John Kropf Unknown Sands

ISBN 13: 9780976356516

Unknown Sands

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9780976356516: Unknown Sands
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Turkmenistan was once the world's most feared territory. Since the time of the Mongols, the nomadic tribes of its vast desert wastes were deemed ungovernable. Russians and Persians were captured as slaves and carried off by the fierce Turkmen. Even now, as an independent country located between the hot spots of Afghanistan and Iran, with one of the planet's largest natural gas reserves, Turkmenistan remains virtually unknown to the outside world. Unknown Sands penetrates this remote and harsh land. This is a personal story that blends two years of adventure with Turkmenistan’s tumultuous history to present an intriguing profile of the country and its people. This former Soviet territory offers a target-rich environment for the unusual including a surreal cult of Presidential personality, ancient ruins of the Silk Road, and a unique, mystical brand of Islam.

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About the Author:

John Kropf served at the American Embassy in Turkmenistan as the Country Director for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Because of his work with the Embassy, he was able to travel extensively through Turkmenistan. He is currently the Director of International Privacy Programs at the US Department of Homeland Security. In addition to writing for the U.S. Department of State as an attorney specializing in international law, his writing credits include creative non-fiction and humor articles that have appeared in The Washington Post and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. He also contributed a story to Sports Car Illustrated (now defunct) that detailed his grandfather's 1919 cross-country trek in a FIAT roadster ("Tales of the Mudbound").

From Publishers Weekly:

Firmly entrenched in the Washington bureaucracy, lawyer Kropf had probably lifted a glass to a few foreign dignitaries in his lifetime, but he'd never pictured himself in the middle of Turkmenistan drinking a vodka toast to Benazir Bhutto out of a large platinum bowl at a family dinner. When Kropf's wife accepted a post as political and economic officer for the American Embassy in Turkmenistan, his Bhutto-toasting fate was sealed. A lawyer with the U.S. State Department, Kropf, his wife and their two-year-old daughter headed to the black hole of Central Asia (featuring the kind of terrain "medieval Europeans had in mind when they filled in the unknown areas of their maps with dragons"), which borders Afghanistan and Iran and has a long history of being a forbidden land of warriors, conquerors, spies and secrets. Kropf travels to the far corners of a country dismissed as uninhabitable by explorers and still governed by an oppressive regime, revealing through his efficient prose intriguing residents still reeling from Soviet occupation and tip-toeing into the 21st century. Kropf stays in Turkmenistan after his wife and daughter return to the states in the wake of 9/11, serving humanitarian missions while neighboring Afghanistan is gripped by chaos. Between the drama are tales of visiting the bazaar, Kropf's comical attempts at haggling (for carpets and traditional Turkmen headwear, among other items) and his discovery of the most delicious melon in the world. Kropf's peek at this isolated corner of a shrinking world is a fascinating narrative bound to hook adventurers.
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