Men of Salt: Across the Sahara with the Caravan of White Gold

Michael Benanav, Author . Lyons $23.95 (220p) ISBN 978-1-59228-772-7

Even if readers don't find the idea of spending 40 harrowing days with a caravan crossing some of the world's most unforgiving desert as enticing as Benanav does, that doesn't mean they won't quickly devour his thrilling account of that otherworldly journey. The Caravan of White Gold was named for the voyage nomads have taken for centuries in search of the lonely, moonlike salt mines of Taoudenni, Mali. To a seasoned travel writer and veteran outdoorsman like Benanav, the opportunity to take part in such a journey—through the brutal Tanezrouft region of the Sahara—was impossible to resist, and it isn't long after hearing about it that he's in Timbuktu, Mali, ready to set off across an area four times the size of England, referred to alternately as "The Land of Thirst" and "The Land of Terror." Like many voyagers into the unknown, Benanav does his best to research where he's going and peppers his travelogue with well-placed historical background; he's also smart enough to see where his research and assumptions about the fascinating nomadic culture are utterly wrong. There is romanticism, especially in Benanav's warm accounts of his fellow travelers, but there's also an awareness of the deadly perils of their world, especially the salt mines themselves, so desolate they were used as a gulag for political prisoners until 1991. This is that rare work that takes readers beyond their imaginations. Photos. Agent, Jennifer Joel. (Jan. 15)

Reviewed on: 10/10/2005
Release date: 01/01/2006
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 220 pages - 978-1-59921-164-0
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