June 27, 2011

Book Review: Skeletons on the Zahara

As I peered out onto the sandy dunes of the Moroccan desert, I was reminded of scenes I had read about in one of my favourite books "Skeletons on the Zahara" by Dean King. Based on a true story, the original memoir "Sufferings in Africa" was discovered hidden in a library and covered in dust. 

In 1815 American Captain James Riley and his 11 crewmen found themselves on the edge of the Sahara, a place “dry enough to kill bacteria and mummify corpses,” after their ship was wrecked off of the West Coast of Africa. They were captured by Arab tribesmen and sold into slavery; unfortunately nobody wants a useless, skinny white man in the desert and the men were stripped, beaten and kept barely alive on goats droppings and camel blood. The story is told with such gruesome detail that I found myself licking my lips, gasping for a drink of water and squirming in my seat as they scrambled behind a camel as it urinated, hoping to catch each and every precious drop. 

These men endured such hardships across one of the most extreme environments on earth; it was Riley's courage and an incredible leap of faith which eventually won them their freedom. The story is epic and terrifying (it made my two hour camel trek seem quite pathetic) and I would definitely recommend you have a look. It's set to become a major motion film within the next year so keep your eyes peeled.

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