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Customer reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars

on 15 September 2013
I preface this review by saying I know Tom - having met him through work. But I bought this book intrigued at the idea that someone would have visited countries so soon after the Arab Spring. I agree with the other reviewers that it's an excellently written book -almost painfully bittersweet in parts as you read about the hopes and fears of people who have been through so much and are learning to articulate their views of the world. Reading the book now after recent events in the Middle East makes it even more moving. As I read his book I kept wondering where those people are now. Superb and unusual book. Away from the news headlines a slice of how entire nations were feeling at a critical point in history. A tourist in the Arab Spring Aftermath should surely follow.
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on 17 April 2013
Having read all of Tom's previous books, I was eagerly awaiting for his latest one, which promised to offer a dramatic change of scenery. Set in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt it promised a whole new world for me. I thought it was incredible that someone, so soon after the uprisings, decided to go and "check out" this part of the world - and I am so glad Tom did.

I love how not only he tells the story, but how he makes it all about the people he met along the way. A born story-teller, I couldn't put it down.

Also had the chance to interview Tom - read about it here
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on 15 January 2014
If only I had the nerve to emulate Tom Chesshyre and travel through these three countries at this time, each of which has experienced the Arab Spring in their own inimitable ways. In spirit, I sat beside him in the hire car, travelling along potentially lethal Tunisian roads to amazing archaeological sites and sympathised over the story of poor, tragic Mohamed Bouazizi. I feared for his safety in Libya as he was virtually abducted by a sneering policeman. The best part, for me though, was Tom's stay in Egypt. His enthusiasm for Cairo, even in the midst of the aftermath of the revolution, gave me great pleasure. Cairo is not an easy city to love and Tom's open-mindedness is a credit to him. Tom - there are three levels of waiter in Egyptian restaurants, the most senior, just below deputy restaurant manager, is indeed 'captain'.

A huge coincidence occurred while reading this book. In the final part Tom travels to Sharm El Sheikh and visits an unnamed hotel, although Tom describes the reception very clearly. With the assistance of a fellow tourist he surreptitiously photographs former President Mubarak's seaward facing villa, which can be found within the grounds of the same hotel. I was actually staying in this hotel at the time of reading the book, A Tourist in the Arab Spring being one of my holiday reads.

This book is well worth 5 stars. It is a riveting read and for those who have not travelled in the Middle East, is an excellent introduction. Where next Tom?
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VINE VOICEon 29 May 2013
Tom Chesshyre's three previous travel books have all been light-hearted and very entertaining, drawing him comparisons to Bill Bryson. This latest book though is decidedly more edgy, as he travels to three extremely volatile nations, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. This doesn't mean that this book is any less entertaining, its just that the situations he gets himself into are of a much darker nature than what has written about before. In Libya, for example, he writes about the occasion when it seems like he was being kidnapped (at best); this is a chilling piece of writing as Chesshyre manages to convey the sheer terror of the situation.

Whilst each of the three countries have undergone a radical change following the overthrowing of their tyrannical leaders, it seems each country is going through a period of uneasy peace and not everyone is convinced that things have necessarily changed for the better. Chesshyre finds that the people he meets are keen to talk about what has happened and what is still happening, but usually finds that they are very uncertain about what will happen in the future.

Whilst everybody knows about the Sphinx and the Pyramids of Egypt what surprised most about this book is the large amount of other, relatively unknown, ancient treasures that can be found in this part of the World. If the political status of these countries improves will they become the new big destination for antiquity tourists in years to come?

This is an informative yet enjoyable book and Chesshyre gives us a impartial taste of what life is like in these countries.
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on 6 April 2013
In this first rate travelogue, Tom Chesshyre (as in his previous books) gets under the skin. Most of us clung to the edge of our seats while the Arab Spring swung this way and that, appalled by the violence, longing for happy outcomes, yet fearful that it might all end in tears. Chesshyre came along as - at least in north Africa - the dust was only just settling. The wounds were still raw, and the eventual outcome uncertain, but ordinary people had emerged again blinking, as it were, into the daylight and (often for the first time) were able to speak.

Chesshyre listens well; has an eye for the telling scene and a good ear for dialogue. There are adventures (he was briefly seized by gunmen), but there is also a shrewd view of daily life and of the thus far disregarded impact of the uprisings on the antiquities of north Africa, far richer than those in Europe. He is a real tourist, but uses his journalistic skills to penetrate where others might fear to tread.

