Ethiopia & Eritrea: travel books to read before you go

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This excerpt from Lonely Planet’s Ethiopia & Eritrea guide provides a selection of travel literature to get you in the mood for your trip.

I didn't do it for youMichela Wrong’s I Didn’t Do it for You is a compelling and at times comedic account of Eritrea’s contemporary history; it helps to understand the national psyche and the failure of democracy.

Eating the Flowers of ParadiseIn Eating the Flowers of Paradise, Kevin Rushby travels the old trade route from Ethiopia’s highlands to Yemen. By chewing chat (a mildly intoxicating leaf that’s consumed primarily in eastern Ethiopia; it’s illegal in Eritrea) at every invitation, Kevin gives a dangerously funny look into this unique drug’s culture.

The Chains of HeavenPart personal crusade, part celebration of all that is Ethiopia, The Chains of Heaven chronicles Philip Marsden’s return to Ethiopia, a land that changed his life when he first visited in the early 1980s.

The Prester QuestIn The Prester Quest, Nicholas Jubber entertainingly voyages from Venice to Ethiopia on his quest to deliver – albeit 824 years late – Pope Alexander III’s famed letter to Prester John, the mythical Christian king of the East.

ShebaSheba: Through the Desert in Search of the Legendary Queen by Nicholas Clapp successfully blends personal travel accounts with thorough academic research to shed light on one of history’s most famous and least understood characters.

Somebody ElseBy following the footsteps of 19th-century French literary legend Arthur Rimbaud through Egypt, Ethiopia, Djibouti and elsewhere, Charles Nicholl’s Somebody Else isn’t only an award-winning biography, but an interesting piece of travel literature too.

The Life of My ChoiceWilfred Thesiger’s classic Life of My Choice includes reminiscences of the author’s childhood and early adult years in Ethiopia, including the coronation of Haile Selassie and Thesiger’s renowned six-month journey through the Danakil in 1933.

More travel literature reading lists for other destinations can be found here.