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Hailed by Bill Bryson and the New York Times Book Review as a rising star among travel writers, Jeffrey Tayler penetrates one of the most isolated, forbidding regions on earth--the Sahel. This lower expanse of the Sahara, which marks the southern limit of Islam's reach in West and Central Africa, boasts such mythologized places as Mopti and Timbuktu, as well as Africa's poorest countries, Chad and Niger. In parts of the Sahel, hard-line Sharia law rules and slaves are still traded. Racked by lethal harmattan winds, chronic civil wars, and grim Islamic fundamentalism, it is not the ideal place for a traveler with a U.S. passport. Tayler finds genuine danger in many guises, from drunken soldiers to a thieving teenage mob. But he also encounters patience and generosity of a sort found only in Africa. Traveling overland by the same rickety means used by the local people--tottering, overfilled buses, bush taxis with holes in the floor, disgruntled camels--he uses his fluency in French and Arabic (the region's lingua francas) to connect with them. Tayler is able to illuminate the roiling, enigmatic cultures of the Sahel as no other Western writer could.
Traveling by bus, airplane, in the back of trucks and on camel, the author travels through the most war-torn parts of Africa. The author answers such crucial questions as 'What do Muslims think of President Bush?' and 'Do all Muslims and Africans hate Americans?' Tayler travels through some of the most remote and war-torn parts of Africa to find out. From the corrupt dealings in Nigeria to the war-torn areas of Mali and Chad, the author shows us the beautiful humanity and heart-breaking inhumanity of man.
Hailed by Bill Bryson and the New York Times Book Review as an emerging master of travel writing, Tayler penetrates one of the most forbidding regions on Earth. Journeying along routes little altered since the Middle Ages, he uses his linguistic and observational gifts to illuminate a venerable, enigmatic culture of nomads and mystics. Though no stranger to privation (having journeyed across Siberia and up the Congo for his earlier books), Tayler is unprepared for the physical challenges that await him in a Sahara dessicated by eight years of unprecedented drought. He travels across a landscape of nightmares - charred earth, blinding sky, choking gales, and what is fittingly called the Valley of the Dead. The last Westerner to attempt this trek left his skeleton in the sand, and even Tayler's camels wilt in the searing wastes.But his remarkable perseverance, as well as his fluency in classical and Moroccan Arabic, helps him find here a bracing purity. The Saharawi Bedouin among whom he journeys are ur-Arabs, untouched by the modernity or radicalism that festers elsewhere in the Arab world. By revealing their ingenuity, their wit, their unrivaled hospitality, and more, Tayler upends our notions of what is, and what is not, essentially Arab.
A gripping journey through some of the planet's most remote and challenging terrain and its peoples, in search of why democracy has yet to thrive in lands it seemed so recently ready to overtake Across the largest landmass on earth, in lands once conquered by Genghis Khan and exploited by ruthless Communist regimes, autocratic and dictatorial states are again arising, growing wealthy on petrodollars and low-cost manufacturing.More and more, they are challenging theWest.Media reports focus on developments in Moscow and Beijing, but the peoples inhabiting the vast expanses in between remain mostly unseen and unheard, their daily lives and aspirations scarcely better known to us now than they were in ColdWar days.Tayler finds, among many others, a dissident Cossack advocating mass beheadings, a Muslim in Kashgar calling on the United States to bomb Beijing, and Chinese youths in Urumqi desiring nothing more than sex, booze, and rock 'n' roll-all while confronting over and over again the contradiction of people who value liberty and the free market but idealize tyrants who oppose both.From the steppes of southern Russia to the conflict-ridden Caucasus Mountains to the deserts of central Asia and northern China,Tayler shows that our maps have gone blank at the worst possible time.
One of today's most intrepid writers chronicles a deadly trek through the legendary region that gave birth to the gulag and gave Siberia its outsize reputation for perilous isolation.In a custom-built boat, Jeffrey Tayler travels some 2,400 miles down the Lena River from near Lake Baikal to high above the Arctic Circle, recreating a journey first made by Cossack forces more than three hundred years ago. He is searching for primeval beauty and a respite from the corruption, violence, and self-destructive urges that typify modern Russian culture, but instead he finds the roots of that culture-in Cossack villages unchanged for centuries, in Soviet outposts full of listless drunks, in stark ruins of the gulag, and in grand forests hundreds of miles from the nearest hamlet.That's how far Tayler is from help when he realizes that his guide, Vadim, a burly Soviet army veteran embittered by his experiences in Afghanistan, detests all humanity, including Tayler. Yet he needs Vadim's superb skills if he is to survive a voyage that quickly turns hellish. They must navigate roiling whitewater in howling storms, but they eschew life jackets because, as Vadim explains, the frigid water would kill them before they could swim to shore. Though Tayler has trekked by camel through the Sahara and canoed down the Congo during the revolt against Mobutu, he has never felt so threatened as he does now.