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Valley Of The Casbahs: A Journey Across the Moroccan Sahara Paperback – February 5, 2004
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It is easy to see why Tayler counts Bill Bryson amongst his fans * GOOD BOOK GUIDE * He vividly recreates his trek, balancing the beauty with the gritty. * INK * A delightful and thought-provoking snapshot of Moroccan life. * DAILY EXPRESS * Tayler imparts a sense of immediacy to his travels, while reflecting on a nomadic way of life in fast decline. * NORTHERN ECHO *
About the Author
Jeffrey Tayler is a traveller & writer, working for CONDE NAST TRAVELLER, SPIN, HARPER'S MAGAZINE & ATLANTIC MONTHLY. Bill Bryson selected two of his essays for the 1st edition of THE BEST AMERICAN TRAVEL WRITING in 2002. He lives in Moscow.
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His previous attempt, fifteen years earlier, after reading Wilfred Thesiger's Arabian Sands, had resulted in near death stranded in a desert storm with no water, food, maps or radio. His predecessor died from lack of water. Determined to follow his dream, he conquers the desert and relates the history of the desert Arabs and the decline of the nomadic way of life: "I found, in the Draa Valley and the Western Sahara, not modernized Bedouin but future residents of tin-shack slums and proud sheikhs humbled by the politics and police of nation-states."
Much of the book is about the Sahara desert and its barren terrain. Here he learns of the various desert terminology: empty land was khla; flat sandy land was ragg; totally flat and empty country was mham; empty rolling country covered with rock was hidban; dunes without vegetation was uruq; dune with mottled scrub was nibka; dune with more than three trees was ghaba (forest); a patch of smooth land where a camel could kneel was mliss and a patch of land where a camel could not kneel was harsh.
Stories of the virtues of simplicity, hospitality, and comradeship throughout his journey make this more than a description of captivating casbahs (Arabic citadels), fortressed villages, labyrinthine corridors and courtyards, and debilitating deserts. After three months traveling the moonscape gorges of the Anti-Atlas Mountains and the denuded dunes, he reaches the silver and white ocean foam of the Atlantic. His Berber companions reflect on their remarkable feat and the strength of their ancestors: "we Reguibat could once walk a hundred kilometers a day without tiring, drinking only a litre of water and eating only a handful of dates. By God, our ancestors were strong! Why, in the old days we walked all the way from here to Mauritania!"
Martina Nicolls, Author of "The Sudan Curse" and "Kashmir on a Knife-Edge"