The eventual futures of the countries he visited have yet to be determined, but one puts down this book understanding a great deal more about an historical upheaval comparable to the destruction of the Berlin Wall. The world will never be the same again, and Chesshyre was there to record the immediate aftermath.
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on 10 May 2013
With Chesshyre leading you by the hand, you know you're in for a thought provoking journey. He tackles complex, dark subjects with a clear and compassionate eye and uses the travelogue format to carry the action on. I love his descriptions of the various accommodation he stays in along the way (the grottier the more interesting) and of course the people he meets which forms the basis of the story - real people who have suffered real traumas and are coping in a new world order.

He makes the very interesting point about tourism that we mostly follow the herd, missing many grand sights along the way such as Lepis Magna in Libya, the greatest Roman remains in Africa. And that if a country's leader fails to nurture historic treasures, they can be lost.

Travelling through Tunisia, Libya and Egypt was a brave move, and one that has resulted in a page-turner of a book.
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on 30 December 2013
I found this book by chance at the cash register in a bookshop in Bahrain. What a find! Who says the internet rules in book-buying?!
Tom Chesshyre is a wonderfully observant, witty and go-getting traveller who really hits the streets in the countries he visits.
Chockfull of amusing and brief encounters with disillusioned guides, drivers, receptionists (in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Jordan) in addition to hustlers, chancers and thugs!! ; they tell the real tale of the double-edged "freedoms" of the so-called Arab Spring.
Pen pictures, hilarious dialogue and superb quotes from Conrad, Twain, TE Lawrence and more make this a schwarma to savour.
I'm paying the ultimate compliment of immediately buying more of his books after this jewel. Enjoy!
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on 10 June 2014
I've read all the other books (save one that is still on the "to read" pile) and enjoyed every one. This one feels slightly different. The style is the same, the almost weightlessness of the prose just as enthralling, the tone just as familiar, but there's a weightiness to the subject, the places, and most importantly the people Mr Chesshyre encounters that sets this book apart from the others.

I was enthralled with the journey and the people, and consumed with interest in the uncommon places.

Any book that encourages further reading around a difficult set of problems is a winner for me.

I'm glad I bought this book. Now you buy it and you can feel just as smug and enlightened.
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on 11 October 2014
I adore Tom Chesshyre's writing ('How Low Can You Go' is one of my all time favourite travel reads), so discovering that he had a new book in the offing was cause for excited anticipation. However, having just finished the book, I am left with a sense of vague disappointment.
This book is very different from what he's written previously because Tom doesn't have the same depth of knowledge and experience of North Africa as he has with Europe (which has provided the backdrop for his earlier books). To his credit, he is honest about his lack of familiarity with the region and this lends a sense of stumbling into the unknown and an unfamiliar edginess to some of the prose.
This book also contains less of Chesshyre's characteristic humour - possibly because life in the countries he visited is no laughing matter. There is a pervasive sense that despite the expectations that fuelled the Arab Spring, little has changed for people on the ground, and his recurrent theme is that they have seen no economic opportunity to compensate for the turmoil they've endured. Perhaps it's the lack of even a glimmer of a happy ending that distinguishes this from what he's previously written about the 'new' Europe that has emerged since the fall of the Iron Curtain.
I also can't help wondering whether being published by a more 'serious' travel press - Bradt - has also put a slight damper on Chessyre's previous bounce.
I found the sections on Egypt more enjoyable than those on Tunisia and Libya - there's a sense that he's closer to familar territory, and his observation and writing is more confident as a result.
I agonised about whether to give this 3 or 4 stars - he's a gifted writer and it's still a good book. Perhaps the acid test is that I've torn through every other Chesshyre book from cover to cover, whereas this took me a couple of weeks to finish.
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on 18 December 2015
I've read a lot of travel books and love people like Paul Theroux and Bruce Chatwin. Tom Chesshyre comes at things differently, though, with a journalistic background and an interest in the politics of the region he's visiting. It's a brilliant book, and being familiar with some of the places, such as Tunisia, I was eager to read it. I found it fascinating and well-written, and also funny and honest. I had to laugh at some of the scrapes the author got into, and at other times was sincerely glad he was making the journey and not me. But I envy him the book he got out of it.

It was one of those books I wished I could have read in one sitting, and I think it will appeal to anyone who enjoys a good travel book, whether you're interested in the politics of the region or not. Though it was published a couple of years ago, it's still very timely and relevant.
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