Orientalist artists became true explorers, sometimes occupying consular or commercial responsibilities as well. In addtion to these activities, they collected information documenting the cultures of the Middle East. They often followed the scientific expeditions of the academic orientalists. In certain cases, the artist was almost a war reporter (for example "The Massacre of Chio" by Delacroix, even though he did not actually witness it). Their investigations led them to Algiers, Cairo, Constantinople, etc...



Travel Labels
from Carol Abel

Like most travelers in the Middle East today, early 19th-century travelers usually had extremely limited contact with the societies they visited and wrote about. Their European clothes made them appear strange and unattractive, and set them apart from the Middle Easterners they moved among. They rarely lived with local families, which would have been one of the best ways of understanding their surroundings.

Rather, the people they were most likely to get to know were those whose business was to deal with travelers - coachmen, boatmen and hoteliers. Their most constant companions were the ever-present local interpreter-guides, the dragomans. As a result, what they saw and heard of the Middle East included a heavy dose of just those legends and tall stories that the local guides knew would fascinate Europeans, with real or imaginary tales of beautiful women and brutal rulers thrown in.

Compounding the narrowness of their experience, most 19th-century travelers shared the values of their countrymen and their time, including a robust patriotism and a certainty that home ways were best. Few agonized over the rights or wrongs of colonizing other countries, most saw rivalry with other nations as a sign of vitality, and prejudice against the foreigner was seen as a healthy expression of national character.

As a result, travelers often stuck to the stereotypes they carried in their baggage; it was natural for them to single out for emphasis the sights and scenes that confirmed their beliefs, and to overlook those that contradicted them. For travelers like these, to go back and generalize to their compatriots about "the Middle East" was no more likely to be accurate than foreigners making sweeping assertions about the English character on the basis of a tour of the Tower of London and tales of the dealings of King Henry VIII with his six wives.

Yet back in their home countries, travelers were presumed to be instant experts on the places they had visited. They risked acquiring reputations as dullards if they could display no strong opinions to speak of In particular, they were expected to confirm the image of the Middle East purveyed by the romantic literature and the art of the time - that of a sensual, dangerous and above all different place, where travelers were likely to encounter many adventures from which they could extricate themselves only through skill and daring.

The result of all this was a real distortion of non-Western societies in Western travel writing. With regard to the Middle East, the long tradition of European hostility to Islam helped to foster a condescending way of thought that is now commonly described as "Orientalism." This outlook emphasized how different Arabs and Muslims were from Europeans, and asserted or implied that Europeans had more enlightened ideals than the inhabitants of the Orient.

From Saudi Aramco World
Written by Michael Simpson

The Dragoman


“My dragoman had me completely in his power, and I resolved to become independent of all interpreters.”—Baker: Albert Nyanza

“The word dragoman, derived from turgoman, and meaning simply an interpreter, has gotten to signify a sort of courier, valet, servant, adviser, and traveling companion, all combined, on whom the Oriental traveler must expect to be dependent for his very subsistence from day to day, from and after the moment he becomes attached to him.

A friend of mine, speaking of the servants, was accustomed to call them ‘the young ladies who boarded with his mother’. The dragoman may be defined as the gentleman who travels with you. He becomes a part of yourself, goes where you go, sleeps where you sleep, you talk through him, buy through him (and pay him and through him at the same time), and, in point of fact, you become his servant. All this, if you choose. But, if you choose otherwise, you may make him what he should be, a very good servant, and nothing more. He who can not manage his own servants should stay at home and not travel. The man whose servant can cheat him, should not keep servants, or should submit to his own stupidity.

I may as well pause here, to advise the Egyptian traveler under no circumstances to take a dragoman until he reaches Cairo. He will find English, French, and Italian, spoken everywhere in Alexandria, and on the railway to Cairo, so that he will need no assistance until he begins to make his arrangements to go up the Nile; which he should not make in Alexandria.”

From Boat Life in Egypt and Nubia
by William C. Prime, 1857

The Interpreter
The Contract

Grand Tour

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Week Four

The other ambassadors warn me of famines, extortions, conspiracies, or
else they inform me of newly discovered turquoise mines, advantageous
prices in marten furs, suggestions for supplying damascened blades. And
you?' the Great Khan asked Polo, 'you return from lands equally distant
and you can tell me only the thoughts that come to a man who sits on his
doorstep at evening to enjoy the cool air. What is the use, then, of all
your travelling?'


Home Hosting at Owl Creek Valley - Meeting the Locals

To avoid the problems often faced by travellers who only meet coachmen, ferrywomen, stablewomen, hoteliers and intrepreter guides it is recommended that travellers stay with home hosts while they are in Owl Creek Valley and other parts of Lemuria.


Madhatters by Carol Abel

Travellers have found that their experience has been broadened and that they have come to a greater understanding of life in this world.

Staying with Darlene Benson


Darlene Benson runs a vegetable farm that features ruby tomato vines.
The Keeper of the Mine helps to find a Home Host for you.

“Ah, you’re awake. How do you feel?”

“Who are you?”

“I’m Darlene Benson. You’re going to stay here for a while and rest up before I take you to the Keeper of the Mines.”

“How did I get here?” I felt a little drowsy and my head hadn’t cleared.

“Who brought me?” My eyes were slightly fogged and I still couldn’t focus properly.

“Do I know you, have I been here before?” I was in unfamiliar surroundings but she had a reassuring voice and my brain was coming up to speed. She sat on the side of my bed and became more business like. 

“No. You’ve never been here but you’ll find out the rest all in good time. Now, would you like to take a bath before you have ….brunch?”

“No. I need to know more about what’s happening. I’m in a house I’ve never seen with a  strange woman looking after me and no idea how I got here, so please, don’t tell me to go jump in a bath like this is a regular occurrence. I don’t even know what day it is or how long I’ve been asleep! Is this a dream? Am I dreaming you? Or vice-versa? Did someone drug me?

“Why not take that bath and then we’ll talk.You’re safe, you don’t have to rush and Mule is quite happy at the top of the garden. He’s having a slap up meal and there’s plenty for him to drink so you don’t have to worry about a thing; your tools are in the shed so they’ll keep safe and dry. No more questions now, you’ll find warm towels, clean clothes and everything else you’ll need waiting for you. The bathroom is the second door on the left.”

I waited until she’d left the room and laid back down. Nothing was making much sense and I wanted a few minutes to think about this strange woman and how I’d ended up here, in her guest bedroom, with a friendly mule outside chomping grass. How could I not remember a mule?

I looked round the room; it was cosy, a lovely, rich, burgundy colour and the mattress on my bed seemed to wrap itself round my body.There were photographs, presumably of family members, in heavy, antique silver frames and a few group portraits hanging on the walls. Everybody seemed to look like Darlene, even a cat that had sneaked into a couple of photos, looked remarkably similar to my hostess - minus spectacles. I tried to think back but my mind refused to come up with a thing. On the other hand I was almost faint with hunger, so I decided to look for the bathroom with a view to going downstairs and taking up her offer of lunch with a b

There was a lot to mull over. I’ve never had a mule, I’ve never had a hamster let alone a mule; and tools, since when did I own a tool, unless you count a rather nifty nail-file. I walked to the door saying the name over and over, Darlene, Darrrleeen. No, it didn’t matter how I said it, I could not recall a Darlene, but at least she seemed nice. I know you can’t judge a book by it’s cover but axe murderers don’t usually throw in a bubble bath plus last meal. Anyway, in general, people named Darlene just don’t take up axe murdering for a career. They grow herbs, crochet, embroider quilt covers and stuff; besides I felt sure that in extremis I could ‘take her’.

I had a long, lazy, lovely bath, despite Darlene’s peculiar taste in toiletries;  soap, shampoo and bubble bath all exquisite shades of pinky, pillar box, fire engine red, no problem, utterly delightful. Scent - tomato! I like tomatoes, always have, I even know the song - I say tomayto, you say tomaatow - but have I ever thought of them as designer bathroom accessories - I would have to say no. The aroma was not unpleasant so much as completely unexpected and at one point I could barely resist having a drink. The towels were wonderfully warm and thick, very deep red with a vine ruby tomato motif at the corners, a tad unusual but it was all growing on me, metaphorically speaking. The clothes she had laid out were my own but they’d been washed and ironed, something I much appreciated. I tidied the room, took a deep breath, made myself look presentable and set off downstairs.

My hostess was sitting on a window seat, enjoying the sunshine. “Ah, here you are….nice bath?”

“Lovely, thank you.”

“Right, you must be starving, have a pew.” I pulled up a chair and sat down at a large, round, wooden table which seemed to be heaving with lunch… brunch…food. Cereal, eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, toast, marmalade, tomato ketchup, tomato juice, tea and freshly squeezed orange. She cut me a thick slice of tomato bread and passed the butter; yellow, creamy, normal butter that seemed to have escaped the overtures of any kind of tomato, although I would have taken a bet that Darlene had experimented. I tucked in whilst she poured tea for both of us and drew up a chair to keep me company.

“Now then, tell me what you do remember and I’ll see if I can fill in the blanks.”

I looked at her but carried on eating, pausing occasionally to ask or answer questions. “Fine, fill me in…. nice eggs.” “You have been here for more than two days. You took a number of wrong turnings early on in your travels and somehow managed to trek for 30 hours across the Desert of Ash - a remarkable feat I have to say.” “Hmm, you tellin’ me.” I had a mouthful of toast. “You managed to pitch up at Chameleon Shack where you met Old Crone; she gave you a pouch which Mule informed me you opened, you took a dream seed, looked through the spectacles for a while and fell into a deep sleep. Fortunately another traveller turned up at the shack, put you on Mule’s back and told him to bring you here. Your clothes were filthy and you had a few bruises but basically you needed sleep and that’s what you’ve had. As soon as we’ve got you properly rested and prepared I’ll show you how to make your way to the Alluvial Mines. Now come on, I know you want to ask questions but finish your meal first.”

