City of Djinns

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City of ghost
Author William Dalrymple
Illustrator Olivia Fraser
Language English
Subject Travel
Publisher Penguin Books.
Publication date
Preceded by In Xanadu: A Quest
Followed by From the Holy Mountain: A Journey in the Shadow of Byzantium

City of Djinns (1994) is a travelogue by William Dalrymple about the historical capital of India, Delhi. It is his second book, and culminated as a result of his six-year stay in New Delhi.

City of Djinns was the first product of Dalrymple’s love affair with India, centring on Delhi, a city with ‘a bottomless seam of stories’. Shaped more like a novel than a travel book[1] , he and his wife encounter a teeming cast of characters: his Sikh landlady, taxi drivers, customs officials, and British survivors of the Raj, as well as whirling dervishes and eunuch dancers (‘a strange mix of piety and bawdiness’). Dalrymple describes ancient ruins and the experience of living in the modern city: he goes in search of the history behind the epic stories of the Mahabharata. Still more seriously, he finds evidence of the city’s violent past and present day - the 1857 mutiny against British rule; the Partition massacres in 1947; and the riots after the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984.

The book followed his established style of historical digressions, tied in with contemporary events and a multitude of anecdotes.


The book has now been made into a play by Rahul Dasinnur Pulkeshi of Delhi-based Dreamtheatre [2] . Dalrymple is played by Bollywood and stage actor Tom Alter, with Zohra Sehgal playing the role of Nora Nicholson, a British national who prefers to stay in India after it achieves Independence.



Dalrymple, William (1994). City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi. Flamingo. ISBN 0-00-637595-2


  1. ^ Indeed, some Indian historians have opined it is a novel 'masquerading' as a travel book; eg HL Kaul, Delhi Illuminator, 1997
  2. ^ "‘City of Djinns’ is being dramatized, with lots of flavour and fun thrown in". The Retrieved 2007-06-29.