Though Syria has begun to open itself up to the foreign traveller, for many of us it remains a sinister and forbidding destination. Syria's monumentally unwelcoming state apparatus - and its fraught politics - could defeat even the most determined adventurer. As the idlest and most easy-going of explorers, Robert Tewdwr Moss side-steps danger to luxuriate in Turkish baths and muse on the ironies of life and love. His Syria is also a place of contrasts: from concrete esplanades swept by hot dusty winds and all-seeing electronic eyes, with images of President Assad lined up side by side in surreal massed ranks, to deserted back streets where mud-brick houses collapse into themselves like melted chocolate. He visits the legendary city of Palmyra and stumbles upon a shred of 2000-year-old mummy. After helping to rescue the relics from an ossuary of Armenian massacre-victims, he leaves a bagful of bones on a bus. He is publicly denounced by a paranoid alcoholic London writer and stoned by Saddam-sympathizing youths in Syria's restive eastern provinces. He follows in the footsteps of a 19th-century English lady traveller, and falls hopelessly in love with a Palestinian ex-commando. Robert Tewdwr Moss's Syria is a dour, disturbing land - a place which attracts the oddest characters and where the oddest things happen.
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