Review of Twelve Camels for Your Wife by George Dearsley

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Have you read Twelve Camels for Your Wife?

George Dearlsey and I have been acquainted for a few years through our interactions in Facebook groups and via private messaging so when he told me he was writing his memoirs I was really pleased. Most of our conversations were about practical matters of life in Turkey, so I only had a vague idea about his background. I knew he first visited Turkey decades ago, was a journalist at some stage and involved in the world of football in some way, but didn’t know the details. I was aware he lived in a smallish village these days and that was all.

Twelve Camels for Your Wife starts when George set off on the adventure of a lifetime with two uni mates, with a roughly laid plan of driving from the UK across Europe to Turkey and beyond. This was back when travellers only had a couple of guidebooks to choose from, the internet didn’t exist and finding a place to stay and a good meal were often hit and miss. Heady days when chance brought travellers into contact with helpful locals who often became lifelong friends, as George discovered. Like many people who come to Turkey, one visit wasn’t enough and he eventually moved to Turkey permanently.

George takes us through the full gamut of the Turkish experience, from being befriended by curious schoolkids, dealing with dodgy nightclub owners and being warmly accepted by local villagers who don’t understand the meaning of alone time. His memoirs include standard stereotypes about Turkish culture but also go well beyond them, to reveal the depth of passion, curiosity and sheer joy for life that make up every day Turkish life. He recounts his experiences with lots of humour making for an easy and entertaining read. It’s clear George endeared himself to everyone he met, no matter how tense or potentially fraught the situation.

However, when I’d finished Twelve Camels for Your Wife, I didn’t feel I’d learned all that much about George himself, what he felt about a lot of things and what was really important to him. Maybe that’s down to the fact that George is, after all, an Englishman, as mentioned in the sub-title. Or it might just be me and my insatiable need to know everything about everything and everyone!

If you’ve only ever stayed in the tourist areas of Istanbul and wonder what other areas are like, or in summer resorts where most people speak English but dream of a little cottage in a quaint Turkish village somewhere, read Twelve Camels for Your Wife. The same goes for those of you who’ve never been here and are curious about recent Turkish history (recent being relative in a land that’s been populated for hundreds of years). You won’t regret it.

Title: Twelve Camels for Your Wife
Publisher: George Dearsley
Date: April, 2021
ISBN: 9798733800868

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  1. JON G BERKEDAL: I have lived in Turkey for over 23 years. From Istanbul to Fethiye, back to Istanbul and then to a village a few kilometers outside of Kaş, a small resort in the Antalya province.
    The muhtar of our village used camels to transport their household goods, chickens, goats, and garden seedlings from their coastal village to the mountains (from sahil to yayla) until the late 1990’s. He claimed one villager alone owned 25 camels! Alas they now use small trucks (lorries to Brits) to perform their annual move. Whilst we lived there we regularly saw the camels our two young neighbors kept in a shed.

    1. Yes, camels were once frequently used in Turkey. Nowadays they are generally kept to be used as fighting camels which is something I would like to see one day.

  2. My knee-jerk reaction is, what a great idea to share your experiences, and congratulations on getting them published. Then quickly to, how unfortunate that, based on the title and cover art, you haven’t learned anything. In four years of living and traveling extensively throughout all of Turkey, I never saw a single camel outside of the ones at Gulhane Park in Istanbul. The author probably meant the title of the book to be “tongue in cheek”.

    Just a week ago I hosted one of my cousins in Seattle. By all measures he is well educated and successful. He has even traveled. I was shocked when he asked me why I liked Turkey so much as his impression of he country was that it was full of sand and camels. This kind of title and cover art only serve to reinforce these kinds of negative and frankly, ignorant stereotypes. Again, sad for someone who has lived in Turkey. Still, I have ordered the book and hope I am really wrong about my first reaction. Finally, no “good on you” to you Lisa for promoting this. Sorry.

    1. Thanks for your detailed comment Jon. While I agree with you about the title and the cover for the reasons you’ve given, you’ll find when you read the book (spoiler alert) the title comes from something the author actually experienced in Turkey. I hope your initial impression changes after you read it.

    2. Jon, I can assure you I have many photos of me and my two daughters riding camels on Şile beach (like donkey rides in the UK). Also, as hopefully you will read, camel wrestling is very popular and there are thought to be at least 1,000 fighting camels in the country. As Lisa points out the title is a reference to a tongue-in-cheek offer made by a nightclub owner. I do hope you enjoy the book and when you have read it maybe you will add your thoughts to this thread. Thanks for buying the book. A lot of effort went into it.

      1. Hi George, here is my Amazon review (only saw your comment after posting the review there) I read this on the recommendation of Lisa Morrow and have no regrets. George’s account of his love affair with Turkey and Turkish people (with which I can wholly empathise) and so much more is truly captivating. I really appreciated his quoting of Turkish phrases, which I’ve added to my Turkish vocabulary. I learned a few things I didn’t know abut Turkey (don’t ask me what at the moment). I wholly understand not to want to be an ‘ex-pat’ (hate that term) who turns into tanned leather and drinks wine all day. I need to reread the book again as it’s on my Kindle and can’t access a hard copy being stranded in Turkey since 2019.
        Highly recommended and one to add to my growing collection of personal yet factual accounts which make such a change from the ‘Shirley Valentine’ books that abound about Turkey.

      2. Forgot to add we have Turkish Awakening by Alev Scott which you mention and enjoyed that too and I have downloaded Ellis Flipse’ book Yabanci. I know who Ellis is but haven’t met her yet (hiding from the ex pats in our area as we do in the main- cough, cough)

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