Disguised as a Persian dervish, Sir Richard Burton (1821-1890) set out to become the first Christian to penetrate the Muslim shrines of Medina and Mecca - a reckless stunt that would have resulted in his being executed if discovered. Endlessly observant, amused, boastful and engaging, Burton here describes his time in Cairo (including a memorable drinking contest with a ferocious Albanian mercenary captain), his crossing of the Red Sea in a crazily overloaded pilgrim boat and his arrival in the fabled Nejd. "Great Journeys" allows readers to travel both around the planet and back through the centuries - but also back into ideas and worlds frightening, ruthless and cruel in different ways from our own. Few reading experiences can begin to match that of engaging with writers who saw astounding things: great civilisations, walls of ice, violent and implacable jungles, deserts and mountains, multitudes of birds and flowers new to science. Reading these books is to see the world afresh, to rediscover a time when many cultures were quite strange to each other, where legends and stories were treated as facts and in which so much was still to be discovered.