Thursday, August 13, 2009

UNESCO World Heritage sites: the guide

This marvelous guide covers every UNESCO World Heritage site - all 878 of them. The World Heritage List includes properties forming part of the cultural and natural heritage which the World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal value. Cyprus has 3 sites that have been given such classification - the city of Paphos, the painted churches in the Troodos region and the Neolithic settlement of Choirokhoitia.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Vintage pick: Persia and it's People: Women travelers in the Middle East

Opening up a new shipment of books from England today, I was treated to the sight of some quite rare and beautifully-bound books filled with stories from the Middle East written around the turn of the last century. Startlingly, several of these early colonial travelogues were written by women, who at the time were accompanying husbands and brothers sent to further British colonial interests in the region as the Ottoman Empire was crumbling.

Travel literature flourished in the Victorian period due to the interest generated by the far flung places incorporated into an expanding Empire. While men wrote the majority of these books, there are a few female names that shine through. These books are important as women travelers were sometimes able to access locales and environments not open to men, as well as attempting to address themes not normally awarded value within the patriarchal social understanding of the world at that time. Although in saying this, these women were still seeing through the same lenses, as yet critically unaltered by the feminisim and reflexivity to come later in the century.

Nonetheless the women I’m referring to – Freya Stark, Lady Anne Blunt and Ella C. Sykes – were pioneers in their own right. Learning Arabic, exhaustively traveling and documenting the Middle East with their male compatriots, these women provide an alternative nuanced voice and vision of their time.

We have a 1st edition, author-signed copy of Ella Sykes’ Persia and it’s People (1910) for sale. It’s a beautiful tome, hard back, blue cloth cover, 356 pages, illustrated with black and white photographs taken from Sykes’ brother’s collection. In the book, Sykes describes life in Persia based on her observations from two visits that extended over a period of three years under sections that include religion, government, travel, country life, Persian men, women and the city of Mashrad.

Interested in more information? Contact Ruth at Moufflon –

Autobiography: The Trials of Being Auberon Waugh.

Moufflon recently discovered a well-rounded collection of the works of Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966) secreted away in our storage room which is now, you would be happy to know, taking over a small corner in the shop. Evelyn, (troublesomely named apparently on a whim of his mother’s) shared this rather wickedly awkward experience, so funny I couldn’t help but include it here:

“Once during the Italian-Abyssinian war I went to a military outpost many miles from any white woman, preceded by a signal apprising them of the arrival of ‘Evelyn Waugh, English writer.’ The entire small corps of officers, shaven and polished, turned out to greet me each bearing a bouquet. I was disconcerted; they were overcome by consternation.” (taken from this article, well worth a read).

Waugh is connected to Cyprus through the (mis)adventures of his son Auberon, a similarly smart, acidily funny man. The relationship between father and son, is if anything, quite odd. It appears that the elder Waugh did not think much of his son. During the German bombing of London in 1943, Waugh asked that his son be sent to London and his book collection to the country. He remarked jokingly in his diary at the time: “It would seem from this that I prefer my books to my son. I can argue that firemen rescue children and destroy books, but the truth is that a child is easily replaced while a book destroyed is utterly lost…”.

The younger Waugh (1939-2001), also a talented writer and journalist, had in his youth been posted in Cyprus. Due to an unfortunate machine gun incident, Waugh was to spend the rest of his life dealing with the consequences of these quite serious injuries. The machine gun accident – a home goal – may have embarrassed his father greatly, as he refused to visit his son who was not expected to live. His mother Laura however, stayed by his side throughout his convalesce, during this time cultivating a great love of Cyprus sherry and apparently “drank enormous amounts of it until she died in 1973”.

Let Bron tell you himself of the incident:
“Last week I went into hospital with the reappearance of a minor infection from some bullet wounds received in Cyprus many years ago. A sympathetic editor to whom I reported this circumstance said he remembered the incident well, when I was machine gunned from behind by my own men.
I am not sure whether it makes one more or less ridiculous to be machine gunned from behind by one's own men or to be machine gunned from in front by oneself, which is my memory of the incident. An even more persistent piece of gossip - always emanating from someone known to the speaker who was in Cyprus at the time - is that I shot my testicles off.

Here, then, is my version of the events which led to my retirement from the Cyprus problem: The date was 9 June 1958. I was a slim, suntanned 18-year-old national service officer in a famous cavalry regiment. The morning of 9 June 1958 found me posted on the Kyrenia-Nicosia road between a Greek village called Autokoi (or something like that) and a Turkish village called Guinyeli (or something like that) with three or four armoured cars, hoping to discourage the villagers from massacring each other, if I had read my map correctly and was in the right place.
I had noticed an impediment in the elevation of the Browning machinegun in the turret of my particular armoured car and, having nothing else to do, resolved to investigate it. Seizing hold of the end with quiet efficiency, I was wiggling it up and down when I noticed it had started firing. Six bullets later I was alarmed to observe that it was firing through my chest, and got out of the way pretty sharpish. It may encourage those who have a fear of being shot to learn that it is almost completely painless, at any rate from close range with high-velocity bullets. You feel a slight tapping and burning sensation and (if shot through the chest) a little winded, but practically no pain for about three quarters of an hour afterwards when, with luck, someone will have arrived with morphine, if you are still alive. My first reaction to shooting myself in this way was not one of sorrow or despair so much as mild exhilaration. I lay down behind the armoured car and explained what had happened in words of few syllables, to incredulous murmurs of "coo" and "cor", while an enterprising corporal climbed into the turret and tried to stop the machinegun. That, then is my memory of the incident, although there is no particular reason why people should prefer it to other versions. The incident deprived me of a lung, a spleen, several ribs and a finger but nothing else (my italics).

Finally, I have a vivid memory of how I disgusted and shocked my corporal of horse (platoon sergeant) by playing a silly joke on him. He was a tough parachutist from Bristol called Chudleigh. As I lay on the ground waiting for an ambulance, I facetiously said: "Kiss me, Chudleigh." Plainly he did not spot the reference, and treated me with an unaccustomed reserve from that moment, even when he came to bid me goodbye on my return to England. But in the past few years I have grown to mistrust my memory. Too many people have disbelieved the story, and it is just the sort of thing one would invent whether it was true or not. Or perhaps I heard it from a friend and, ever credulous, believed it implicitly.”

Where to start: The most famous of Evelyn Waugh’s books is Brideshead Revisited, which was reworked as an excellent BBC serial and a recent not-so-good film.
Auberon Waugh’s autobiography is also highly recommended - Will This Do? – in which Waugh writes, “Looking back over my career to date, and at all the people I have insulted, I am mildly surprised that I am still allowed to exist”. Moufflon has in stock a 1st edition copy of this book signed by Waugh himself.