. There was no frontier guard and I had entered the country without a visa. The Afghan government seemed to me hardly to exist. Yet these men were apparently well established.
           The car turned into the Foreign Ministry, and the gate guards saluted and stood back. As I climbed the stairs, I felt that I was moving unnaturally quickly and that the men had noticed this. A secretary showed us into Mr. Yuzufi’s office without knocking. For a moment Yuzufi stared at us from behind his desk. Then he stood, straightened his baggy pin-striped jacket, and showed the men to the most senior position in the room. They walked slowly on the linoleum flooring, looking at the furniture Yuzufi had managed to assemble since he had inherited an empty office: the splintered desk, the four mismatched filing cabinets in different shades of olive green, and the stove, which made the room smell strongly of gasoline.
           The week I had known Yuzufi comprised half his career in the Foreign Ministry. A fortnight earlier he had been in Pakistan. The day before he had given me tea and a boiled sweet, told me he admired my journey, laughed at a photograph of my father in a kilt, and discussed Persian poetry. This time he did not greet me but instead sat in a chair facing me and asked, “What has happened?”
           Before I could reply, the man with the goatee cut in. “What is this foreigner doing here?”
           “These men are from the Security Service,” said Yuzufi.
           I nodded. I noticed that Yuzufi had clasped his hands together and that his hands, like mine, were trembling slightly.
           “I will translate to make sure you understand what they are asking,” continued Yuzufi. “Tell them your intentions. Exactly as you told me.”
           I looked into the eyes of the man on my left. “I am planning to walk across Afghanistan. From Herat to Kabul. On foot.” I was not breathing deeply enough to complete my phrases. I was surprised they didn’t interrupt. “I am following in the footsteps of Babur, the first emperor of Mughal India. I want to get away from the roads. Journalists, aid workers, and tourists mostly travel by car, but I—”
           “There are no tourists,” said the man in the stiff jacket, who had not yet spoken. “You are the first tourist in Afghanistan. It is midwinter—there are three meters of snow on the high passes, there are wolves, and this is a war. You will die, I can guarantee. Do you want to die?”
           “Thank you very much for your advice. I note those three points.” I guessed from his tone that such advice was intended as an order. “But I have spoken to the Cabinet,” I said, misrepresenting a brief meeting with the young secretary to the Minister of Social Welfare. “I must do this journey.”
           “Do it in a year’s time,” said the man in the black suit.
           He had taken from Yuzufi the tattered evidence of my walk across South Asia and was examining it: the clipping from the newspaper in western Nepal, “Mr. Stewart is a pilgrim for peace”; the letter from the Conservator, Second Circle, Forestry Department, Himachal Pradesh, India, “Mr. Stewart, a Scot, is interested in the environment”; from a District Officer in the Punjab and a Secretary of the Interior in a Himalayan state and a Chief Engineer of the Pakistan Department of Irrigation requesting “All Executive Engineers (XENs) on the Lower Bari Doab to assist Mr. Stewart, who will be undertaking a journey on foot to research the history of the canal system.”
           “I have explained this,” I added, “to His Excellency the Emir’s son, the Minister of Social Welfare, when he also gave me a letter of introduction.”
           “From His Excellency Mir Wais?”
           “Here.” I handed over the sheet of letterhead paper I had received from the Minister’s secretary. “Mr. Stewart is a medieval antiquary interested in the anthropology of Herat.”
           “But it is not signed.”
           “Mr. Yuzufi lost the signed copy.”
           Yuzufi, who was staring at the ground, nodded slightly.
           The two men talked together for a few minutes. I did not try to follow what they were saying. I noticed, however, that they were using Iranian—not Afghan—Persian. This and their clothes and their manner made me think they had spent a great deal of time with the Iranian intelligence services. I had been questioned by the Iranians, who seemed to suspect me of being a spy. I did not want to be questioned by them again.
           The man in the stiff jacket said, “We will allow him to walk to Chaghcharan. But our gunmen will accompany him all the way.” Chaghcharan was halfway between Herat and Kabul and about a fortnight into my journey.
           The villagers with whom I was hoping to stay would be terrified by a secret police escort. This was presumably the point. But why were they letting me do the journey at all when they could expel me? I wondered if they were looking for money. “Thank you so much for your concern for my security,” I said, “but I am quite happy to take the risk. I have walked alone across the other Asian countries without any problems.”
           “You will take the escort,” said Yuzufi, interrupting for the first time. “That is nonnegotiable.”
           “But I have introductions to the local commanders. I will be much safer with them than with Heratis.”
           “You will go with our men,” he repeated.
           “I cannot afford to pay for an escort. I have no money.”
           “We were not expecting any money,” said the man in the stiff jacket.
           “This is nonnegotiable,” repeated Yuzufi. His broad knee was now jigging up and down. “If you refuse this you will be expelled from the country. They want to know how many of their gunmen you are taking.”
           “If it is compulsory, one.”
           “Two . . . with weapons,” said the man in the dark suit, “and you will leave tomorrow.”
           The two men stood up and left the room. They said good-bye to Yuzufi but not to me.

