Monday, April 12, 2021

Review: The Actual True Story of Ahmed and Zarga

The Actual True Story of Ahmed and Zarga The Actual True Story of Ahmed and Zarga by Mohamedou Ould Slahi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I first saw this book was coming out sometime last year and knew I hadn't read anything for Mauritania, and jumped at the chance. The author is the son of a Mauritian camel herder, but also the author of a memoir about his time held at Guantanamo Bay without being charged, until 2016 (Guantánamo Diary: Restored Edition.)

This tale feels more like a fable or parable. Ahmed goes after a missing camel that may have been stolen or just gotten lost. Along the way the reader learns a lot about Bedouin culture - the difference family groups, hospitality practices, how Islamic beliefs are wrapped into their traditions, and the ins and outs of camels. Ahmed talks about the camels by name so I got confused a few times, confusing camels with people.

Also in a weird pattern I've found in my 2021 reading - this is the third book I've read with random cannibalism. Not central to the story.

This book has connections to another book I've read recently - although I'm a different continent I felt some striking similarities between the difficulty of life in a hot desert to the Winter Pasture: One Woman's Journey with China's Kazakh Herders book with herding families in Kazakhstan. One of the threats to both ways of life is modernization of the world around them, whether that results in fewer people to trade with or climate change. Sometimes you really need that oasis in the desert.

I had a copy of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss. It came out February 23, 2021.

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