You have written a masterpiece!
This is the book that will top all other horse travel books.
Founding Member of the Long
Riders Guild Jeremy James, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society
and author of
A last wish.
If I were a
terminally ill child chosen for the Make a Wish Foundation, my wish
would be to sit with CuChullaine O’Reilly for twenty minutes, to enjoy a cup
of chai and talk about his book, Khyber Knights. There are not enough
words in my limited vocabulary, maybe not in anyone’s repertoire, to
adequately describe this tale. The book resides on the cellular level;
something to be experienced, understood, appreciated, valued. When I pick it
up again now, it is with enduring reverence. This book is not just a good
read. It is not an insignificant form of entertainment. It is unequivocally
a monumental, life-changing experience. Everyone should read it and I do
hope that Khyber Knights is published in every language.
If it was any more authentic the
reader would need a shot of penicillin when he finished the book.
Sergeant Bo Melin,
French Foreign Legion, 2nd R.E.P.
Insightful study of Pakistan
I am grateful to you for sharing your
insightful book, Khyber Knights, with me. I believe political
analysts will immensely benefit from your intimate, first hand experience
and your incisive study of a complex period in our nation's history.
Dr. Maleelia Lodhi,
Ambassador of Pakistan.
Marco Polo, Ibn Battutah and Khyber Knights
From Herodotus onward travel literature has
frequently drawn upon the resources of fiction; and fictional elements occur
among the accounts attributed to some of the most renowned of Western
travellers, such as, for instance, Marco Polo and Sir John Mandeville. Even
the great Ibn Battutah, the Prince of Travellers, recreating his
extraordinary adventures out of scrupulous memory, was forced to resort to
compression, summary, and even to occasional borrowing from an earlier
text. Khyber Knights, as its remarkable author frankly tells us, is
fictional in its framework, but is an account "based on a chronological
sequence of actual events" involving real people. Its substance is hard
fact–––some of it very hard indeed: his personal experience as a travelling
Muslim horseman, who happened also to be a cosmopolitan American, in
pre-Taliban Afghanistan and Pakistan. No one could have merely invented what
he has to tell us. And what a tale it is. We hear of cruelty, greed,
suffering and hardship, but in a narrative always enlivened by that noble
spirit of compassion that makes living itself worthwhile. We can learn from
this book, one of the greatest I have read–––and I have read (alas!) many.
Indeed, as a friend said to whom I had lent a copy, "This is a book that one
would not want to live without."
Professor Emeritus, Department of English and Comparative Literature,
American University in Cairo.
A fantastic achievement.
There are very few travel stories
with as much to recommend them as Khyber Knights. Its pages hold a
rare tale of adventure, history, philosophy, love, loss, cruelty,
desperation, justice, injustice, courage and loyalty. It is Emile Zola
meets Ernest Hemingway, with a sprinkling of Mickey Spillaine, National
Geographic, and the History Channel. Uncompromising in his honesty and
unafraid to criticise the odd sacred cow, the author has produced a potent
mixture of fact and fiction that all but binds the reader hand and foot and
drags him through the streets of Peshawar to the frontier mountains of
Afghanistan. He is at his best when describing the relationship between
man and horse, a central theme to the message of the book, which if anything
is one of longing and fulfilment. For the experience to any more real, the
pages would have to be impregnated with the smell of horse manure and
unwashed bodies. It will appeal to anyone who has ever ridden a horse, or
anyone who simply loves a good adventure.
travel and adventure reading in the history of exploration and adventure.
For me books have
had a enormous impact on life. When I was ten years old they helped made me
realize that there was life beyond the limits of the village. It was books
which made me explore and gave me so much joy, hope, wisdom and perspective
on life. Not long ago I was asked by the Royal Geographical Society to pick
the five best travel books. Here they are:
by Maurice Herzog.
This work presents the enthralling
account of the first conquest of Annapurna. The Worst Journey in
the World by Aspley Cherry-Garrard. A work
of supreme dimension, this masterpiece remains as compelling today as when
it was first published eighty years ago. The Heart of the Hunter
by Laurens Van der Post.
A beautiful book about travels among the
Bushmen. Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez. An amazing and
inspiring account from the northern part of the globe. Khyber Knights
by CuChullaine O’Reilly. Written by a very good
friend of mine, Khyber Knights will be one of the classics of
modern travel literature. The reason is that, unlike so many so-called
adventures, it is not only a story about a most amazing equestrian quest,
it is also a book full of human knowledge.
Swedish Long Rider Mikael
Strandberg, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, Fellow of the
Explorers Club and author of
A must read.
I spent the last
two days reading Khyber Knights. I couldn't put the book down and now
that I have read the last sentences I feel orphaned. What an amazing account
of even more amazing adventures. I was especially captured by the second
part of the book; the words were no longer words, they were an avalanche, a
tidal wave, a hurricane. I read so fast that I must have missed sentences -
I indulged in the raw beauty and horror of what was written. The book is not
your usual superficial travel book, no, it takes you to the heart of the
matter. While we travel with CuChullaine on his splendid horse through the
wild north of Pakistan we search our soul and we ask ourselves what risks we
are prepared to take to find fulfilment and to live life to the full.
