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Tahir Shah Bio

Hailing from the respected Anglo-Afghan family, with its roots in the Hindu Kush, Tahir Shah is the author of fifteen best-selling books and several acclaimed documentary films. The majority of his work chronicles a wide range of outlandish journeys through Africa, Asia and the Americas. For him, there’s nothing so important as deciphering the hidden underbelly of the lands through which he travels.

Shunning well-trodden tourist paths, Shah avoids celebrated landmarks, preferring instead to position himself on a busy street corner or in a dusty café and observe life go by.

Insisting that we can all be explorers, he says there’s wonderment to be found wherever we are – it’s just a matter of seeing the world with fresh eyes.

Shah’s forthcoming novel, TIMBUCTOO, is inspired by a true life tale from two centuries ago. The story of the first Christian to venture to Timbuctoo and back – a young illiterate American sailor – it has been an obsession since Shah discovered it in the bowels of the London Library twenty years ago.

He recently published a treasury of collected work TRAVELS WITH MYSELF, containing reportage pieces as diverse as the women on America’s Death Row, to the trials and tribulations of his own encounter in a Pakistani torture jail.

Another recent work, IN ARABIAN NIGHTS, looks at how stories are used in cultures such as Morocco, as a matrix by which information, values and ideas are passed on from one generation to the next. That book follows on the heels of the celebrated CALIPH’S HOUSE: A Year in Casablanca, lauded as one of TIME Magazine’s Top 10 Books of the year.

Shah’s other works include an epic quest through Peru’s cloud forest for the greatest lost city of the Incas (HOUSE OF THE TIGER KING), as well as a journey through Ethiopia in search of the source of King Solomon’s gold (IN SEARCH OF KING SOLOMON’S MINES). Previous to that, Shah published an account of a journey through the Amazon on the trail of the Birdmen of the Amazon (TRAIL OF FEATHERS), as well as a book of his experiences in India, as a godman’s pupil (SORCERER’S APPRENTICE).

Tahir Shah’s books have appeared in thirty languages and in more than seventy editions, and boast a world-wide following. They are celebrated for their original viewpoint, and for combining hardship with vivid description.

Shah also makes documentary films, which are shown worldwide on National Geographical Television, and The History Channel. The latest, LOST TREASURE OF AFGHANISTAN, has been screened on British TV and shown worldwide. While researching the programme Shah was arrested along with his film crew and incarcerated in a Pakistani torture jail, where they spent sixteen terrifying days and nights.

His other documentaries include: HOUSE OF THE TIGER KING, SEARCH FOR THE LOST CITY OF GOLD, and THE SEARCH FOR KING SOLOMON’S MINES. And, in addition to documentaries, Shah writes for the big screen. His best known work in this genre is the award-winning Imax feature JOURNEY TO MECCA, telling the tale of the fourteenth century Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta’s first pilgrimage to Mecca.

Tahir Shah lives at Dar Khalifa, a sprawling mansion set squarely in the middle of a Casablanca shantytown. He’s married to the graphic designer, Rachana Shah, and has two children, Ariane and Timur. His father was the Sufi writer, Idries Shah.