Book Review: From Souk to Souk by Robin Ratchford


From Souk to Souk by Robin Ratchford
From Souk to Souk by Robin Ratchford

Title: From Souk to Souk: Travels through the Middle East

Author: Robin Ratchford 

Genre: Travelogue, Middle East, Travel

Publisher: Troubador Publishing Ltd

Published: March 28, 2014

Page Amount: 186 pages

Blurb From NetGalley: From Souk to Souk is the captivating story of Robin Ratchford’s journeys across the Middle East. It breaks the rules of the traditional travelogue, offering not just an innovate account of his colourful journeys, but a personal insight into the region in a way which is accessible to all.

Determined to discover a part of the world that has fascinated him since childhood, Robin sets off to Istanbul. His travels take him from the historic bazaar of Aleppo in Syria to the street markets of Baghdad. In the course of his journeys he gets lost in the Yemeni capital’s maze of ancient winding streets and ‘goes round the bend’ in Oman, meeting a kaleidoscope of clerics, artists and artisans along the way.

Why Read: I had decided that I was done with NetGalley for a while, that my brain was sore and wanted a break from reading all of these different thrillers and literary fiction. But I took one last look because as a bookworm, I can’t just resist all of these incredible books at my fingertips. And I’m absurdly glad I did, because From Souk to Souk is one of the best books I’ve read this month (and I mean that… look at my ratings and you’ll see what I mean).

Review: If there was a prize for being a sucker for travelogues for random places that aren’t particularly inviting to visitors, I would win. From Souk to Souk seemed to fit those requirements perfectly. Although I’m not as much of a fan of books that focus solely on the conflict aspect of the Middle East, I do enjoy books which go on and on and on about the culture.

From Souk to Souk fulfilled that. Robin Ratchford reminded me of a gentle narrator who led me by the hand through the mystical and dusty landscapes of Aleppo, Dubai, Yemen, Beirut and so many more places I couldn’t have imagined without conflict before this book. And what he did so perfectly was the combination of ancient history and his own personal travels which seemed like something out of fiction.

The flow between chapters and within the chapters themselves was a slow and meandering tale through the Middle East, citing towns and cities that I would never have sought out myself. The mark of a good travel book in my opinion is the urges I get thereafter to seek the places out, to find what he described and to travel outside of the places we find comfortable. The fact that I want to visit the Middle East as I have never felt in my life before answers the question for me.

The most poignant part of From Souk to Souk for me was the chapter titled ‘The Whore and the Potter’. I felt as though the internal world of Beirut will be forever emblazoned in my mind as the potter Joseph. His beautiful and incredible works of pottery right beside the whorish tendencies of the rest of the city, and then the heart-wrenching moment I experienced upon realizing that he no longer existed.

I can’t recommend a better book if you love travel and know little about the Middle East. Although I’ve studied the different parts of the world, having finished the book, the appreciation I feel for the more genuine parts of that world, disappearing a little every day, has doubled if not tripled in volume.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Review Coming Soon: Questionable 

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