One Man's Quest to Save a Dying Sahara Village
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 Amazing tale of how Aebi--an N.Y.C.-based artist, loft- renovator, and explorer--breathes new life into a decaying village in the depths of the Sahara Desert. Aebi's adventure begins in 1988 when, inspired by reading Richard Trench's classic Forbidden Sands, he hires a caravan to cross the North African sands from Timbuktu to the salt mines of Taoudenni. This arduous camel trek, during which Aebi chews on sheep spleen and slurps dung-filled water, leads him to the forgotten town of Araoure, population 145, which he instantly appraises as ``hell on earth.'' Here, women snare locusts for dinner, while men sip tea and despair, waiting for the rain that hasn't come in 42 years. But something blossoms in Aebi's heart, and he decides to save the village. Back in New York, he learns Arabic; in Switzerland, he buys a truck; in Algiers, he collects tomatoes, figs, beets--any crop that will flourish in the desert. What follows is a stunning experiment in social engineering, as the author teaches the villagers to grow their own food and overcome their old prejudices: Blacks and Arabs, formerly divided by a strict caste system, learn to share responsibilities. Veiled women do work traditionally reserved for men. Aebi introduces money and with it ``the ugly sin of greed.'' A hotel goes up and attracts foreign tourists. Araoure's old guard fights the revolution, as does the federal bureaucracy, but to no avail; Aebi pushes through changes with carrot and stick, becoming the town's doctor, technician, cheerleader, and demiurge. After three years he heads back to New York, leaving behind a booming desert oasis--only to learn that Tuareg insurrectionists have overrun Araoure since his departure, undoing much of his magic. The stuff that dreams are made of--and it's all real. (Sixteen pages of color photos)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-671-76935-9
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1993