About this book
In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, war reporters rushed to publish accounts of the uprising. Tom Chesshyre took a different approach – he jumped on a plane and became the first to return to the region as a tourist. The result is the fascinating, street-level tale of a lay traveller's journey through lands fresh from revolution. Chesshyre heads for tourist sites that few have seen in recent years, as well as new 'attractions' like Gaddafi's bombed-out bunker in Tripoli. In a book both touching and humorous, he also describes being abducted in Libya, listening to the sound of Kalashnikovs at night and talking to ordinary people struggling to get by.
Extract from the introduction…
'I was travelling as a tourist, not as a foreign correspondent with a well-thumbed contacts book and a series of appointments. I would take the temperature of the region during a key period in its history – as a casual visitor. I would see what there was to see as a traveller with a guidebook. Yet by talking to people along the way, I'd get a sense of the bigger picture.
That was my hope, at least. Being a tourist would be my way of unlocking the countries. I would take in the wonderful Byzantine ruins of Tunisia, the famous Roman remains in Libya, and the treasures of the pharaohs in Egypt, plus some lovely beaches in the Sinai Peninsula. What would I find out about the Arab Spring as I pottered among the ancient sights? What does an Arab Spring feel like?'
About the author
Tom Chesshyre was born in London in 1971. He has a degree in politics from Bristol University, where he was news editor of the university paper, Epigram. He completed a newspaper journalism diploma at City University, after which he had short stints at the Cambridge Evening News, Sporting Life and Sky Sports. He freelanced for The Daily Telegraph and The Independent before joining the travel desk of The Times in 1997, where he still works. He has helped with the research on two non-fiction books: W. G. by Robert Low, a biography of W. G. Grace, and Carlos: Portrait of a Terrorist by Colin Smith, a biography of "Carlos the Jackal". He is the author of three previous travel books: 'How Low Can You Go? Round Europe for 1p Each-Way (Plus Tax)' published in 2007, 'To Hull and Back: On Holiday in Unsung Britain,' published in 2010, and T'ales from the Fast Trains: Europe at 186mph', published in 2011 and shortlisted in the 2012 British Travel Press Awards. His travel writing has taken him to almost 100 countries. He lives in south-west London.
1 Tunis and Sidi Bouzid:
Cigarette Smugglers and Hitchhiking Heroes 1
2 Sidi Bouzid and Garaat Bennour:
It Started with a Fruit Seller 12
3 El Jem and Kairouan:
Mosques, Marvels and a Near Miss 31
4 Tunis and Carthage:
Tanks in the Capital 47
Lost with the Lotus-eaters 63
6 R’as Ajdir and Tripoli:
Tap, Tap, Tap into the Night 80
7 Leptis Magna:
There is a Tourist? 99
8 Sabratha and Tripoli:
In Brother Leader’s Old Bunker 118
9 Benghazi, Cyrene and Qasr al-Haj:
Trouble and Tea 138
Salafists on Tahrir Square 160
11 Cairo, Saqqara and Giza:
Pharaohs, Camels and a Yacoubian Building 179
12 Suez and Sharm el-Sheikh:
To a Dismal but Profitable Ditch. and on 201
13 Sharm el-Sheikh, Taba and St Catherine’s Monastery:
Smile: you are in Egypt 220
'Account of a trip through freshly revolutionised parts of Egypt, Libya and Tunisia paints the region as one of the most fascinating on Earth.'
'A fascinating, often humurous, insight into a world in the midst of revolution.'
Food & Travel
'With no brief other than curiosity, and equipped with nothing more than courage and compassion, he discovered that word of mouth was his best entry visa into the confidence of people whose lives had been so disrupted.'
'A good read about not quite 'wish you were here' territory… yet.'
'The author is honest to admit he hasn't a clue, but his journey across these lands has the freshness of someone who hasn't just read the newspapers, but has been there and talked to the people, none of whom have a clue either.'
Good Book Guide
'The result is the fascinating, street-level tale of a lay traveller's journey through lands fresh from revolution.'
The Middle East
‘This witty, perceptive book provides a fascinating read for lovers of thoughtful, imaginative and well-written travel literature.’
Mail on Sunday
‘A charming travel companion, entertaining and engaging’.
Times Literary Supplement
'A compelling account of travels through terrain strewn with the relics of ancient civilizations, but set within the thoroughly modern context of burgeoning young democracies at a turbulent stage of their growth… a valuable alternative take on momentous events in a fascinating part of the world.'