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Sahara Unveiled: A Journey Across the Desert (Vintage Departures) Paperback – June 24, 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books; 1st edition (June 24, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679750061
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679750062
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #968,431 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Encounters, observations and revelations from a 1,200-mile trans-Saharan trek are poetically reported by William Langewiesche in Sahara Unveiled: A Journey Across the Desert. A correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, Langewiesche was undaunted by the physical hardships of the trip, instead focusing on the beleaguered towns and people that survive along the desert's fringes and in its oases. As he discusses subjects as various as adobe walls and the history of prehistoric Tassili cave painters, he introduces old friends and people met by chance. Despite poverty and changes brought on by bare-bones technology, he reveals why for more than 2,000 years the desert has been seen as a place of trial, cleansing and illumination. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Besides evoking the Sahara's power, majesty, emptiness, heat, beauty and terrors and describing its ecology and meteorology, Langewiesche (Cutting for Sign) adds details that may astonish armchair travelers who still think of the desert as populated by camels and Bedouins. Camels haven't disappeared, but paved roads through much of it support travel by taxis and buses, both of which Langewiesche used frequently. At oases, sophisticated cities offer tourists luxurious hostelries and shopping. Langewiesche, who does not explain how he got to North Africa, or why or when?although his official ID as a foreign correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly suggests possibilities?describes his treks from Algiers to the desert towns south and west of it, stopping at cafes with Parisian friends who trap two scorpions in a box to take home as souvenirs, conversing with locals, visiting a desert zoo with the unhappy wife of a Muslim friend and accepting the favors of a variety of wheelers and dealers, politicos and tribal characters whose portraits are illuminating. He is knowledgeable about the imprint of French colonialism on North African economy and politics, and about Muslim beliefs in practice. Throughout this vivid account, he scatters many charming native folktales. Photos.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Very, very good book about author's 1990(?)
A. Ross
Langewiesche explains how the desert has influenced various cultures as well as the effect it had on him.
svenyim@yahoo.com
He says, "Someday you will introduce me. I will ravage them. I will make them beg for my love."
Maura Mostowy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Slokes VINE VOICE on February 1, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Travel books can be a mixed bag, with the narrators themselves sometimes making for unpleasant company on the armchair journey. That is not a problem with "Sahara Unveiled," where author William Langewiesche submerges himself well beneath the thread of the story.

Langewiesche, a reporter for "Atlantic Monthly" best known today for his "American Ground" series of pieces on the aftermath of the World Trade Center's destruction, writes in a lean, spare, slightly alkaline style reminiscent of Hemingway that seems to suit his subject, the world's biggest and perhaps most ferocious desert, quite well. It puts one in mind of William Least Heat Moon's travel writing, notably "Blue Highways," with its cultural detours and picaresque, ever-changing cast of characters.

Langewiesche starts off by quickly dispelling any myths his readers might have about the subject of the Sahara: "Do not regret the passing of the camel and the caravan. The Sahara has changed, but it remains a desert without compromise, the world in its extreme." He goes on to demonstrate this by trekking through the desert's endless mass and then west to the Atlantic primarily by taxi, bus, and riverboat.

It's not clear to me why Langewiesche was doing this (Least Heat Moon had similarly opaque motives), and the locals have questions, too. During one layover in the Algerian town of M'Zab, what he calls "the diving board for the deep Sahara," there is the following exchange as Langewiesche looks for ground transport farther south:

"He said: 'Why don't you fly?'

'Because I want to see the desert up close.'

'Buy a postcard.'

'But I want to feel the desert.'

'It feels bad.'

Indeed it does. Sometimes it can even be fatal.
Read more ›
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Lucas M. Zomignani on September 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
Have you ever wanted to escape from the daily routine of the world? Ever wished to travel to a remote destination with nothing but a backpack and na adventurous spirit to rely on? Is your answer is yes, then you can probably quench that craving - even if only vicariously - by reading William Langewiesche's `Sahara Unveiled'. What starts off as just another travel book quickly speeds up in the middle chapters to become a wonderful work of non-fiction, narrowly bordering on religion, history, philosophy, politics, and anthropology as the author paints a harrowingly realistic picture of his journey across the desert. If on the one hand the book lacks warmth (as ludicrous as that may sound it being a narrative on the Sahara), and the author's attitude reveals a tinge of cold impersonality, one must also admit that that very attitude allows the reader to see the adventure from a first-person perspective. The descriptions are colourful and the writer has what appears to be an innate talent for defining the characters, for their essences and spirits can be clearly distinguished throughout. The chapters follow Langewiesche's route from Algiers to Dakar, stopping at dozens of towns, villages, oases and settlements that dot the vast seas of gravel and sand. Definitely ranking among the best travel books ever written, `Sahara Unveiled - A Journey Across The Desert' is a worthwhile read, coming as something of a shock to all those who picture the Sahara as just one vast, lifeless expanse.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 28, 1999
Format: Paperback
Very, very good book about author's 1990(?) trip from Algiers south through the Sahara desert into Niger, Mali and Senegal. He has apparently spent a fair amount of time in Algeria and had been to much of the Algerian desert prior to the trip he recounts in this book (actually, many of the anecdotes he tells are from previous trips). He nicely mixes in digressions on science (physics of sand dunes, ecology of scorpions, desertification) with his history and sociology. Langewiesche seems particularly keen to de-romanticize the Sahara, and spends a great deal of time chiding the French for doing so. A nice travel book which captures the terror of the desert quite well. I recommend not reading on once he exits the Algerian desert. He speeds through the final portion of the trip and has taken to heart the writer's adage that no ending is better than a bad ending!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A. Sood on December 4, 1999
Format: Paperback
At some point in this brilliant piece, the author states that writers write about the desert for the same reason that readers read about it: to fulfill their curiousity. The vast majority of us have neither the courage nor the time to travel through the Sahara and we should all thank Mr. Langewiesche for making this journey for us. And we should all complement him on just how he has shared this incredible experience. By weaving in African myths, Saharan individuals, details of science and his own musings, Mr. Langewiesche has created a masterpiece. If you have ever been interested in learning about the desert, you must read it to enjoy and to satisfy your curiousity. And if you have not, you should read it to expand your horizons.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Matthew M. Yau on August 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
A travel narrative classic: Mr. Langewiesche provides a vivid picture of the formidable Sahara. Every chapter of the journey brings us new surprises and aspects about this arid landscape. From the safari to physics of sand dunes, this book introduces us the anthropology, archaeology, meterology, geography, geology and history of the desert. Get ready and let's begin this eye-opening virtual tour of the Sahara!
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