I was promised a travel book with a difference, the difference being that most of the destinations visited by Robin in this book are not your usual, albeit due to recent wars or political issues, destinations on most peoples bucket lists to visit. Robin saves us all the worries of venturing to some of these destinations by giving the reader a mesmerising account, often serious, frequently light hearted, always historically accurate; this book is a journey, and one that I am so envious yet one that I would/could not dare to go on, as he visited such incredible countries as Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and then also to Israel, Oman, Dubai, Qatar - with the last four being destinations not so much a worry to visit!
He visited some pre-current tensions/situations but most post such as Afghanistan and Iraq. He even describes landing in Kabul and being the only tourist on the plane with the rest being Non-Government Organisation staff or Private Security staff, and yes, he really did go on a tourist holiday to Afghanistan - think I will give that a miss for the time being!
Robin describes the great impoverishment of Yemen and then the vast opulence of Qatar/Dubai, without being condescending towards either, even though both are at opposite ends of the Arabic speaking Worlds financial spectrum. Sana'a in Yemen is one of the poorest places, if not the poorest, of the Arab speaking World, it is drying up yearly, so you will learn from this book, yet Robin does go on to say that the Yemeni people are some of the friendliest he has even met, much to what he and we all thought/think by being shown the news stories from Yemen and it being a no-go area for Westerners! He describes his journey to Damascus and Aleppo, now scenes of chaos and with the latter, mass destruction but, he visited before the current hostilities and provides a picture of places of culture and friendliness, which I can relate to based on my meetings with Syrian's in certain Arab speaking countries.
It is sometimes hard to review a book that is non-fiction and is aimed at a reader of a niche genre but this book captivates you, mostly because of what has been shown on the news for the last few years but, it takes those visions you have of these places and brings to life the love, the culture, the vast differences, the happiness of the people, the history and the true identity to give you a better understanding that real people live in these places of current or recent crisis, yet they go about there day to day business like we all do. They get on with life, just like you and I, it just makes you realise that you should never be swayed by what you watch on the news!
9 out of 10 - I cannot wait for Robin's next travel tales...
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