CuChullaine's love for horses brought tears to my eyes, the loyalty to his
friends made me wonder if it was madness or courage that made him do what he
did, the descriptions of nature gave my heart wings, the craving for freedom
and the longing to follow the wind obliterated the doubts I sometimes have
about my nomadic life style. Khyber Knights is a must read and, I
must warn you, after you've read the last pages you won't be able to read
another book for a while.
Dutch explorer, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and author of
Jack London in our
human journey in time horsemanship has been man's greatest adventure, and
although the 20th century has seen the mass denaturalization of millions of
city-bred people, this book is proof that at least equestrian adventure
hasn't died out with the predictability and monotony of modern life. Not, at
any rate, to whoever has the guts, the spirit and the hardiness to ride a
horse into high adventure. O'Reilly did this to an amazing degree and
brought an extra credential to his exploits - a rare capability to capture
the emotional essence of moments spun out of control and put them on paper.
And, as the struggle to push over the most rugged terrain in Central Asia
increases, besides keeping horses and men alive, historical events and
modern history mingles with the horsemen's private affairs in a narrative
that makes every page a memorable adventure. Twenty three hours later you
emerge from the book shaken, albeit the wiser in many aspects of the
hardiness of equestrian long distance riding, of eastern and western
cultural shock, and of human folly in general. Of course Jack London could
do it in his time, but CuChullaine O'Reilly, the Long Rider, has now shown
us that it can still be done in our day.
author of The Centaur
The best book on
I originally bought
and read this book through my love of horses and interest in Pakistan. There
are so many stories in this book, that are all so descriptive and well
written, that I could not stop reading it. On the train, lunch break at
work, all through the night - you won't want to stop. O’Reilly’s knowledge
of horses, the land and people is remarkable and an escape from any mundane
aspects that you may have in your life. My boyfriend, who is from Peshawar
and Swat, was simply addicted to this book (despite the fact he has no
interest in horses). He has travelled through many of the places mentioned
in this book and even knows some of the buildings like the court house which
they slept in. He was in absolute amazement that a westerner could so
thoroughly understand his Pukhtun culture and language. He felt that it was
written by a fellow Pathan rather than an Irish American. The thoughts and
sentiments were exactly what he has been brought up to understand. From his
opinion, I feel confident in asserting this book's value as a true depiction
of the NWFP and surrounding areas. CuChullaine O'Reilly (Asadullah Khan) has
written the best book I have ever read on Pakistan or horses. This book will
find a treasured place on any bookcase.
Kipling would have loved Khyber Knights.
is a rattling good account of high adventure in wild - and not so wild -
places that could, with a little chronological adjustment, have been lifted
straight out of the Great Game at the height of the British imperial Raj.
Almost in fact what the British used to call a ripping yarn. It keeps faith
with the derring-do of Henry Pottinger, Arthur Connolly, Alexander Burnes
and Josiah Harlan and in some instances exceeds them. Indeed it is almost a
study of imperialist behaviour without the imperialists. When I came to the
end, I felt that real sense of loss that invariably comes with the last page
of a really good read. Wonderful stuff. Kipling would have loved it. If this
doesn't get armchair travellers out of their chairs and heading off in
search of peak to climb or a desert to explore, then nothing will.
Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and author of
The King's Stranger.
Khyber Knights -
straight into the soul of humanity - with horses!
is beyond best seller! It took me wholly to another world. This story is
gripping, captivating, and intriguing, one of the best reads I've had in a
long while. Masterfully told, it reaches to the core of humanity while also
providing valuable insight into a place and culture that is all but lost to
us in recent years of global turmoil. On a contemporary horse journey, the
author takes the reader from the crossroads of the ancient silk routes into
the forbidden heart of Asia, to the hidden valleys of the Hindu Kush and the
Karakorum, to cultures which extend hospitality to all, even the enemy.
O'Reilly calls his work fiction, based on a sequence of actual events, but
it could only be written by one who experienced it. It's an artistic weave
allowing the author to tell a bold and intimate story, straight from the
heart. It encompasses personal dreams and convictions, hopes and delusions,
adventure and heartbreak, horses and lovers, and the stark reality of
embracing a country and culture that is not one's own. Horses are the heart
of the story, however, the golden mare Shavon, the fleet dun Pasha, and
others. It's an account of passion and feeling in the realm of adventure,
misadventure, and romance, a tale only a man could write, a story unique in
the remarkable relationship of man and horse on a journey. As a horse
traveller myself, I could only dream of such adventures, though I would
never have survived them, let alone written the tale so boldly and true.
Khyber Knights takes us far beyond adventure, straight into the soul of
humanity. The eloquent and vivid descriptions, historical background,
poignant documentation, glossary, and superb illustrations contribute to
better understanding of a culture so rich and ancient, while allowing the
imagination to soar. It's a work of art. I treasure this book.
American Long Rider Lucy Leaf.
Asadullah Khan, CuChullaine O’Reilly, has revealed Pakistan’s secrets, as
well as her sorrows.
Peshawar, Pakistan, author of
Lessons in Islam.
A dangerous dreamer.
It was T E Lawrence of "Lawrence
of Arabia" fame, who wrote in his book Seven Pillars of Wisdom: "All
men dream, but not equally...The dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for
they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible". CuChullaine
O'Reilly also had a dream: to ride 1,000 miles by horse through untamed
tribes of freedom fighters in the remote and dangerous heart of Asia. He was
kidnapped, tortured, and imprisoned in pursuit of his dream, but he tells
his experiences with humour and panache. It is an heroic epic of exploration
and adventure by both man and horse.