Copyright © Rory Stewart 2004
Illustrations copyright © 2006 by Rory Stewart
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be submitted online at or mailed to the following address:
Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc.,
6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

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Table of Contents

Preface xi
The New Civil Service 1
Tanks into Sticks 6
Whether on the Shores of Asia 10
Part One 15
Chicago and Paris 17
Huma 19
Fare Forward 23
These Boots 30
Part Two 35
Qasim 37
Impersonal Pronoun 44
A Tajik Village 48
The Emir of the West 50
Caravanserai, Whose Portals . . . 56To a Blind Man’s Eye 62
Genealogies 69
Lest He Returning Chide . . . 74
Crown Jewels 85
Bread and Water 90
The Fighting Man Shall 95
A Nothing Man 99
Part Three 103
Highland Buildings 105
The Missionary Dance 112
Mirrored Cat’s-Eye Shades 117
Marrying a Muslim 120
War Dog 127
Commandant Haji (Moalem) Mohsin Khan of Kamenj 134
Cousins 141
Part Four 145
The Minaret of Jam 147
Traces in the Ground 157
Between Jam and Chaghcharan 161
Dawn Prayers 164
Little Lord 167
Frogs 172
The Windy Place 177 

Part Five 183
Name Navigation 185
The Greeting of Strangers 192
Leaves on the Ceiling 197
Flames 200
Zia of Katlish 203
The Sacred Guest 208
The Cave of Zarin 212
Devotions 217
The Defiles of the Valley 220
Part Six 227
The Intermediate Stages of Death 229
Winged Footprints 231
Blair and the Koran 234
Salt Ground and Spikenard 239
Pale Circles in Walls 242 245
While the Note Lasts 250

Part Seven 255
Footprints on the Ceiling 257
I Am the Zoom 260
Karaman 262
Khalili’s Troops 266
And I Have Mine 270
The Scheme of Generation 273
The Source of the Kabul River 276
Taliban 279
Toes 285
Marble 289
Epilogue 295
Acknowledgments 299

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 45 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 45 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 8, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Diary of a Madman

    Rory Stewart is either incredibly brave, or totally insane. But whatever the influence may be, he has written a deep and insightful journal on his travels through a country that is often misunderstood and feared. In 2002, Stewart traveled to Afghanistan to walk across it. This walk took him from Herat to Kabul, roughly a 500 mile trek, following the trail of Babur, the first emperor of the Mughal empire. The first half of his expedition he was companied by 3 men, 2 of which were ordered to walk with him by the new Afghan government's secret police. These men gave Stewart many glimpses into the sociological culture of the people without saying anything to him outside of normal conversation.
    The book is more of a journal that was polished. I found this very refreshing, and made his experience very real to me, especially with his personal drawings included, from people to artifacts to random objects nearby. Stewart often describes his thoughts and feelings towards a situation, adding detail to the author himself.
    Yet Stewart never truly reveals WHY he is traveling so far, across such a dangerous route in January through a country of poverty stricken people. He does not delve far into descriptions, of either people, objects or locations, which makes the book rather dry and Stewart seem distant.
    I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in travel as a whole, culture immersion, Afghanistan or just looking for a good story. Stewarts style of writing keeps the reader engaged but gives them room to think and form their own opinions.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 23, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A man who finds a place in life where he is home.

