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Cleopatra's Wedding Present: Travels through Syria

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3.85  ·  Rating details ·  85 Ratings  ·  20 Reviews
    Cleopatra’s Wedding Present is the rare book that captivates its reader from the first page. Like the best travel books, Robert Tewdwr Moss’s memoir of his travels through Syria resonates on many levels: as a profoundly telling vivisection of Middle Eastern society, a chilling history of ethnic crimes, a picaresque adventure story, a purely entertaining travelogue, and ...more
Hardcover, 252 pages
Published September 9th 2003 by University of Wisconsin Press (first published 1997)
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Jim Coughenour
Jun 17, 2013 rated it liked it
I owe the discovery of this book to my friend Gerald, who recommended it after reading my review of Death in Persia. Originally published in 1997, after the murder of its author and the disappearance of the final draft, it's a haunted tale of both a writer and a country. Tewdwr Moss – variously described as "a perfumed gadfly" and "gay as a paper hat" – is the type of traveler the Brits delight in producing. His perilous peregrinations through Syria in the mid-90s not only foreshadow his own dea ...more
Denise Louise
Sep 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book has so many layers to it that it's difficult to summarize. The author travels through Syria about fifteen years ago, relating the history and his experiences there. He did not know at the time that the uprising happening now would take place (although you can almost feel its undercurrents throughout the book even then). His descriptions of the people, the squalor, the dust, the heat, the decay, the fear and paranoia, created an experience for me of a place that, as an American female, ...more
George Ilsley
Dec 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Found this memoir on a list of "best books about Syria". While not really in a position to judge, it is a fascinating book, and there is always a certain frisson reading about place names while they are in the news. The story of this book's publication is also, sadly, remarkable (the author was murdered, revisions were lost, the manuscript re-edited by others, and published posthumously).

Syria, it would seem, has more history than is humanly possible to bear. Phoenicians, Alexander the Great, Ro
...more
Ron Turner
Mar 21, 2017 rated it liked it
I have mixed emotions.

These are the last words of a dying breed, an old-fashioned British dandy. He was murdered while working on the final draft of the book. The irony being that he wasn't killed by Syrian secret police or ISIS terrorists but two neighborhood thugs who he invited in to his house to party with and ended up choking him to death and robbing him.

We get a look at a Syria that no longer exists. The government has lost control of two thirds of the country. Aleppo itself is pretty much
...more
Debrah Roemisch
Sep 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
The author manages to survive all kinds of possible dangers in Syria including getting very sick before going home to England only to be murdered there before his book was published--what irony. With all the bad news about Syria today it was interesting to read about what it was like a couple decades ago and to learn some of the history of the area.
Lindsey
Mar 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: muslim-societies
This a captivating account of a 30-something gay man travelling through Syria in the mid 1990s. You get great, random details, like how the Syrians loved Princess Diana, and there's fascinating anecdotes about grave robbing and alluding hotel authorities. You can definitely see all the elements that have led to the current trouble in Syria.