Scottish Long Rider George
Patterson, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and author of
Journey with Loshay.
I was born and
raised in the Frontier province of Pakistan and I am a woman. I belong to
Swabi District and lived in Peshawar where Asadullah Khan starts his
knightly escapades. A very delightful aspect of the book is the constant
companionship of Pasha and Shavon. These are two horses that seem almost to
talk to you; brave, uncomplaining and faithful. Asadullah Khan ought to be
congratulated for seeing his journey to completion because he travelled in
dangerous climes and even more dangerous times, but, more than that, I thank
him personally for the much more difficult accomplishment of recording this
dear land of mine in such an extraordinary book.
Hell bent for
leather in the land of the pure.
Today many of us
live lives of relative comfort, insulated from the rigours of daily survival
by the mechanisms of civilization. The ability to "escape" the confines of
modern civilization has become considerably less attainable, making even the
most determined explorer's attempts to find isolated and undiscovered
locales difficult, if not impossible. No matter the venue or the feat, a
safety net of communication and rescue is available even in the most extreme
aspects of exploration. Nonetheless, in the1980s, CuChullaine O'Reilly
undertook travel that would seem impossible to most of us. Far from the
protections and comforts tacitly assumed in modern travel, CuChullaine
ventured into what is still considered one of the most dangerous regions of
the world on a true quest. On horseback, CuChullaine rode into the back
lands of Pakistan, isolated from the modern world of technology and social
niceties. Reduced to the basic requirements of survival in a primitive and
basic culture where the day-to-day concerns centre on essentials such as
finding the next meal, dodging the next bullet, lasting the next day in
prison, and enduring the next illness, CuChullaine reports on his trek in a
reflective and philosophical manner. His use of narrative is artful and
compelling; his tale flows unimpeded by complaint or request for sympathy.
Riding by choice into a archaic setting, his journey is as much an inner one
of self-discovery of personal limits and capabilities as it is a record of
overcoming physical hardships in a savage land. As such, Khyber Knights
is an astounding chronicle of physical and mental challenge. Those from
the travelling set who seek warm beaches, fine dining, five-star hotels and
first-class accommodations might not choose Khyber Knights as their
primary travel guide. However, here is a tale of a journey worthy of all
types of readers from those who enjoy vicarious experiences from the
security of their armchairs to those bold explorers seeking inspiration for
their next quest.
– Explorers’ Club.
A mounted study of
O’Reilly is an equestrian explorer who founded The Long Riders’ Guild,
network of men and women who love horses and ride them over seemingly
impassable terrain and unimaginable distances. That organization is not for
the fainthearted. His book, Khyber Knights, describes his adventures
as a journalist, and Long Rider, in my country. O’Reilly lived in Peshawar
and he fell in love with that city and with Pakistan. He also fell in love
with Islam, which he found simple and elemental in its power, a religion
that conceives all the creatures of God as indivisible and worthy of
respect. It was in Pakistan that he became a Muslim and took the name
Asadullah Khan, though he did not abandon his Irish-American origins of
which he is proud. In America and Europe, he is known by the name he was
born with, but to his friends from Pakistan, among whom I happily count
myself, he is Asadullah Khan. Though some of his happiest moments were
discovered during his equestrian journeys through my country, Asadullah
rightly warns his readers that grief never takes a vacation in Pakistan. He
is the only non-Pakistani I know who has got it right. I compliment him on
his insight and intuition.
– Pakistani journalist.
A passionately told
story that will make you wonder how authentic your own life is.
looks like a perfectly normal book from the outside. A handsome painting
graces the front cover and the back cover promises an epic journey that it
dares you to survive. 'How exciting,' you think happily, sinking into a
comfortable position and turning to the first page of what you expect to be
a long, richly entertaining memoir into which you can look from the
outside. But to your shock, the saga of Khyber Knights has a
peculiar, vivid power. It reaches up to grab you by your very soul with a
frightening force. It pulls you down to face it with what courage you find
in yourself as you follow the footprint of the author's true odyssey on
horseback through one of the most dangerous places in the world in the early
1980s − Pakistan. And you learn soon enough what international journalist
turned equestrian explorer Asadullah Khan (CuChullaine O'Reilly), has
insinuated about surviving the experience of reading this book. Here we
have the opportunity to realize how much dimension and richness of living we
have lost in our sanitization of the authentic sweat, dirt, blood and tears
that we have just about made extinct in our society. Many times during the
reading of Khyber Knights I had such dread about what was going to
happen next that I realized I was tensed, cold and stiff. At these times I
had to force myself to keep reading. I happened to know that the author was
still alive today, but what of the other people and the horses I had grown
to care about? What had happened to them? I dreaded to know, but I had to.
When I finished the book I felt that in a way I didn't just accompany the
author, I had made my own passage.
– American Journalist.
No tale of timid
Anyone who has ever
wondered about what adventure travel story would be of interest to real
adventurers need wonder no more. Khyber Knights is the epic tale that
will be read by climbers in their tents on Mt. Everest, by wanderers camped
out under the stars in the Sahara, and by modern day explorers wintering
over in Antarctica as well as just about anyone with a passion for horses.
Read the Author's Disclaimer and then try to put the book down before you
have finished the entire 600 pages. I dare you!!!
