A new Byron letter to Edward Everett, edited here for the first time, prompts a re-examination of Byron’s stay at Ali Pasha’s court in October 1809. Byron’s visit is analysed in its Ottoman-Albanian cultural context, in an attempt to distinguish the historical facts from the fantasies Byron spun around them. Pace Byron’s exaggerated accounts, his reception at Ali’s court had followed the well-established pattern of Western travellers’ visits. Byron was not a diplomatic envoy and he received no special treatment. Byron believed Ali was attracted to him, while Ali thought Byron embodied the despised local stereotype of the effeminate, sexually available boy. The difficulties Byron encountered in the Levant because of his feminine appearance are briefly discussed. The article also identifies key personages Byron met at Ali’s court, confirming the vice-consul Fauvel as the addressee of another Byron letter, and sheds light on Byron’s relationship with Edward Everett.