    Pretty much a story about this man's quest to bring antiquity thru to the modern age while trying to recapture what made this country beautiful; it's ancient art and history where much has been eradicated by a self-mutilating people frozen in time, who are caught in a vicious political cycle of upheaval and re-birth thru the centuries. He seems to bring out what's left of hope in a hopeless struggle for peace in a region with many conflicts of interest.
    It's also about a people who are bound to a life they hate and love at the same time. A land of Cain and Abel.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    One of my all-time favorite books...a surefire classic

    I had access to a hard copy of this book as I listened to Rory read it on CD. I am completely in awe of his heroic walk through the mountains from Herat to Kabul in war-torn Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban government in 2002. I learned more from his journey than from many other things I have read about Afghanistan, excepting perhaps Didier Lefèvre's book The Photographer, which is a excellent visual accompaniment to this volume. Stewart managed to distill the thousands of interactions he experienced on his month-long walk into revealing vignettes that amuse, instruct, terrify, and sadden us. That he developed a deep and abiding respect for Afghanistan and it's people is obvious and infectious. I was pleased to learn of his return to Kabul, and of his role as Executive Director the Turquoise Mountain Foundation of Kabul. I'd give much to be there with him.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 13, 2010

    Rory Stewart has written a beautiful book about Afghanistan -- from the perspective of the ground. I have never read anything like it.

    When I bought "The Places in Between," I expected it to be well-written and interesting. I did not expect to become personally involved in Agha Rory's deeply meaningful quest to walk across Afghanistan. I was grateful that the obligation of hospitality required good treatment of a guest, and I was personally offended when the hospitality fell short. In contrast to my response, the author does not judge. He desribes what he sees of this war-torn country with rich but brutal traditions colliding with Soviet, Taliban, and the very recent (in the winter of 2001 and 2002) US led invasion.

    It felt like the author was recording his thoughts and sending me a letter every few days describing his journey, the country, and the people along the way. I really enjoyed my journey -- minus blisters, dysentery, and extreme weather. When I finished the book, I immediately missed Agha Rory and hearing about his amazing adventure.

    I recommend the book for young adults, book clubs, and the adventerous at heart.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Great story of a journey and a country.

    Anyone interested even the slightest in Afghanistan and it's people should read this book. It's a great story about the author's journey across the country (on foot no less) and all of the people that he meets and interacts with. Not only is it a great travel tale but the author also brings great historical perspective to bear on his experiences which gives the reader an even greater insight into Afghanistan.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A Journey through ancient Afganistan to today's war torn country

    I loved this book. A modern day Marco Polo interweaves his walking journey across Afganistan with this beautiful country's history. This story makes me wish I were more adventursome and could have done something such as this. It also gave me a peek into another world that is still firmly rooted in the 11th century, a different culture of tribal war lords, and a sampling of Afganistan's history that will break your heart.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2007

    Amazing story that needed to be told

    This should be required reading for anyone who thinks Americans can just walk into a country and that we can then democratize it. The most insightful passage in the book stated how Afghanis have PTSD. Unfortuately, it's not post, it's continual. Mr. Stewart could have expanded more on Afghanistan's modern history of years and years and years of war. But I think that would, unfortunately, have been less appealing for the popular reader. It was evident that he was ill for most of his journey as the days seemed to blur together & I find it amazing not only that he completed his goal, but that he was able to write about at all. It's not the best travel book I've ever read, but it is undoubtedly one of the most amazing.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2007

    And the point is?

    Nonfiction writing should always have a point. Stewart writes fluently and well, but it's not clear what he wants the reader to take from his experience. If it's not an exercise in self-indulgent, 'you'll never believe what I did' bravado, travel writing should either debunk a myth about a place or should encourage people to go visit before it's too late. 'Venice is sinking.' It should be an education or a call to action. After centuries of tribal warfare and invasion, what could be surprising about Afghanistan's poverty and descent into chaos? Would anyone in his right mind take a trip there? The quest for the untried and the exotic continues to fascinate, and perhaps as perspectives flatten out through globalization, there will be renewed interest in and a widening market for outlandish ventures like this one. But taking a nineteen-month walk through extreme danger is either courageous or it's foolhearty. If it's courageous, it must have a point. I'm afraid that Stewart's wildly overrated 'masterpiece' of a narrative is meaningful if and only if the reader is unable to imagine Afghanistan then and now. It's a place that is immune to change or if it has changed, it has only decayed. Stewart's description, for its many flashes of extreme beauty, is too close to reported reality to ingite the reader's imagination. One point of enduring interest is his brief dicussion of the young and inexperienced foreign-aid workers and their futile quest to build a liberal and humanitarian nation out of a collection of ancient prejudices and warring factions. Still, the book is worth reading, especially if one feels the need to further concretize the suffering and deprivation of foreign and seldom- visited lands whose victimization has been, in large measure, brought about by an imperialistic quest to 'discover' what was already there.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2007

    A Recommendation.

