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Glory in a Camel's Eye: Trekking Through the Moroccan Sahara by Jeffrey Tayler

Jacket: Hardcover
Pages: 256 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Co; (June 2, 2003)
Genre: Travel and Adventure
ISBN: 0618155473

Comments about the author: Tayler, a former Peace Corp worker, is the author of "Siberian Dawn " and " Facing the Congo." He has published numerous articles in Atlantic Monthly , Spin , Harper's and Condé Nast Traveler . He is a regular commentator on NPR's "All Things Considered." Two of Tayler's travel essays were selected by Bill Bryson for the inaugural edition of "The Best American Travel Writing 2000". (Taken from peacecorpswriters.org)


Review: Glory in a Camel's Eye is the third book from Jeffrey Tayler; it follows Facing the Congo, in which he traveled down the Congo in a dugout canoe, and Siberian Dawn, in which he traveled by road and rail from the furthest reaches of Siberia west across the former Soviet Union as it left Communism behind. All of Tayler's books are more than simple travel narratives; they meld raw personal experiences with history and culture, thereby giving his travels contextual relevance. It's no wonder that Tayler's style of prose is similar, although less scholarly, than Robert D. Kaplan; both authors write for the Atlantic Monthly on issues of foreign affairs.

In this book, Tayler sets out to accomplish his objective of traveling (mainly by camel) across the Moroccan Sahara - from the eastern border with Algeria (where Polisario guerrillas and Islamic fundamentalists roam) to the Atlantic Ocean. It's a trip that Tayler has yearned to make since before he lived in Morocco as a member of the Peace Corps. As in his first two works, Tayler demonstrates a unique talent for making his adventure become ours, vividly describing the arduous journey and its many characters in a way that allows us to share his trials and tribulations during a 500+ mile trek over desert and mountainous terrain, oftentimes searching for respite at small oases and villages, and with companions other than his two ever-present guides.

In addition to sharing Tayler's acquaintances, discomfitures, frustrations, and triumphs, we are treated to a brief discourse on Moroccan history and culture, as well as an introductory course in Arabic (Tayler is fluent in Arabic). We learn about the various tribes of Morocco (including the French and Jewish 'tribes'), Islam, the continued transformation of a culture from rural to urban, Moroccan politics, etc. We even learn a little about camels. In summary, Tayler teaches us about the history and the people of Morocco, while at the same time enthralling us with the details of his adventure.

One cannot help but envy Tayler's thirst for adventure, as well as his command of foreign history, language and culture. Many of us dream of making such a trip, but are unable to muster the courage or find the time to do so. Fortunately, Tayler allows us to experience some of the world's great adventures by living vicariously through him, without ever having to check out of our probably-not-so-terribly-important obligations for months on end. Here's hoping that Tayler will soon embark on another less-than-luxurious journey somewhere in a remote part of the world, and have the courtesy to let us share it with him.

— Reviewed by: Craig A. Stoehr
castoehr@hotmail.com

 
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