I did want to know absolutely everything but she had picked up a large,  antiquated looking book so I took the chance to scrutinise her more closely. Her glasses had to be the thickest lenses I’d seen outside of an observatory, they were incredible. I couldn’t help wondering what I would be able to see if I tried them on. Mountains on the moon, definitely.  Mars, even Venus, not impossible; for a second I allowed myself to wonder if she could be engaged in undercover work for NASA.

Her clothes had the appearance of being home made and she was obviously a fiercely independent woman. There was a certain air of eccentricity about her and I could see that she had a deep, semi-spiritual connection with tomatoes. There were vines all over the place and a greenhouse that was jam-packed. There were other vegetables but the ruby tomatoes were undoubtedly her favourites; their vines seemed to trail everywhere and I noticed her whispering to them and cooing, encouraging them to grow maybe. Whatever she was saying had to be working because, even to my inexperienced eye, I reckoned she could easily supply a multinational food outlet or possibly Italy! She had a wonderful air of calm about her, I couldn’t imagine her being phased by very much and to some extent it was appropriate that she should be connected to something so down to earth as vegetables because she had no airs and graces.


“Oh, thank you, yes, it was lovely.”

“Good, good.” It took her less than a minute to clear the table and once again she pulled up a chair to join me.

“In the normal run of things you would have already met the Keeper of the Mines but after your ordeal in The Ash Desert it was decided you should come straight here. Mule is an extraordinarily helpful chap and knows his way round these parts. You’re lucky to have him. He’s coming over later for a chat.”

“For a chat? The mule is popping in for a chat!”

“Mmm, that dream seed you took seems to have significantly wiped your memory. I’ve observed this before but it looks like you’ve had quite a severe reaction. Have you no recollections of Old Crone and your night with Mule?”

“My night with mule! My night! What would I be doing with a mule at night? They’re hardly ‘clubbing’ companions noted for their skills on the dance floor!” Darlene’s eyes smiled and twinkled in turn, my disbelief was obviously a source of some amusement. It appeared that an all singing, all dancing and let’s not forget, all chatting mule was nothing out of the ordinary here, a perfectly regular visitor who ‘popped over’ for elevenses and the latest gossip. 

“I’m sorry but I don’t have so much as a single image of that night, with or without a mule and I have no idea how I got here. I do remember the desert and the ashes and stuff, bones everywhere, water nowhere, but the rest…nothing. May I ask you something?”

“Feel free, ask away.”

“You mentioned a pouch. Is it mine? May I see it?  Oh….and spectacles, why was I looking through spectacles, I’ve never worn them, never needed specs…. 20/20 vision… “  I could have kicked myself; she was practically sporting bottle tops and I had to choose that moment to sound off like an advert for the Marine Corps….” and a dream seed, I’ve definitely never had one of those. I didn’t know there was such a thing…or is it a fancy name for, hmm, illegal type seeds…which I have never used….although I did once  experiment, let’s say, with a little weed.” I could feel myself flushing up with embarrassment, although goodness knows why, I didn’t have to answer for my life choices to Darlene…and who hasn’t done a little weed? Bill and Ben probably….( soz, private joke for English readers!)

“There’s nothing remotely illegal about dream seeds and yes, the pouch and its contents are yours. I suggest you hang on to them for all you’re worth because there are things in there that could save your life.” She was on the point of becoming extremely serious and intense but before she could go any furher we both turned quickly to see a head push its way round the door.

“Hello, hello and welcome dear friend! Are you well, are you rested?”

“Never felt better Darlene, the carrots are stupendous, your best yet, and I’ve had my normal quota of your delicious rubies. You’re looking younger by the year old girl, keep drinking the juice!”

I sat back whilst Darlene and a mule enjoyed the friendly bantering that goes on between old friends….old mules… old people….forget it!

“Now, let me re-introduce you two. I’m afraid our young traveller has had her mind wiped and scarcely remembers her own name. Janet, this is Dobbin, the mule who carried you and your tools in the pouring rain for nearly 12 hours.”

“Dobbin? Dobbin! You hate that name, you said you’d bite my head off and I only thought it. Idiotic you said,  insulting you said,  it tarred you….!”

“Ahh…something’s jogged your memory darling…..”

It was like a veil dropped from my eyes…. so much for 20/20 vision.


More Hosts

Arriving at the Farmhouse Stacey Anne Cole
Meeting Oliver by Stacey Anne Cole
No Turning Back by Stacey Anne Cole
Bored Maude - Housekeeper of Jewels by Monika Roleff
A Mule, the keeper of the house and my home host by Carol Abel
Dreams of garlic... by Soulwright
Home Hosts by Heather Blakey

Meet Your Home Host

There is no time like the present. You arrive at your home hosts home.... a little apprehensive but glad to have somewhere to stay and gather your thoughts before beginning to mine. These hosts know the mines well and will guide you if need be.

Write about the place you find yourself in. Alternatively you may make a collage or an altered card. It is all up to you really.