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Tag: Africa

April 3, 2013 Posted by tahir in Books

New Releases from My Backlist

TS ebook series backlist

I’m very pleased to share with you the release of my travel backlist as ebooks. Each book has been updated with a new introduction, with the exception of Travels With Myself, my 2011 release. Trail of Feathers will also be available very soon.

Get your copy now: Read more


Timbuctoo Holiday Sales

Timbuctoo book cover straight on 600pxSeveral people have emailed me lately requesting bulk pricing for Timbuctoo so they can purchase multiple copies for the holidays. I’ve spoken with my warehouse people, and they said that orders need to be in by tomorrow, 18th of December at the latest in order to reach you by the holidays. Because we’ll be selling these directly, we can offer a huge discount on the books.

Regular UK pricing of Timbuctoo is £29.99, currently available on Amazon at a discount of £25.49. We can offer you the bulk price of £20 for 5, 10, or more books (in multiples of 5).

Regular USA pricing of Timbuctoo is $49.99, currently available on Amazon at the same price. We can offer you the bulk price of $33 for 5, 10, or more books (in multiples of 5).

If you’re in the UK, and would like to order 5 books to be delivered to one address, please order here:

If you’re in the UK, and would like to order 10 books to be delivered to one address, please order here:

If you’re in the USA, and would like to order 5 books to be delivered to one address, please order here:

If you’re in the USA, and would like to order 10 books to be delivered to one address, please order here:


Timbuctoo Update: hardcover, ebook, Q&A, and upcoming events

This is a limited edition hardcover of Timbuctoo by Tahir Shah, with non-wood paper, marbled end-papers, a pouch at the back with extra goodies, and silk bookmark.

Timbuctoo limited edition hardcover

Hello! I wanted to share a quick recap of news and coming events…


As you may already know, the Timbuctoo hardcover will be out next month. This is a very special edition, with six fold-out maps, marbled end-papers, a pouch at the back with goodies, a silk bookmark, and non-wood paper. It’s now available for pre-order on Amazon, or (if you’re in the US) you can enter for a chance to win one of six copies on Goodreads.

Once the book has been released, I will be holding pop-up sales in London, where you can get a signed copy. I’ll be sharing more details on this early next month.


The Timbuctoo e-book launch was initially set for August. However, the date has been changed, and Timbuctoo is NOW available on Kindle and other e-readers. Click on one of the links below to get your copy:

Amazon US:
Amazon UK:

If you’d like a preview before you buy, you can download the first chapter in PDF. Hope you enjoy it!


In other news, I held my first AMA on Reddit yesterday afternoon. You can still access the questions and answers on Reddit, where the conversation will be archived. If you have any other questions for me, I will be holding an Author Q&A on Goodreads from July 1-15. Several conversation threads have already been set up, so please introduce yourself and feel free to get started asking questions at any time. I will begin answering them on July 1.


If you’re in the UK, get ready for a Timbuctoo picnic, which will be held in London in mid-July. More details on that early next month. Keep your fingers crossed for good weather, as it will be held rain or shine.


The City of the Dead

Although I’m still in India, I’m listing a link here of an article I wrote about Cairo’s amazing cemetery in which zillions of people live…



The lightning spread of Islam by the eighth century – from Iberia to modern Afghanistan and beyond, led to a huge reappraisal of geography. New information was flooding into research centres in Baghdad, Cairo, Damascus, Cordoba and elsewhere, and new technology (such as quadrants and astrolabes) was used to create ever-more accurate maps.

         The greatest was Al-Idrisi’s twelfth century atlas, prepared for the Norman King Roger II of Sicily (in 1154 AD), incorporated Africa, Europe, Asia minor, India and the known stretches of the Far East. It was the first atlas of its kind and took 18 years to produce.




The Starting Point

The point where I want to begin the story is the moment at which paper — that most magical aids to the spread of learning — was acquired by the Arabs. The second of the two great Islamic Caliphates, the Abbasids, ruled from 750 AD (after overthrowing the Umayyads), with their capital at Baghdad — having moved from the Umayyad capital of Damascus. Baghdad in the ninth century, a city of 800,000 souls, second city in the world to only Constantinople. It was ruled by the Abbasid Caliph Harun ar-Rachid.