    As a fanatic of travel narratives, I've read very many, and this is one of the best. I loved this book, and would recommend it highly. For those who felt the same way - I urge you to read A Tent Life in Siberia: An Incredible Account of Siberian Adventure, Travel, and Survival by George Kennan, which follows an expedition through Siberia in the 1860s.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2006


    'Someone in Kabul told me a crazy Scotsman walked from Herat to Kabul right after the fall of the Taliban' Thanks for the book. For it was indeed a journey of great spirit and determination. Mr. Stewart was well prepared for this trip with vitamins and various medications he knew would be necessary to successfully complete this challenge ibuprofen, antibiotics, just name it and he had it sharing with the villagers he met on his way when they saw what he had and begged him. Well written, well told. I was truly impressed with how hospitable the people of Afghanistan were those whom he encountered and offered him rest and meals and at times water to wash with, at their various humble abodes where he was invited to stay for the night. Even through they understood little English, Mr. Stewart was able to communicate to them by speaking Persian. I love reading about anything in the Eastern and Asian side of the world, so I was with him all the way. I felt like I was alongside him as he climbed those steep slopes and when he walked on the flat valleys. I drank tea with Mr. Stewart from glass cups, ate stale bread with him and soup, and enjoyed the rest at the end of the day, sleeping on a carpet or just on the floor. The attention given to him was enormous as he persevered onwards. My main concern was just before he got to Kabul when he had to travel through the deep powdery snow which was known to cause frostbite, making it necessary to amputate limbs for some in the past. I held my breath as he and his dog companion Babur made it out of the snow covered mountains, and alas into another bright day. God bless you Rory Stewart. I will soon be starting Prince of the Marshes, which sounds like another winner but to those of you out there looking for a Christmas gift or other, buy The Places In Between first, for you won't be disappointed. An excellent gift, especially for travellers!!! Reviewed by Heather Marshall Negahdar (SUGAR-CANE 25/11/06)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 23, 2011


    This book has an amazing plot and yet it is somehow odd to think that someone would do that especially right after september 11th,thank you Mr. RORY STEWART!!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2007

    An amazing encounter.

    The Places in Between is a remarkable and timely book. The author's 'behind the scenes' journey through Afghanistan is an amazing adventure, history and sociology. I was amazed at the author's humble account of the people who make up this treacherous route of Afghanistan. I was moved by Mr. Stewart's descriptions and his wonderful way with words. He is a remarkable storyteller and has written an account that is stirring in its¿ thoughtfulness.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2006

    I've never seen a book shine as much as this one

    There are tons of political books out there on the current situation in the Middle East. None of them that I have heard of, however, offer this view. 'The Places in Between' by the amazing Rory Stewart, is the story of how Rory walked across Afghanistan with, as seen on the cover, the aid of two men Qasim and Abdul Haq, as well as Qasim's brother-in-law Aziz, who joined with them later. They later, one by one, left him to walk alone. On his journey, he met men both kind and suspicious, welcoming and intimidating. He also adopts a dog whom he names Babur, who is meant to be a fighting dog. However Rory adopts him rather as a friend, a companion. Don't expect the story to be perfect Rory becomes ill with dysentery at one point in the story, is shot at in the night, and children in one town even throw rocks at him. He is also, at one point, in the middle of a fight, which he unlikely recieves a black eye from. many of the people Rory meets in this book are kind and welcoming. I have heard many of his interviews some authors are not are good speakers as well as authors. Rory is not one of these- he speaks in a kind,dignified voice he seems a very kind man, and I highly respect his opinions (I find myself agreeing with several of his points). This book is probably one of the best we have seen in a while Rory is truly an amazing man. Children should not need Spiderman, Tom Cruise, or Paris Hilton as heroes Rory is a true hero. He might never be able to explain quite why he did this, and we might never really know either, but Rory is a man to look up to brave for doing this in all aspects! Who would be able to do this, especially in times of war? Rory Stewart has written a brilliant book that should one day be counted among the classics, and he is now my hero as well. Brilliant job Mr. Stewart here is to a bright future to you, may we see another book from you. You truly shine!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2006

    Stewart's journey was extrodinary.

