North Africa and the Horn

Containing what is generally referred to as the Maghreb, Nile valley and Sahara regions that constitute North Africa plus the Horn of Africa. This region ranges from Morocco and Western Sahara in the West to Somalia in the East.

4 stars

The Nile by Toby Wilkinson
Published: 2012
Countries: Egypt
Blurb: Effortlessly dipping into the annals of history, both ancient and recent, The Nile: Downriver Through Egypt’s Past and Present, brings more than 7,000 years of Egypt's past to life in this wonderfully written book. Sparingly using some of his own personal experiences whilst travelling through Egypt on multiple occasions, Wilkinson also provides a glimpse to its future, in this extremely accessible history/travel book. 

Walking the Nile by Levison Wood
Published: 2015
Countries: Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda
Blurb: An extremely good travelogue detailing Levison Wood's 9 month journey from the source of the Nile in Rwanda's Nyungwe Forest to the Mediterranean Sea in Egypt by foot. Travelling close to 6,700 kilometres through tropical forests, swamps, mangroves and deserts, Wood's achievement amidst civil wars and bureaucratic nightmares fully deserves to rank among the best of modern day exploration feats. 

The Caliph's House by Tahir Shah
Published: 2006
Countries: Morocco
Blurb: A fabulous story about a family's year spent in Casablanca renovating an old, sprawling Moroccan villa. Told with honesty and humour, Shah details the many missteps along the way and provides good insight into some of the customs and superstitions of Morocco which combined make this an extremely pleasant way to while away the time.

3 and a half stars

Where Soldiers Fear to Tread by John S. Burnett
Blurb: An extremely interesting and frightening account of Burnett's time working for the United Nations during the 1998 flood relief operations in Somalia. Whilst mostly a first person story about the difficulties and experiences he endures, Burnett also provides an indictment on how the UN treats those in the field, as well as the issue of Western aid that is sure to have you questioning the role of foreign intervention in third world countries.

In Search of Solomon's Mines by Tahir Shah
Published: 2002
Countries: Ethiopia
Blurb: Fascinated by the conundrum of where the biblical figure King Solomon had acquired his vast reserves of gold, Shah sets out to find its reputed source in Ophir, which he believes to be located in modern day Ethiopia. Shah's journey in search of the mines showcases both reasonably well known places such as the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela and lesser ones such as Nejo (the Garden of Eden) and Harar, (home to the hyena man Yusuf Mume Salleh). If you're looking for a travelogue that provides plenty of background information to Ethiopia then search no more, as Shah has produced a golden story and one well worth reading.

Surrender or Starve by Robert D. Kaplan
Countries: Ethiopia, Eritrea
Blurb: At its heart this is predominantly a story of the modern history of Ethiopia between 1984 and 1987 during which the western media beamed in images of a drought-scarred landscape and heart-rending famine scenes that led to the 1985 Live Aid benefit concert. Written prior to Eritrea's recognition as an independent nation, Kaplan's first book details how the resultant famine was not as much a result of misfortune or acts of god but rather something created by the Marxist Ethiopian government which can be likened to what occurred in 1930's Ukraine as a result of policies implemented by Stalin. Overall, Kaplan succeeds in the difficult task of distilling a complex subject into a more easily understood version without dumbing down the content too much and as a reader we come away much better informed on the history, religions and main ethnic groups of the Horn (and in particular Ethiopia and Eritrea).

Glory in a Camel's Eye by Jeffrey Tayler
Countries: Morocco and Western Sahara
Blurb: Glory in a Camel's Eye (also known as Valley of the Casbahs) is a beautifully written account of Tayler's arduous trek with Ruhhal Bedouin in 2001 on foot and camel through the Draa Valley in South East Morocco. A book conjuring up wonderful desert landscapes, this is a modern-day version to rival Arabian Sands which, in similar fashion to Thesiger's book, laments the lost nomadic life of the Bedouin.