The mixture of people in the city, from so many cultures – Europe, North Africa, Asia Minor and Central Asia – created a blend of cultures as it had never really been known before. And they could all communicate through Arabic, the lingua franca of Islam, all equal under this new faith.

Harun, who’s known more for his Alf Layla wa Layla, ‘1001 Nights’, set about accumulating books in huge a private library. He loved poetry, music, learning. Whenever he heard of learned people, he invited them to his court. The idea of wisdom being rewarded spread, and scholars made their way from the corners of the growing Islamic world to Baghdad.

In March 809 Harun ar-Rachid was succeeded by his son Al-Amin, (but he was killed four years later, in 813, after going against the order of succession left by his father). His half-brother, al-Ma’mun, became Caliph, and it’s with him that our story really begins…

Like his father, Ma’mun was fascinated by learning, and was eager to know how the world and the universe worked. He built up the library founded by his father, and brought together scholars from every corner of the world, from known every religion, speaking every language. He dispatched messengers to bring to Baghdad every book, document, and sensible man in existence… and bring it back to his centre of learning, which became known as Bayt al Hikma… The House of Wisdom.


March 5, 2009 Posted by tahir in Travel

Five Facts of England

The British Royal Family is of Arabian extraction, through the line of the 14th century Castilian king, Pedro the Cruel.
King John of England supposedly offered to convert to Islam, and hand his fealty over to the Moors, if they would help him. The Moorish king refused.
Morris dancing is derived from the term ‘Moorish dancing’, and came to Europe and hence to England, from North Africa during the centuries of Andalucian Spain.
Shakespeare used stories found in Arabic, which were very current in his time. And Chaucer’s ‘Pear Tree Tale’ is found in the Persian of the Sufi mystic Jalaludin Rumi.
The earliest version of the classic English folktale, Dick Whittington and his Cat, is attributed to Persia.

Bridging East with West

You’ve probably had enough of my obsession for jungle expeditions. And so for the next few days I’m going to write on facts and fallacies of the Arab World and Middle East. Living in Morocco as I do, I am often amazed that there is such a sprawling gap between East and West. One small way to bridge it would be to correct some of the misconceptions that are all-pervading when it comes to the East. I hope a little of what I have planned will be of interest or even insightful.


Recognising the End

Every journey has an end. As the expedition leader, it’s your responsibility to decide when to call the team together and to give the order to retrace the steps, and venture back to the starting point. The obvious time for return is when you have come upon your goal — when you’ve found the lost city and had a good look around. But, as is so often the case, the goal tends to slip away. And what of it? To me, the goal is so important because it’s the magnet that pulls you forward, the beacon of hope… but at the same time it’s without much meaning within itself. Sure, it would be amazing to find the ruins, or whatever you’re searching for, but it’s equally valuable to have endured the unendurable for so long, and to have been part of the team. When you eventually get back to the base camp, have a feast prepared with remaining food. Then divide up equipment and hand as much of it away to the men as you can. Remember, if they live on the periphery of the jungle, they’re far more likely to have use for it than you. And, taking just the bare essentials, you can slip back into the world you came from… disappear with your memories, and start thinking of another expedition.



Rain, more rain, intestinal worms, dengue fever, sores, scurvy, fatigue: it all spells one thing… plunging  levels of morale. Once morale has dipped below optimal levels it’s very hard to drag back up. The worst problem is a sense that the expedition is going nowhere and that, as leader, you are forcing the team on towards unknown perils for no reason at all. As I have said previously, a good way to counter low morale is hot food and plenty of it. Another way is to have a football, or rest days, or an unexpected party. It’s true that parties and the jungle don’t go hand in hand particularly well… but you can stash some sugary food and party hats (and aguardiente of course) in a sealed bag before leaving. There’s another trick that I usually resort to at some point. Anyone who has read my books may have guessed. I take a crystalline white powder and sprinkle it on the tongues of the men in the most miserable conditions — when they’re all down with fever and general lethargy, or when the rain hasn’t stopped for weeks. They drool at the taste of it, and get a feeling that they’ve eaten a delicious meal even when they’ve not. The powder is Mono Sodium Glutamate (MSG).  It works every time.