A number of years ago a friend
introduced me to an American adventurer who had explored Afghanistan and
Pakistan on horseback. Had it not been for the Soviet invasion of
Afghanistan, CuChullaine O’Reilly would still be an American nomad living
among the Afghans and the world would have been deprived of a fascinating
story. When the Soviets seized Afghanistan, O'Reilly moved to the Pakistani
frontier town of Peshawar to cover the war and also to teach basic
journalism to Afghan refugees under an American university program. He fell
in love with Peshawar and it was his abiding love for the city that brought
us together. It was in Peshawar, a cross between Casablanca and Dodge City,
that according to his own account he came across 'the swirling cocktail of
turbaned freedom fighters, tight lipped foreign mercenaries, naïve foreign
aid workers, cruel Pathan warlords and more spies than ever lurked in
Berlin'. It was also from that vantage point that he saw the destruction of
Afghanistan and the Afghan society that he loved so much at the hands of the
Soviet Union. He lived in the inner city, wore native clothes, ate the
common fare and felt at home with the natives. From Peshawar he forayed into
the remote tribal areas of the wild western frontier of Pakistan where
honour, deceit, hospitality and religion rule side by side. From the back of
a horse he peered into the secretive underworld of prostitution, drugs and
guns and came face to face with death on more than one occasion. Khyber
Knights, the unvarnished account of this young American's foray into the
secret and forbidding world of Central Asia, is a real-life thriller. Once
you start the journey with Asadullah Khan, you won’t be able to get off
until the horseman himself dismounts at the end of his story.
Dr. Amjad Hussain
- Author of
Taliban and Beyond.
Khyber Knights – A
flame in the dark.
O'Reilly's depiction of Pakistan's Northwest Frontier, under the rule of a
military tyrant, is a penetrating gaze into a land wrestling with itself in
the late twentieth century. Khyber Knights is a beautiful and
terrifying portrait of tribal bastions living in the world's rafters; of a
people clutching to the past with a ferocious zeal. Deftly captured with a
patient eye and tenacious pen, this is as much a story about the author's
soul as it is of this mountainous province and its peoples. From his
abominable experiences in the dungeons of Pindi prison, to his Odyssean
adventures with his beloved horses, where each valley is a different
country, the author illuminates his surroundings with an admirable
fervour. An important and courageous work of a time and place that has since
melted into the past, the book’s manifestations are a flame in the dark.
Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and author of
Singing Bowl - Journeys through Inner Asia.
reading Khyber Knights.
Knights arrived, it sat on my desk for weeks. Although I’m an avid
reader, I had reviewed a lot of books lately and some were very up-hill
reading. Thus my enthusiasm for a new title was a bit low. But when I
started reading Khyber Knights I have to say that it brought me
nothing but trouble. It is so interesting that I didn’t want to put it down.
If I finished work at four a.m., I still had to read it, all the while my
husband grumbled because the light was on. I even took it into the bathroom.
I’ve read thousands of books and this has to one of the most interesting.
The ride of a
If you want the
adventure of a lifetime, Khyber Knights is a must read! Not only do
you see the beauty of Pakistan's panoramic countryside, you're also caught
up in conflicts so intense that you are relieved when you and the author
ride on. My father, Marshal Ralph Hooker, was an equestrian explorer and one
of the Founding Members of The Long Riders' Guild. He would have loved to
accompany CuChullaine on this amazing journey.
A triumph of the
Why do I want you
to read this book? Is it because I rode more than 20,000 kilometres myself
from South Africa to Austria, so I know first hand the dangers and hardships
involved in equestrian travel? Is it because Khyber Knights offers a
unique insight into Afghanistan and Pakistan that you will find nowhere
else? Is it because the story is so gripping that I read it three times?
Yes, all of this is true but there is something more. As the author of my
own book of equestrian exploration, The Will to Win, I recognise
CuChullaine's passion for horses and love of the local people. Both
qualities shine through his adventures because of the subtle touch of this
master writer. For Khyber Knights is a triumph of the story-teller's
art and now rests in an honoured place in my library.
Scottish Long Rider
Gordon Naysmith, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and author
Will to Win.
Khyber Knights: an
O’Reilly is a man who likes to go on long journeys, and his chosen mode of
transport is the horse. Khyber Knights is his epic account of one of
the most extraordinary adventures ever taken on horseback. When O’Reilly
says, “Pakistan at times almost destroyed me,” you get the feeling that he
isn’t exaggerating. But he also has a passion for Pakistan, a passion that
bounces off the pages with accuracy, authority and authenticity. Khyber
Knights is nothing if not a great read. O’Reilly writes in a straight
line and at a cracking pace. And despite the fact that the book is on the
surface about life in the saddle, hardship and the stark, harsh reality of
survival in a fiercely inhospitable world, it is also about the deep
workings of the soul of a man. What prompts men such as O’Reilly to risk
their lives in such appalling circumstances is beyond the imagination of
most people, but the answer is somewhere in the truly inspirational
Explorers Club Contributing Editor and Fellow of the Royal Geographical
One of the most
astonishing books I have ever read!
