Death in the Sahara: The Lords of the Desert and the Timbuktu Railway Expedition Massacre

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9781602396302: Death in the Sahara: The Lords of the Desert and the Timbuktu Railway Expedition Massacre
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Desert explorer Michael Asher investigates the most disastrous exploration mission in the history of the Sahara. In 1880, the French government ordered a surveying expedition for a railway that would bring the fabulous wealth of Timbuktu, in French Sudan, to Paris. This trek should have heralded a new era of French prosperity. Instead, it was a deadly fiasco. Under-armed in hostile territory, and foolishly employing the enemy as guides, the one hundred men of the expedition were ambushed and stranded without camels or supplies in the deserts of southern Algeria. Many were killed outright, and for four months the survivors were menaced by the Tuareg, the "lords of the desert," robbed, starved, and tricked into eating poisoned fruit. To escape, the men hid in the wastelands of the Sahara with little hope of finding food or water. They were finally forced to eat their own dead, or, worse, the merely weak. Only a dozen malnourished men lived to tell their tale. The story of their 1,000 mile journey is one of the most astonishing narratives of survival ever recorded. With a "superb grip of narrative and uncanny ability to evoke battle scenes" (The Guardian), Michael Asher has written an amazing true story that is as dramatic as it is frightening.

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About the Author:

Michael Asher is an SAS veteran, desert explorer, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and a fluent Arabic speaker. He lived with nomads in the Sahara for three years, completely cut off from the modern world, and was the first person to cross the Sahara from west to east. The author of fourteen previous books, he lives in Morocco.

From Publishers Weekly:

In 1880, the French government sent 100 men into the unexplored Sahara to scout the path for a possible railway from the coast. Here, Asher depicts a grim saga of treachery, endurance and slaughter along the way. In the desert, the expedition ran afoul of Tuareg tribes, warlike nomads who had resisted outsiders for a thousand years. Betrayed and attacked, the surviving soldiers made a grueling four-month trek back to the coast; only a dozen survived, some by eating their companions. As a veteran explorer of the Sahara, Asher offers intense descriptions of desert customs and landscapes, so much so that at times the actual narrative of the expedition fades in comparison. No Frenchman survived to write his memoirs (only Arab soldiers attached to the expedition), and the lack of primary source material makes Asher's task unenviable. Far too many times, he attempts to enliven the story by explaining what the soldiers thought and felt, even as they are being killed. Despite these shortcomings, his telling remains a fascinating saga of a brutal desert world suspended somewhere between the medieval and the modern. (May)
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9781616085940: Death in the Sahara: The Lords of the Desert and the Timbuktu Railway Expedition Massacre

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