A few of my favorite bits: The chapter "The Perfume of Rosewater" is near perfect, featuring a liberal teenage girl named Safa who befriends the author. Also
...more
Amanda
Mar 24, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Regina Mamou
Recommended to Amanda by: Idlewild Bookstore
Shelves: non-fiction
Though I read it in preparation for travel to Syria, recommended also for armchair travelers or anyone with interest in the Middle East. Earning his comparisons to Bruce Chatwin (though I haven't read any similar accusations of embellishment, but who knows), Tewdwr Moss's observations of a conflicted and complicated place are connected by the people he encounters throughout his journey. A well-balanced mix of reportage and personal narrative, Tewdwr Moss addresses both the cultural (being invite ...more
Leslie
Jan 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The contrived title is the only criticism I have of this amazing look into Syrian life two decades ago, written by a young gay Englishman. The dreadful fact of his murder hangs over the reader who wants so much for this lively, intelligent, interesting man to have had a long life. His observations, insights and unusual experiences are fascinating and very helpful for someone trying to get a sense of Syrian culture. It provides a background to the civil war that has been unfolding these past 5 ye ...more
Nicole
Oct 18, 2010 rated it liked it
This book was an unexpected joy to read. Moss wrote an engaging, easy to follow account of his travels in the country of Syria in 1996ish but intertwines both his cultural experiences, but also his romances as well. It was equally interesting to hear about the sublities of gay life in this cloistered middle eastern country as it was to learn of various archeological sites. And he also touches on the impact of both the Kurdish and Armenian populations living in the borders of Syria. It is saddeni ...more
D. L.
Aug 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Dry writing, rescued by the vaguely spectral energy that the author's death (he was murdered the day after he finished the manuscript, and his killers erased the final version) casts over it. It's an original take on a tired genre, and his curiosity and sense of adventure are invigorating. You'll have to force yourself through more than a few chapters; you'll race through others. But when you've finished it you'll remember with tenderness Moss's honest admiration of strange, frightening, intoxic ...more
Tiffany
Mar 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Moss' memoir takes us into the Syria of the early 90s (I think, based on the date of the author's death; a little clarification on this point would have been helpful). There's so much color in this book, and his descriptions of many of the people he encountered are so on the mark, I found myself reeling with memories of living in Egypt. The sexuality angle is a very interesting addition to the "journeys in the Middle East" genre. I could barely put down "Cleopatra's Wedding Present" and I regret ...more
Edi
Nov 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a fun read. I enjoyed it very much before spending time in Syria. If you're a gay male you'll enjoy it even better. Culturally is specific to Syria and the relationships one as a man develops with fellow brothers. I would not translate this into other Middle Eastern societies.

The book is well written, good use of the English language (he's British journalist), funny and entertaining.

Add it to your list!
س
Nov 06, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very readable, the author has a great way with words. A very understated honesty in his writing. Such a unique book as well: gay travels through Syria. A few statements were uncomfortably orientalist, perhaps even racist, but the way he writes he can almost get a way with it. What a shame he was murdered the night he completed this book and we won't be able to read anything else by such a talent though.
Shovelmonkey1
Jun 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel-books
This is the best travel book i've ever read... and i've read a lot. I read this in 2001 before I went to Syria for research purposes and weirdly I actually managed to meet some of the people who Robert Tewdr Moss met and interacted with. His descriptions of Syria are so exact and he captures the key elements of each city he describes. Such a huge shame that he did not live long enough to write anything else because surely he would have been one of the best travel writers.
Virginia
Aug 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
If you wanted to travel to Syria (I'm sure no one does right now) let this book take you there and show you on an intimate level how effed up it was/is. As a travel book this is pretty good as each chapter are little vignettes of the author's travel adventures. And it is interesting to get a view through a gay man's eyes. This book also touches on the Palestinian refugee problem in the other Arab countries. Events take place in the 1990's.
Trina
Nov 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
Syria in all its tough beauty and ugliness. I didn't plan to really read this book, passed on to me by a friend, but the writing is vivid and the author's story unexpected: a gay British reporter who recounts his hookups with Middle Eastern men in a thoughtful and touching way. Someday I hope to visit Syria, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon.
Scott Morrison
Jul 09, 2012 rated it did not like it
This book is very boring. I read it for a book group and very little happens in the 200 pages. If I could have given it zero stars I would. The only good thing is that you can skim it very quickly because nothing happens at all. It is a shame when there are so many fantastic books out there.
Josie Shagwert
Apr 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
If you like Bruce Chatwin you will love this book. Robert Tewdr Moss was an incredible travel writer, a observant story teller, and just a fascinating person. He really brings Syria (the good the bad and the ugly) to your living room!
Peter
May 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
Intoxicating and exotic.
Karoliina
Cleopatra's Wedding Present got more interesting towards the end. The first couple of chapters about Aleppo were less interesting, but I really enjoyed reading about Damascus.
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