Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Cleopatra's Needle - Two wheels by the water to Cairo by Anne Mustoe.

I picked this book up in my local charity shop, as the idea of someone cycling to Egypt sounded interesting, especially as I've traveled to Egypt myself. I'd never heard of the book or the author before, but I'm going to look out for her other books.This really was a fascinating book. Anne makes the trip from London, the site of one of Cleopatra's needles, and makes her way to Heliopolis, where it originally stood. This is done on Condor, her trusty orange bicycle. She aims to travel near water at all times, meaning she cycles along the Thames, the Seine, the Rhone and the Po. Unfortunately, this is undertaken at a time when Europe was beset by flooding. This, however was not the worst of what she had to face. She found herself in a Muslim country at the time of the September 11 attacks. After taking some time to assess the situation she continues- a welcome tourist for the hotels she stays in. The book is written in a chatty, lively style. It's slightly more formal than a Bill Bryson book, but don't let that put you off. There's a genuine warmth in this book, both for cycling and for the countries visited (well, most of them, some countries looked down on "a mere cyclist"). The book has a few appendices, including bike specifications, a time-line of Cleopatra's life, and a list of the French names for fish. This last appendix may seem strange, but the author found it useful in France and wanted to pass it on. There's also a mystery hidden in it, explained at the end. If you are interested in cycling, Egypt or travel I'd definitely recommend this book!

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