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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Men of Salt by Michael Benanav

Men of Salt: Crossing the Sahara on the Caravan of White Gold by Michael Benanav. Guilford, Connecticut: The Lyons Press (An imprint of The Globe Pequot Press), 2006. ISBN: 1-59228-772-7.

I confess, I'm an armchair traveler. Which is not to say that I don't enjoy the real thing, traveling, that is, but most of the time I'm confined to the armchair version. Nevertheless, the trip described by this intrepid traveler is not one that I'd be inclined to undertake even if I did have the opportunity. But it's certainly a lot of fun to read about it. This is a trip you'll remember.

This is a trip that STARTS in Timbuktu, located in the West African nation of Mali, a town so isolated that for many it remains a catch phrase for the most remote and exotic place imaginable. For centuries, camel caravans have traveled from Timbuktu into the desert to bring back slabs of salt from the salt mines. And to travel with one of these caravans was our intrepid author's goal, and his trip is the subject of the book.

None of this would be of much account if Mr. Benanav were not a gifted travel writer. He makes the experience come alive. No detail is too unimportant to be described. The desert scenery springs to life under his way with words. The experience of alternatively leading and riding a camel, suffering from painful saddle sores, eating the local food, and drinking the local tea, all are told with attention to detail, and in a style that carries you along with the author.

Highly recommended for armchair travelers of every stripe.

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