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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Book Review: Sahara - Michael Palin

Read for the Armchair Traveler's Reading Challenge

This book is the companion to the Sahara travel series that Michael Palin filmed in 2001. I’ve seen the last half of the series, so I had a certain visual frame of reference for some of the book that I didn’t have for the rest. (Though there were a number of photos included in the book that served to fill in a number blanks.)

The book follows a vaguely circular journey beginning in Gibraltar and moving through Morocco, the Western Sahara, Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Niger, Algeria, Libya and Tunisia before returning through Morocco to Gibraltar.

Anyone familiar with Michael Palin from his Monty Python days will expect a degree of humor in this book, and it’s definitely there, in understated form. His observations of the local cultures are pointed and interesting. I’ve enjoyed all of the travel shows he’s done, and definitely recommend them to anyone. This is the only companion book I’ve seen for any of the shows, but I’d definitely consider picking up any others if I saw them.

I think I enjoyed the inclusion of Libya in this journey the most of any section of this book, not because it’s necessarily the most interesting part of the journey, but because he makes a point to go there and describe it, and I seriously doubt any American in his position would have done so. Secondarily likewise for the Western Sahara. I doubt many people would have given a second glance to such a political no man’s land.

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