British journalist Marozzi debuts with a glib, often self-deprecating account of his three-month, 1,150-mile camel trek across the Libyan Sahara Desert.
The now-33-year-old author was reporting in the Philippines when he started planning his impractical journey. Six years previously, Marozzi had accompanied his father on a visit to the Libyan capital city of Tripoli and could not put the sights, smells, and sounds from that trip out of his mind. While there he had visited a rare English-language bookstore and purchased an account of an early-19th-century British desert expedition into the Libyan Sahara. Reading the high-spirited tale back in London, Marozzi relates, “I felt the pull of the desert and started to dream of a similar journey by camel.” The fantasy did not become a reality until, in 1999, his long-time friend, a Dorset farmer who liked to travel, agreed to make the journey. “Neither of us knew the first thing about desert travel,” the author confesses. So they read books and interviewed desert veterans, while Marozzi studied Arabic with a tutor. “Although one of the expressions he recommended for use in Libya helped put us under hotel arrest for a week,” the author remarks, “another had the benefit of saving us several hundred dollars when procuring a desert guide in Tmissah.” The account of the journey itself is as gripping as it is funny. Even with lots of advance study and the employment of experienced guides, it’s hard work riding camels through a desert that is blazingly hot by day and freezing cold at night, parched in most places but wet at oases, and unforgiving at every time and place. (It can be dangerous, too.) Along the sandy route, Marozzi works in material on Libyan history as well as current politics, with Gaddafi receiving dozens of mentions.
Unfailingly interesting and downright refreshing: travel-writing for true adventurers as well armchair ones.