BRITISH TRAVEL WRITER and East Londoner Tharik Hussain’s debut book, Minarets in the Mountains; a Journey into Muslim Europe, has entered the Amazon top ten for travel writing books within days of being available for pre-order.
It also peaked at number two in Amazon’s Islamic History category and number five in the Islam category this week. The feat is all the more remarkable given that Hussain’s book was the only one in the top ten of all three categories without a single review – and it won’t be available to read until June.
The book describes a journey Hussain and his family took around the western Balkans, where they explored Europe’s indigenous Muslim culture, communities and heritage. The synopsis gives a magical, eye-opening account of a journey into a magical part of Europe that rarely makes the news and is in danger of being erased from the popular consciousness altogether. It is “another Europe”: a Europe few people believe exists and many wish didn’t. It is about Muslim Europe.
Tharik – who has also written guides to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Thailand for Lonely Planet – says there are a number of reasons for his latest book’s success. “I think people right now want to hear other voices in literature,” he said, “especially as the travel literature genre is usually a space for a very narrow, white, middle class demographic. This has meant that a vast number of readers have only experienced that perspective to shape their world view.”
Hussain, an award-winning radio documentary maker, believes the support of his community has played a huge part in building up the profile of this must-read volume. He explained, “I am probably one of the only Muslim travel writers out there and for me to write about Muslim culture, especially an indigenous European one, is a completely new thing, and I think that caught the public’s imagination when the book went on pre-release order.
“Whether it is the Muslim, British-Bangladeshi or travel writing community, I have been overwhelmed by the number of messages of encouragement I have received from all over the world. Many people not only pre-ordered the book but then shared it on their platforms. It really has been very touching all the support I am getting.”
Minarets in the Mountains describes Hussain and his family making their way through six countries, three of which have Muslim-majority populations, meeting locals, wandering through stunning landscapes, exploring six centuries of fascinating Islamic heritage and reminding readers that Europe has a rich and storied Islamic heritage.
As he documents his journey, Hussain highlights little-known architectural gems like the Visegrad Bridge in Bosnia, built by the famous Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan, and time spent in Berat, Albania – a stunning historic town that has changed little over the centuries. The book also sees The Lonely Planet Travel Author following in the footsteps of the Ottoman traveller Evliya Celebi, who wandered through many of the same places during the 17th century – when the entire region truly was Muslim Europe.
Ever the trail-blazer, in 2017 Hussain was named one of Britain’s most inspiring British Bangladeshis, and in 2019 he created Britain’s first Muslim heritage trails in Woking. He is now a Fellow of the Centre for Religion and Heritage at the University of Groningen, where he specialises in Muslim heritage.
●Minarets in the Mountains; a journey into Muslim Europe will be published by Bradt Guides in June 2021. It is available now for UK pre order at these two outlets:
It will shortly be available on Wordery for international delivery.
●To find out more about Tharik Hussain and his work, go to: