Thursday, 1 August 2013

Tom Chesshyre - 'A Tourist in the Arab Spring'

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 journey through lands fresh from revolution – Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. 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 describes being abducted in Libya, listening to the sound of Kalashnikovs at night and talking to ordinary people struggling to get by.  On the second anniversary of the Arab Spring, this is the ideal time for this book. - Summary from

Tom Chesshyre's adventure is one both captivating politically, and creatively. His writing style is so easy to immerse yourself in; informative, yet descriptive. His journey is, in its own right, something to envy. Yet Chesshyre successfully takes a region of the world that we became familiar with largely through constant news and social media coverage of political uprisings and military revolution, and he makes it more human, and more 'real'. Tempting as it may be to hold an image of a constant war zone full of revolutionary fruit-sellers and minute-to-minute political movements, it soon becomes apparent throughout Chesshyre's journey that this region is, by and large, very quiet. Ghosts of society and bustling civility still cling to places, but the majority of people are evidently struggling to get by daily and - perhaps in stark contrast to our own perceptions - most people in these countries have long-since come to terms with the fact that those explosive months of uprising really did very little for the majority. What may seem like an abstract week, month or year of revolution or recovery to us is an hour-by-hour existence and livelihood for the people of these countries that Chesshyre visited - Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.

The writing comes to life through discussions and impromptu acquaintances with locals - smugglers, soldiers, shop owners - who overcome the obvious bewilderment of seeing a white man in a KIA travelling their towns and villages, and open up to talk about life.
Chesshyre writes an honest and absorbing account which tries, mostly successfully, to avoid any political bias. Instead, he explains what he sees, hears, smells, eats and says - leaving us with a clear and realistic image of these countries that we must place in the absence of our own first-hand experience.

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