One inspired to present the perfect gift to their lover would do well to look to the example of Cleopatra. She was gifted the entire southern coast of Turkey by a smitten Mark Anthony. A seductress in countless films, inhabited by Claudette ColbertVivien Leigh, and Monica Bellucci, she will be immortalized by Elizabeth Taylor.

It is still possible to take a "Mavi Yol" or Blue Voyage along this very shoreline. Gulets, like old Phoenician wooden sailing ships, can be hired out of most of the harbors on the Bodrum peninsula. The price includes the captain, crew and meals. Voyagers need only shout "stop!" when they spot a beachfront that looks irresistible. The captain will drop anchor and you can then dive off the back of the gulet, and swim to shore to explore. One beach you won’t want to miss is that of Sedir, or Cleopatra Island, a small island in the Gulf of Gökova in the southwestern Aegean Sea, not far from where the journeys typically begin. Here, the perfectly spherical red sand, was, according to legend, brought by ships from North Africa to please the couple. "Bir varmis bir yokmus," say the Turks in these instances. "Perhaps it is true, perhaps not," in a culture so old it has a tense for hearsay.

Stacey Schiff, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the masterful new biography of the icon, Cleopatra: A Life, says too many poets and playwrights have spoken for her. She has been stereotyped as a temptress alone when she was a complex, immensely powerful and rational woman, speaker of nine languages and a fine mathematician. No wonder her crown radiates more than a millennium after her reign. "We have been putting words in her mouth for two thousand years. In one of the busiest afterlives in history she has gone on to become an asteroid, a video game, a cliche, a cigarette, a slot machine, a strip club.” And a template for complicated, glamorous, modern vixens. David Fincher was scheduled to direct “Cleopatra”, a film adaptation of Ms. Schiff’s book, starring Angelina Jolie, until the task became a bit too epic, even for the man who managed to capture the dragon tattooed girl.

Take Cleopatra along on your own Mavi Yol and imagine the world through this brilliant pharaoh’s perfectly kohled eyes, queen of all you behold.
 
-Maureen Seaberg


October 2012