There are almost
insufficient superlatives to describe this book. I read it at a sitting,
interrupted only by some sleep, neglecting everything until, breathless, I
reached the end. It was not just the exotic nature of Asadullah Khan's tale
but the piercing quality of his writing that made this a special read, even
amongst a genre known for good writing. I am not personally familiar with
the North West Frontier area but have read much and heard first-hand
accounts from relatives who were there. I am slightly more familiar with the
true face of Islam - and I don't mean the sad travesty and corruption of it
that has led to today's atrocities, as too frequently reported. Reading
Khyber Knights (what a great title) made me feel that not only was I
there for every hoof-beat but deepened my knowledge of this part of the
world. It was only after returning from our own long-distance horse journey
- seven years encircling the globe by horse-drawn caravan - that I came
across The Long Riders’ Guild and CuChullaine O'Reilly. And I thought that
we had had some adventures! To be honest, we had quite enough. When it comes
to the kind of hazards encountered by O’Reilly, I definitely prefer to read
about them than experience them. One thing that we share is a love of that
outstanding animal, the horse. His love of and care for his animals shines
through at all times, perhaps especially at those awful moments when tragedy
struck. I cannot recommend this book too highly. It is unforgettable and a
classic that will outlive its author.
author of The Seven Year
This is the real
If you think the
days of adventure, romance, bravery and horsemanship are past, then renew
your spirit by reading CuChullaine O'Reilly's Khyber Knights. I am a
fellow Long Rider, having ridden from Canada to Mexico down the Rocky
Mountains. I am not easily impressed by the many that call themselves
horsemen and adventurers. CuChullaine is both in the truest sense.
Additionally, his details of Muslim culture and Islamic religion are
important to read in these times when both have been so misrepresented.
North American Long
Rider Allen Russell, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
I’ve now had enough
time to undergo sufficient treatment for the post-traumatic stress I
received from reading Khyber Knights. This is an extraordinary
achievement of unstoppable narrative and certifiable Irish lunacy. In more
restful moments I’ve had fun casting the Hollywood version of Khyber
Knights, but can’t imagine finding mortals to do justice to the fatal
allure of Shaheen or the wall-eyed menace of Maqbool. We may have to wait
for the home-grown Pathan film industry to turn this equestrian epic into a
author of The Missing
and co-founder of the Arvon Foundation.
what a roller coaster ride !
I read Khyber
Knights just before setting off for a horse journey through Afghanistan.
I myself encountered dreadful adventures, from illness to local tribal wars.
However, despite the many dangers still existing in Afghanistan, I can tell
you I haven't experienced even a small portion of what Asadullah Khan went
through during his equestrian odyssey. What a roller coaster ride! As a
horse enthusiast, I really appreciated the reading of Khyber Knights. I
enjoyed the love story between a man and his horse, and his quest for
adventure, truth and friendship. The book also gave me a great historic and
sociologic perspective of Pakistan. Indeed, it is rife with information and
provides a reliable account of the profound turmoil in which the country has
been struggling since its birth. Although my family used to live in
Pakistan for a long time (they had to leave in 1983), I wasn't aware of all
the stakes and key players of this global game. In a way, Khyber Knights
opened my eyes. Read the book if you dare!
French Long Rider
Louis Meunier, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
Adventure at its best.
My book shelves are packed with
adventure books but this one tops them all. It gives an unparalleled insight
into Pakistan, from the perspective not of a foreign correspondent,
government agent or aid worker, but that of an equestrian adventurer for
whom Pakistan is his chosen home. This account takes the reader right into
the heart of the country, in both its beauty and cruelty. This is not a book
for armchair explorers who enjoy reading Jules Verne or Mark Twain but don't
wish to hear about the dark side of adventure. This is real, from the
friendship and help given unasked for, to the incredible brutality of the
local police and the inhumanity of life in Pakistan’s most notorious prison.
Khyber Knights and
Knights reminded me of a long forgotten classic work of travel writing
first published by John Murray in 1819 – Anastasius by Thomas Hope.
Hope’s once very popular work was based on the experiences of a
Scots-Dutchman travelling within the Ottoman Empire during the 1790s. Some
twenty years after the events, Hope wrote a fictional account of his
travels with the main emphasis on the lives of many ordinary Muslims. Hope
went to the lengths of creating a storyteller who was imagined as a young
Greek Orthodox man rebelling against his family’s narrow values. One of the
most impressive sections of Khyber Knights is the one set amid the
horrors of Pindi Prison in Pakistan, recorded with great passion by
Asadullah Khan. Likewise, one of the most memorable sections of
Anastasius is the description of the horrors of the prison of the Baglio
in Constantinople. Like CuChullaine changing into Asadullah, Anastasius
turned into Selim. Unlike Asadullah, the conversion of Anastasius in
Constantinople began not as a conversion to the simple way of devotion to
Allah, but as a result of Anastasius’ smouldering ambition to seek
preferment as a Muslim soldier within the Ottoman Empire. Asadullah was
caught up in the conflicts of General Zia’s Pakistan and Selim was caught up
in Islamic sectarian battles in the Ottoman Empire. Both Selim and Asadullah
found that being a Muslim led them onto invaluable discoveries, feelings,
relationships and reflections within worlds which were (and are still)
subject to much popular misinformation. Novels like Khyber Knights
and Anastasius need to be widely read nowadays by anyone ready to
begin to understand the challenging presence of Muslims throughout the
world of the 21st century.
A land and people
that may never be seen again.
speaks of a land and people that may never be seen again. Thankfully
CuChullaine O'Reilly knew how to describe it at the time. This is horse
country. But O'Reilly can ride anywhere and he can read a horse's character.
