Mixed in with my usual Fantasy/SciFi reading and my growing addiction to Richard Preston and Lincoln Child's action packed novels of the many faceted life of secret agent A.X.L. Pendergast, I recently managed to get in some non-fiction reading. The latest is entitled "Skeletons on the Zahara- A True Story of Survival" by Dean King. It was so gripping I found myself wanting to read during every spare minute I had. I have also been recovering from some new health challenges so I have had a bit more down time than usual trying to regain my health. Not good for so close to preparations for the holidays, but not something I have much control over.
The story tells of a true event that happened in the early 1800's, of a trading ship Commerce, captained by a mostly, New England crew that took cargo across the Atlantic Ocean to sell and was shipwrecked on the rocky coast of northern Africa, on the edges of the Sahara desert. The crew were captured and taken as slaves by the indigenous peoples there and sold and traded to various masters. Most, but not all, of the crew obtained their freedom after the British consul in Morocco paid a ransom for them and because of one dedicated Arab owner who believed the Captain's word that it would be beneficial to them both if he brought the crew to 'civilization' in the city on the edge of the desert.
The book is based on journals, written afterward, of two of the crew that had these experiences, one of them being ship's Captain- James Riley. These journals were best sellers in their hey day of the early 1800's and the story was widely known then. The author, Dean King, actually went on a trek in 2001, sponsored by National Geographic, that roughly traveled the same route as the crew members did during their ordeal.
The camel is a truly alien to us but it is an indispensable animal in these parts and although I don't think I would ever want the experience of herding, riding or eating the parts of one, this strange beast is a real blessing to people in these desert areas.
It is almost too awful to contemplate the trauma, both physical and mental these men endured. It is an amazing feat that they survived to tell about it, it was also eye opening to me to learn about cultures that many of us have no clue about. Even though the incident took place in 1815, the author traveled to the area and made the trek and knows first hand that much has remained the same in the nearly timeless sands of the Sahara.
Highly recommended- Skeletons on the Zahara- A True Story of Survival by Dean King.