The Road to Oxiana – Robert Byron

Again, another book it’s taken me years to pick up, principally because for a long time I thought – incorrectly – that the author was Lord Byron, the 18th century poet. My mistake, my loss.

The Road to Oxiana is an account by Robert Byron, a distant descendant, of his travels through the Middle East to Central Asia in 1933/1934 – close enough in time to Empire for the Great Game still be living memory, and for the key geopolitical units to include Persia and Sinkiang.

Whilst Byron’s privileged background means that his accounts of the people he meets is coloured by the social norms of the time (which isn’t always bad – there are some fantastic encounters with Governors and Ambassadors), he did get to see and explore some amazing locations and architectural gems that are now either lost or out of reach. That said, I see that Wild Frontiers are running trips to Afghanistan, so perhaps, one day, I too will get to visit Herat.

There are wonderful photos too, some of places I have been lucky enough to visit and it’s fascinating to see what has changed in the intervening 80 years, for example in Soltaniyeh Yazd and Isfahan.

For accounts of travels in the region in the last 20th/early 21st century, read:

* Shadow of the Silk Road – Colin Thubron
* The Carpet Wars – Christopher Kremmer
* The Places in Between – Rory Stewart
* Neither East Nor West: One Woman’s Journey Through the Islamic Republic of Iran – Christiane Bird link: The Road to Oxiana – Robert Byron