Although he underplays his experience as an Asian traveller, he understood
what was happening. There was danger everywhere, strangely similar to the
Great Game of spies and devious imperial diplomacy of the previous century.
Here's a story way beyond mere travel, complete with Sharia law, bluff old
Pathans, the beautiful Shareen and the dust and blue mountains of the
North West Frontier. Not to be read in a single sitting, this book is one to
English Long Rider
Richard Barnes, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and author
Eye on the Hill.
A story of trust
between horse and rider.
As an 86-year-old
Swiss woman, English is not my mother tongue, so I dare say I may have
missed quite a bit of Khyber Knights. Nevertheless the description of
the waterless, rocky mountains and the abundant growth in the valleys, the
absolute trust between horse and rider and their betrayal by man, the
hostile and cruel characters of some men and the hospitality and
friendliness of others and every variation in between, along with all the
other adventures, made me feel part of the story. Some events, as well as
the vivid description of nature, remain in my mind.
Thanks for Khyber Knights.
I have devoured this masterpiece
of equestrian literature, Khyber Knights. Why? Because it speaks of
my dreams, beliefs and equestrian adventures in the world I have chosen to
live in - Northern Pakistan, amongst the glorious people of the Hindu-Kush
mountains. Like CuChullaine O'Reilly, I have experienced the diverse and
distinct Islamic beliefs and traditions among the faithful Pushtun tribesmen
and the brotherly people of Gilgit, Ghizar, Hunza and Chitral. Like him I
have ridden with my horses to Shandur Pass to witness the world’s highest
polo tournament, held between the Centaurs of Gilgit and Chitral. After
having read Khyber Knights, I felt a strong bond with CuChullaine and
his story about that mystical part of Asia which we love in similar ways.
Asadullah Khan (a.k.a. CuChullaine O'Reilly) for your wonderful "little
Italian Long Rider Simone Carmignani.
Armed with a
This book is a
stunner. I’ve had so much to do against deadlines that I’ve been trying to
keep all distractions to a minimum, but I’ve failed on the occasions that
I’ve been weak-willed enough to pick up Khyber Knights. It’s a
page-turner. O’Reilly is quite possibly the last person to have travelled a
foreign country armed with a sword; a worthy heir of Fred Burnaby.
Irish Long Rider and journalist, Jasper Winn.
High adventure at
The shadow of Mr.
O'Reilly's hands has crossed squarely over my path. A couple of days ago a
book arrived called Khyber Knights. After helping him up out of the
dust and debris, I never left the author’s side for the next six hours. I
finished his adventure the next day after another non-stop eight hour
read-a-thon. I think when someone said, "go forth and have an adventure", he
pulled the throttle all the way back. What a great story he has shared with
the world. I learned more about Muslim life and about the Qur’an than the
last two years of news reports. Bravo!!
enlightening book of our time!
My family is from
India, and I have been living in the U.S. for the last 18 years. I am a
Hindu, and this is the most compelling book regarding the Islamic religion I
have ever read. It dispels the current myth of political fanaticism and
religious intolerance which has so wrongly been ascribed to the Islamic
religion. Additionally this is the most exciting adventure on horseback I
have ever read. I stayed up many nights until dawn to find out what happens
next! A must read.
Adventure, danger, love and
Hold on to your hats! Or your
turbans as the case may be. Khyber Knights, CuChullaine O’Reilly’s
account of his life in 1980s Pakistan is at times a journey as harrowing as
the mountain trails he rode over on trusty steeds, while visiting isolated
outposts not seen by a westerner since the days of the British Raj.
Completely immersed in the culture, religion and lifestyle, O’Reilly offers
insights into a place and time inaccessible to all but a few. Khyber
Knights is far more than the tale of daring horseback feats, it is a
documentation of life in Pakistan while the Soviet war in Afghanistan raged
next door, it is an intimate portrait of a survival in a Pakistani prison,
(thankfully so vividly told that I don’t need to experience it for myself!),
and it is a story of forbidden love in a land where falling for the wrong
girl could easily get you shot. On top of all this O’Reilly gives his
personal account of an American Muslim searching for God in the mountains
and back streets of Central Asia. Khyber Knights is a story as full
of adventure and danger as it is full of humour, love and respect for the
land, its people and, most importantly, its horses.
New Zealand Long Rider Ian
Robinson, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and author of
You Only Die Twice.
O'Reilly has told the story of his courageous adventure on horseback through
the "fiery forge" of the North West Frontier of Pakistan. Not only was the
author imprisoned in Pakistan's most infamous prison, after being kidnapped
and tortured, but he also describes the horrific end of his horse who died
in the mountains. Exciting Stuff!!! I couldn't put the book down. Well done,
A book that must be
read many times.
The day I picked up
this magnificent book I was transported to a world talked about by my
parents and grandparents, the NWFP. Many tales were told over the years,
some believable and some not. Asadullah Khan's epic journey through Pakistan
and his experiences are recorded for posterity. Like Homer's Odyssey
and The Iliad, Khyber Knights is truly a superb achievement.
Asadullah Khan, a "man of twists and turns," meets all the challenges thrown
at him in a land that is seldom understood by the West. A convert to Islam,
and above all a keen horseman, Asadullah Khan has written the book in such a
way that all senses become alive and one is actually living the experience.