    A facinating book. I couldn't put it down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2006

    Before You Read 'Kite Runner', Read this Book

    A Scottish historian walks across Afganistan and every encounter, whether pleasant, unpleasant, confusing, dangerous, physically or emotional is written both from the present historical viewpoint and also enlightened with important and illuminating past and ancient historical details that leave you with a picture of a far more varied, interesting and complex view of a little known country that one would ever have expected. Through the conversations and experiences he records, from the questions he has of the people of that they ask him or of situationa after sitaution he somehow deals with with amazing grace and intelligence and savvy, one feel as though one is travelling an exceptional person and sometimes one is on the edge of one's seat wondering what will happen next or how he will survive...It also an unexpected and warm yet difficult twitst that he adopt part way in the journey, a giant 'Ghorid' Mastiff dog that becomes as important a character as any of the other human characters he travels with or encounters. I read half this book aloud to my husband, interrupting his reading of the book 'The Kite Runner' but I think I got much more out of reading this first and then reading the latter. I highly recommended 'The Places in Between' for it's straigthforward and compelling style and story but also for it's humble grit, vision and patient willingness to share with the reader his considerable knowledge as well as compassion and selflessness and savvy on his amazing journey that many predicted was impossible journey to achieve alone on foot through rugged, isolated terrain and though contantly changing tribal territories. A book for anyone who realizes that we Americans are living in a bubble but with the help of people like Rory Stewart, we can break through the insulation and comfort of our lives to educate ourselves about other people and places we have little knowledge of or reason to care. Thank you Rory Stewart for getting me to not only appreciate what the Afgani people have survived and overcome and sometimes not survived and helping me to get a differant perspective on my life here in America as well as on Afghanistan and to care.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2006

    I couldn't put it down

    This is one of those books I didn't want to end. It is beautifully written, grabbing your attention from the first page, and very intellectually satisfying. The author travels through villages of different ethnic backgrounds, pointing out the present conditions, the conditions 20 years ago, 100 years ago, 500 years ago, etc. I learned a lot of history and was entertained while doing it. One of the best books I have read in a long time (and I read a lot!)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2006

    An astonishing, magical, gripping travelogue that sparkles like a gem

    In the year 2000, Oxford educated Rory Stewart listened to his heart and quit a promising career with the British Foreign Office to pursue his dream to walk across Central and South Asia. In January 2002, after the fall of the Taliban, he arrived in Afghanistan without a visa. By now he had already walked across Iran, Nepal, India and Pakistan. This was his second attempt to enter the country. During his first, the Taliban denied him permission to continue. This time, however, with a new government in place, he was given permission, but with a precondition, a prediction, and also a warning. The precondition was that he must always travel with an armed escort provided by the government. The prediction and warning were that if he traveled alone he will die because of the deep snow. ¿¿.3 meters of snow in the high passes. There are wolves, and this is a war. You will die. I can guarantee.¿ He is also told that he is tourist number one since the new government took office two weeks ago. The author¿s intention was to walk across Afghanistan from Herat through the central mountains of Ghor to Kabul, retracing the path that the Mogul Emperor Babur the Great took during his travel through Afghanistan in the 16th century. Babur was the first Mogul emperor who ruled India for a brief period from 1526 until his death in 1530. During his travel Rory Stewart befriends a dog, a retired, burly, fighting mastiff, unloved and much abused, earless and tailless, and as big as a ¿small pony¿. The dog, whom he names Babur after the Mogul emperor, becomes his traveling companion. The eventual parting of the dog, even though stripped of melodrama and written with restraint, is heart-wrenching, nevertheless. The author knows Urdu and Persian, and two of its several dialects¿ the Iranian dialect, and the Afghani dialect known as Dari, which certainly helped him to communicate well with the local people and save his life on occasion also. Babur, too, helps him to survive in a snow storm, once prodding and encouraging him by barking to try at lease one more time to extricate him self when he is trapped in deep snow. Written in crystalline prose with humor, wit, clarity and precision reminiscent of the great writer Arundhati Roy, but lacking her passion, the book is astonishing, magical and gripping, and it sparkles like a gem. Reading it I felt much joy, which I rarely derive these days from the mediocre books on the best seller lists. The only shortcoming I acutely felt was the author¿s clasp-like grip on his emotion, his fierce determination to shield his narration from revealing any tenderness, God forbid, he might have felt towards the people of Afghanistan and especially towards the loyal and valiant Babur. This may be because of his military training and his brief employment with the British Army, and his deep involvement with the British Foreign Office. After all, real men don¿t cry, do they?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2008

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