21 September 2010

The amazing Rory Stewart

Roderick “Rory” Stewart OBE FRSL (Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature) is the Conservative Member for Penrith and the Border in the House of Commons, having been elected in May 2010. Prior to that he had a remarkably varied and adventurous career, culminating in a number of prestigious academic appointments including being appointed in 2004 a Fellow in the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard, and becoming in 2008 the Ryan Family Professor of Human Rights at the same university.

From 2000 to 2002 he walked alone across Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, India and Nepal, a journey of 6000 miles, during which time he stayed in five hundred different village houses.

The Afghan leg of that journey involved walking alone from Herat to Kabul in early 2002, just after the fall of the Taliban regime. Rather than opt for the conventional southern route via Kandahar, he opted for the direct route, which involved crossing the Hindu Kush in the depths of winter, accompanied only by the large mastiff that he had been given for his own protection early in his journey. In taking this route at this season he was following in the footsteps of Babur, the first Emperor of Mughal India, who had made the journey when his fortunes were at a low ebb early in the sixteenth century. Babur kept a diary of that journey, the Baburnama, a copy of which Stewart carried with him.

Stewart’s account of his amazing Afghan journey, The Places in Between, was published by Picador in 2004, became a bestseller, and won several awards. For anyone interested in Afghanistan, or travel, or adventure, or simply far-away places with strange sounding names, this is a memorable read.

A good overview of the amazing career (so far) of this man who has yet to turn forty can be found at his Wikipedia entry here.

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