I would recommend this book to anyone, whether he or she be an equestrian or
otherwise. It is a book that has to be read not just once but many times
An intoxicating journey
through a mystic land.
Just another yarn about a horse
trek? Not bloody likely! I was looking death in the face from an existence
grown stale, when Khyber Knights brought me in from the dark and
illuminated the physical and spiritual joy of life. With colourful word
pictures, CuChullaine drew the stark and pristine beauty of "hard places"
beyond human settlement and reminded me of the inner rewards awaiting those
who risk going there. In a less-than-perfect world, he showed me how to find
beauty, wonder and spiritual wealth in the simplicity of everyday life; like
sifting the vibrant colours, sounds, smells and sights from a stinking,
parasite-infested and overcrowded city and turning them into an
intoxicating cultural and gastronomic extravaganza.
But above all he
captured the essence of a primeval bond of interdependence and love between
nomadic human and horse that screams "truth" and brings tears to the eyes of
any other Long Rider. CuChullaine, thank you for reminding me how to "savour
the taste of Life".
Rider Sharon Muir Roberts, author of
The Colour of
Treat yourself to a
As a fellow Long
Rider who wrote a book about his experiences, I truly appreciate what
CuChullaine O'Reilly accomplished on horseback as well as when he wrote his
wonderful book. Khyber Knights gives readers an up-close look at a
part of the world that became very important on September 11th,
2001. It tells a tale that will have tremendous appeal for anyone who enjoys
horses, adventure, travel or history. This book is full of excitement and
surprises, and the use of language is absolutely outstanding. The imagery is
wonderful. Simple, understandable English is used with great imagination,
colour and flair. What's not to love? The only possible disappointment is
the lack of a sequel!
Canadian Long Rider
Verne Albright, author of
The Long Way to Los
Here is a book that
makes us all aware of how far the everyday boundaries of adventure can be
stretched. I own a company called Unicorn Trails that provides horse riding
holidays. We deal in making people’s dreams and adventures a reality in a
small way. With this book CuChullaine O'Reilly has not only taken these
boundaries and made them appear irrelevant, but he has done so in such an
eloquent and insightful way that armchair travellers feel as if they have
been there and experienced it themselves. Highly recommended reading whether
you are ever going to sit on a horse or not.
Dutch Long Rider
Wendy Hofstee, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
A portrayal of Pakistan: raw,
true and pure.
never left my side throughout my travels in Pakistan: guiding me along those
ancient tributaries of Pakistani history, culture and religion. Being of
Pakistani background I was touched by this book’s ability to reveal the soul
and essence of a people and country that is very often misunderstood. By
becoming part of the dust and wind that is Pakistan, literally, Asadullah
manages to describe everything from an insider's point of view. He
successfully portrays the blend that is Pakistani culture and Islam, which
is inseparable and a complete way of life. Having lived with expatriates
working for non-governmental organisations, I can say from experience that
even months after being in the country, many foreigners still do not
understand this Pakistani blend. This book will certainly support anyone who
is after that invaluable knowledge.
Khyber Knights: a journey of
external & internal discovery.
As a fellow Long Rider, I was of
course in rapt attention to the details of the horseback journey, which were
harrowing in the least. But for me, it was the story of the prison, and the
inward discoveries, as well as the humanity among the insanity of what
passes for a legal system in Pakistan, that truly kept me awake at night,
turning page after page. This book is highly recommended, not only for the
scope of the adventure, but for the journal-like quality of the text. It
hasn't been tidied up for the masses...for that wasn't the target audience.
This book is raw, as it was intended to be, in order to reflect the
immediacy of the subject matter.
Founding Member of the Long
Riders’ Guild, DC Vision.
read this book!
exotic adventure and romance in an exotic setting, spiced with action, are
your cup of tea, READ THIS BOOK! If you find intrigue in a part of the
modern world where war is still fought from horseback, and travel is still
better by the same means, READ THIS BOOK! If you would like to know more
about (and understand a little better), first hand, the people of the
Pakistan/Afghanistan area, READ THIS BOOK! In short, READ THIS BOOK, you
will regret only that there is not more to read immediately when you are
Khyber Knights: an adventure in
My family had spent time in
Pakistan and since September 11th, 2001 I have had many
unanswered questions about Pakistan and Afghanistan. This story, Khyber
Knights, has given me a great glimpse of this wild country - a place of
mysterious people, danger and yet at the same time, kindly and generous
people and peace-loving religions. And all this from the back of a horse!
What magnificent horses!
A miracle the author survived to
tell this amazing tale.
CuChullaine O’Reilly’s ability to
describe the tapestry of life in developing Pakistan and its wild frontier
country lets the reader smell the sweat-stained bandits, taste the slimy
gobs of sheep fat and shiver with cold at the world’s highest-altitude polo
game. Let’s just say I’m glad that the author survived Pakistan to write
this book – most people would have died a dozen times along the way. I ended
up carrying the book all over the house to read it at breakfast, in bed,
while drying my hair. The story went by in a flash, all the while I related
parts of the story to my husband and friends. Besides the adventure story,
this is also a timely book to read for people wanting more information about
Islam and Pakistani/Afghani culture. How better to learn about
Pakistani life and the Muslim world view than from a man who lived, worked
and worshipped among them.
North American Long Rider
I must say you have
had some incredible adventures. I was amazed at your story. Certainly
nothing that ever happened to me on horseback comes anywhere close to this.
