Book Review: Sahara Unveiled by William Langewiesche

Sahara Unveiled

Stars: 4/5

Location: the Sahara (northern and western Africa)

Sub-genre: travelogue

Publishing date: 2011

Sahara Unveiled: A Journey Across the Desert was not just a retelling of a trip; nor was it more of a memoir, or strictly an adventure story, an inward journey, or a background on an area. It is, more most travel books, an account of a place. This is possible because the areas Langewiesche traveled through are still very much unknown to the ‘outside world.’ This could be of course, because few people even inhabit the areas he visited and the Sahara is still one of the least traveled areas on the plant.

I appreciated his clear style of writing, as well as the background history, culture, and geography of the areas and countries he traveled through.

Langewiesche is an acute observer, an intelligent historian, part adventurer, and part cultural anthropologist. He retells desert parables and stories, the geographical history, and cultural history of the desert. He nearly gets lost or abandoned twice, either instance which could have easily turned deadly. He meets friendly locals, men who use him, and a variety of eccentric expats living in the Saharan region.

His language is beautiful, especially in its simplicity, and his narratives compelling. However, what I think I like the most of Langewiesche’s account is how he focuses on different aspects of his trip and of the desert itself through the different areas he visits and experiences he has.

The reader gets a strong feeling of place, in that when Langewiesche leaves, we realize that most people stay, and that their sandy town will go on without the author’s light on them. It is not a spotlight that shines on one encampment and then moves on to leave the last in the dark, but the prose builds on itself to give the reader a view of the region itself. These parts were what I most appreciated about this account and I was sad when Langewiesche arrived in Dakar and finished his journey and his description of it.

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