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Cleopatra's Wedding Present: Travels Through Syria [Paperback]

Robert Tewdwr Moss
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

27 July 2008
Robert Tewdwr Moss' Syria is a place of contrasts. From the legendary city of Palmyra and its mysterious carved deities to the collapsing mud-brick houses of the deserted back streets, "Cleopatra's Wedding Present" takes the reader on a journey that is exotic, scurrilous and thoroughly entertaining. Tewdwr Moss, a brilliant young writer who was murdered in London the day he finished the book, left this lyrical gem as his legacy. A memoir of his travels through Syria and his exploration into the region's culture and explosive politics, it conveys what so many westerners find both fascinating and frightening in the Middle East. A chilling history of ethnic crimes, a picaresque adventure story, a colourful travelogue and a poignant romance, it captivates from the very first page.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd (27 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0715637487
  • ISBN-13: 978-0715637487
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 12.8 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 508,925 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


One of those rare books that pounces upon you and chivvies you into a state of proselytising enthusiasm. It is much more than a travel book about Syria, although as such it is marvelous --Daily Telegraph

It would be hard to find a more archly entertaining, slyly informative, or poignant travel book than this --Independent

The book's series of entertaining vignettes is testimony not only to the author's literary skills but to his courage, curiosity and happy knack of befriending anyone he met --Mail on Sunday

About the Author

Robert Tewdwr Moss was a journalist of astonishing versatility. Born in 1961, he first made his mark as Diary Editor of the Books section of the 'Sunday Times'. He also contributed to magazines as varied as 'Tatler', 'Woman's Journal', 'Harpers and Queen' and 'Africa Events'. He died in August 1996.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This absolutely remarkable story brings to life the sights, sounds and smells - in all their beauty and ugliness – of Syria. The book recounts the journey of one gay man has he spends several months traveling around this complex and exotic country, which was actually part of Mark Anthony's love gift to Cleopatra. Robert Tewdwr Moss was tragically murdered in London just after this manuscript was completed, so he never got to realize the fruits of his labors. This is such a pity because Moss was an extremely talented writer, who had a wonderful capacity to totally reinvent travel writing. This memoir works in many ways – as a profound treatise on the Middle Eastern Society; a chilling history of ethnic crimes - particularly the Armenian genocide - a picaresque adventure story, a compelling travelogue, and a touching and affecting tale of sexual self-discovery.
Moss certainly captures the essence of the Middle East – from its indescribable poverty, and its government corruption to its chaos and the unconditional hospitality and uncomplicated generosity that is offered by many of the local people. The story begins with a description of the "hot winds," "the blinding heat," the "fine brown dust" from the dust storms, the "chaos of the streets and the air "clotted with diesel fumes hanging like a cloak around us." As the story progresses and Robert leaves the city of Aleppo to travel to Damascus, he infuses the narrative with descriptions of this suffocating yet exotic world: the dirty collapsing towns that have had a "great past and no present" full of "the old merchants you see here – sly, and leathery, survivors.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Old fashioned travelogue 30 Mar 2008
By Elizabeth Taylor VINE VOICE
Format:Unknown Binding
This book is a travelogue by a young gay journalist who was unfortunately killed a few years ago. It doesn't however read like a modern book, I had in my head the view thought of a 1930's scott fitzgerald character with no future or past, no job or financial worries with a wonder-lust. For example, the book starts off in Damascus in an old hotel, filled with fans and slightly aged German tourists.

The author travels from city to city in Syria meeting various individuals along the way, the more people he meets the more connections he makes which means he can meet more people in new towns. At this stage as a women I was frankly very jealous of his freedom to meet and greet. It is very well written, with excellent descriptions of people, and events; we meet syrians, we meet refugees as well as westerners who have decided to settle. Although it paints a picture of a tightly controlled society its also a country with an ancient history, full of interesting characters and places but apparently very dull food. The author travels around and around, with no real purpose or aim other than to experience and only leaves when he catches a nasty blood disorder. His skill is his observation of people and the small details of life, a meal in a restaurant or a person ordering drinks or his walking down the backstreets after curfew.

Though his travels we learn about the custom's and frustrations of the people for example that because of police eavesdropping when he makes an invitation certain individuals are too polite to say no, so just avoid the answering the question or seeing him so he can repeat it. This is however not in any way a political novel its about the experience of meeting new people and observing them.
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The title of the book has been taken from the fact that Syria was once part of Marc Anthony's wedding present to Cleopatra. Today, the population is still only a pawn in the power games of the mighty.
One member of our group had recently returned from a trip which took in Syria and he thought it was an accurate description that captured the feel of the place.
Many of us recognise his description of souks where one corridor looks like another and the smell of offal and meat and piles of guts can make one sick. Pall Mall cigarettes are sold singly on streets. Squat loos and back gardens with toilet paper all around, flyovers, Victorian-like barber shops open in the evening, shaving with cut-throat razors, the mournful sound of the water wheel as `agonised lament', a washbasin plumbed in to the hall, developers who destroy the most beautiful parts of a building first and then ask why anything should be preserved, power cuts and it is hot without a fan and you cannot open a window because of dust storm, aping European architecture whereas Arab houses have courtyards in the middle, the constant blare of car horns and the loop of CNN news - just like almost everywhere else in the Middle East. That feeds in to fantasies about the greenness of England - mild, ordered and urbane.
We get a description of the "hot winds," "the blinding heat," the "fine brown dust" from the dust storms, the "chaos of the streets and the air "clotted with diesel fumes hanging like a cloak around us." The dirty collapsing towns had a "great past and no present" full of "the old merchants you see here - sly, and leathery, survivors."
Then there's the con-artists: Hisham/James speaks with a gay cockney accent and said he used to work at Heaven yet had never set foot outside Syria.
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