At times you laugh out loud, always informative, great stories, full of well-known facts with a twist, as well as a myriad of gems. The kind of book I would have bought and sent to people for the pleasure of it ... not sure how that works with an eBook. If Michael Palin had got stuck in Egypt for six years, without the film crew, he might have made a stab at it. I described Robert Twigger to my wife as Michael Palin's mischievous younger brother. (I know Robert, though I've not seen him for twenty years). He's exceedingly bright but very modest, even humble. A boffin you might find going through second hand books in a pile at a charity shop.
There's a intimacy, cleverness and a flash of British funniness throughout. Encyclopedic whilst as readable as an unputdownable novel.
For me this is the very best travel writing. I've bounced into it via an need to take an interest in ethnography in H809 Practice-based research in e-learning. I found myself watching 'Seven Years in Tibet' then reading the book by Heinrich Harer. 'The Red Nile' is written in a similar vein, though Robert's relationship is with the river rather than the Dalai Lama. The book touches on a good deal of anthropological study of the peoples of the Niles (blue and white). It's value is how easy it is to read after all the academic papers, and how quotable and informed it is too.
'It seems peculiar to me that specialisation should involve developing a point of view that obscures the very subject you wish to study'.
This is I will take as a warning as I venture towards doctoral study. My interest is in learning, and e-learning in particular. Learning can apply to many, many fields. We all do it whether we want to or not.