North American Long
Rider Douglas Preston, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and
Cities of Gold.
The movie waiting to be made.
Where to begin? Movies, books,
documentaries so far have all failed to capture the labyrinthine charm,
complexity and seductive menace of Afghanistan. It is one of the last great
places in the world and the Afghans themselves are among the most
fascinating, courageous, appealing and frustrating people anywhere.
Khyber Knights is the best personal record on this subject, set in the
pre-Taliban era. Once you read CuChullaine O’Reilly’s narration you
understand the insane allure of the place. This is THE movie waiting to be
Professor John Kelly,
Boston University and Afghan Media Resource Centre.
An extraordinary look inside the
In Khyber Knights
author-adventurer CuChullaine O’Reilly (a.k.a. Asadullah Khan) has blended
tales of his own unparalleled experiences in the Indian sub-continent with
the imaginings of a gifted writer of fiction in a style that is precise,
fluid and rich in language and metaphor. Here he carries on and broadens the
true-fiction genre first explored by Truman Capote in In Cold Blood.
Centred in Pakistan, a land that, in O’Reilly’s own words, “prides itself on
hiding its secrets from the uninitiated,” this book gives up those secrets
as recounted by Asadullah Khan who came by them the hard and honest way of
merging into the culture, very nearly at the cost of his life. The result is
an extraordinary amalgam of tales of terrible peril and hardship that are
met with degrees of bravery and endurance that few mortals could hope to
summon. A work of value on many counts, on one hand Khyber Knights
contains historical facts and information sufficient to engross the
scholar-historian of the Muslim world, and on the other hand it tells the
tales of derring-do sufficiently enthralling to hold the attention of the
most demanding adventure-story
reader. Fortunately CuChullaine O’Reilly has not been sparing with his
talent. Khyber Knights is a long book and its generous length
promises hours of sheer delight.
author of Rider Ride On.
A journey on many levels.
I was initially excited by the
obvious adventure of this book and by the fact that it is an amazing
equestrian quest written by a true horseman. Khyber Knights is also a
highly intelligent historical/political piece. What I ultimately came away
with was the realization that beneath the exterior rested a more spiritual
work that I first suspected. A particularly inspiring must-read for anyone
with an enquiring mind and a love of life and/or horses.
A testament of faith and courage.
In regards to Khyber Knights,
how elevating to find a fine raconteur, equestrian and writer all under one
turban. The writing was so finely tuned and imaginative, that I was captured
by the geography, history, and of course suffering and adventure. This book
tells so much about the human condition – ignorant, destructive,
short-sighted governments and people blind enough or powerless enough to be
dragged along the path of needless destruction. Yet Khyber Knights
allows the reader to discover redeeming mountains of light in this wonderful
testament, which in turn reveal the author’s faith and positive values
author of Mounted Archery in the Americas.
Born to ride.
Asadullah Khan, CuChullaine
O’Reilly, was born a century too late. He was born to ride a horse. God
created the horse to be ridden by man; a horse without a rider looks naked
and incomplete. And, it seems that God created Asadullah Khan chiefly to
ride a horse and to sit like a crown on the head of a king. Asadullah could
not travel back in time in Wells’s time machine. So, he went to my native
land of Pakistan, a country still lingering in the 19th century. But, the
reality of the 20th century brought the two political giants of the age to a
clash of interest in the region. A war by proxy caught in its vortex the
denizens of the region, including persons like Asadullah, who escaped to the
rugged mountains in the exhilarating company of his beloved horses, whom he
treated with the utmost affection. The largest potion of his narrative is
thus allotted to his travels in northern areas of Pakistan rarely traversed
by foreign visitors. It is this portion that has won encomiums by other
writers, particularly the horse-back Long Riders. The beauty of Asadullah’s
pen can be appreciated only when you read his book.
S. Arif Hussaini
– Pakistani journalist.
Khyber Knights, Beowulf and El
Give or take a book or two, there
is probably more stirring event and hair-raising incident in Khyber
Knights than in anything published since Hemingway. It is indeed one of
the most exciting and interesting books I’ve read over the last ten years,
which is why I finished it essentially in one long session. The greatest
virtue of Khyber Knights is that it takes you places you’ve never
been, will never visit, and do not really want to go to; the parched valleys
of northern Pakistan, where the only modern thing that ever arrived is the
automatic weapon; the bare and rocky mountain ranges riddled by extreme
poverty, mindless cruelty and a primordial indifference for the well-being
of fellow creatures; the cities plagued by misplaced outbursts of distant
conflicts, perfectly alien to the local population, fought out by strangers
wielding car bombs and Kalashnikovs in murky nocturnal alleys. Reading
O’Reilly’s memoirs you get a peep into worlds you never knew existed. His
detailed observations teach you things you did not realise you were unaware
of. This is a book in the rough style of Beowulf and El Cid.
It is Euripides, not Socrates. Oh, there are many beautifully written pages
in Khyber Knights. But that is not what the book is about, or what it
was meant to be. Khyber Knights is, at heart, driven and savage like
a Bacchanalian dance, not neat and polished like some gracious performance
of Swan Lake. If you are in for such things, if you have the stomach for
them, then here is a perfect treasure house of narrative, a window on
unknown worlds; it is a book which not only amuses and captures, but also
teaches and informs you as very few books do.