Skeletons on the Zahara

This true adventure story (320 pages) was published in March of 2004 by Little, Brown and Company. The book takes you to 19th-century Morocco. David read Skeletons on the Zahara and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if he didn't recommend it.

buy is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support independent bookstores and give back to the book community.


Skeletons on the Zahara

A True Story of Survival

Dean King

This is a real-life historical adventure. In 1815, 12 American sailors were shipwrecked off the coast of Africa, captured by desert nomads, and sold into slavery. With their unfriendly captors, they traveled for two months in the debilitating heat and dire conditions of the Sahara desert.

The journey started uneventfully enough. Captain James Riley and the crew of the Commerce set out from Connecticut on calm seas for New Orleans. The plan was to trade their cargo of hay and bricks for tobacco and flour that they’d take on to Gibraltar. The return trip would be a cargo of salt to take back to New England.

But the ship got hung up on a rocky outcropping just off the shore of Morocco, and after a day or so of battering waves, they abandoned ship. And that’s when the real adventure began. The men were robbed, captured, starved, and pushed to the limits of their humanity.

Author Dean King unspools their story in devastating and tangible detail: the blistering heat of the sun and sand, the scorpions and the slavers, the thirst, the hunger, the despair. King’s narrative is based on accounts written by two survivors of the ordeal, as well as his own experiences recreating some of the journey himself in the desert of Morocco.

This book is the definition of swashbuckling adventure. It’s also the story of courage, brotherhood, and the will to stay alive in some of the harshest conditions on the planet.

What they could use and carry from a shipwreck, the Sahrawis took. What they could not take, it was their custom to burn. To the victims who witnessed this destruction of their personal articles and the cargo of their vessel, it was often the last cruel blow before they assumed the life of a slave to some of the poorest people on earth, living in some of the harshest conditions imaginable. — Dean King

keep reading

Have you ever daydreamed about riding a camel across the Sahara with the wind in your hair? Or strolling through the market in the old town of Marrakech? These six books will take you there asap, no passport required.
Travel to Chicago, Cuba, Ireland, Scotland, Vietnam, and more with these well-researched, compellingly told tales of adventure. The pages practically turn themselves, and the people who populate them? Unforgettable.
The breathtaking scenery and raucous markets of Morocco can seem like something conjured from a dream. In this episode, we share the books that transported us to this special place and talk Moroccan food with MarocMama.

sharing is caring!

Wanna help us spread the word? If you like this page, please share with your friends.

our mission

Strong Sense of Place is a website and podcast dedicated to literary travel and books we love. Reading good books increases empathy. Empathy is good for all of us and the amazing world we inhabit.

our patreon

Strong Sense of Place is a listener-supported podcast. If you like the work we do, you can help make it happen by joining our Patreon! That'll unlock bonus content for you, too — including Mel's secret book reviews and Dave's behind-the-scenes notes for the latest Two Truths and a Lie.

get our newsletter
We'll never share your email with anyone else. Promise.

This is a weekly email. If you'd like a quick alert whenever we update our blog, subscribe here.

no spoilers. ever.

We'll share enough detail to help you decide if a book is for you, but we'll never ruin plot twists or give away the ending.

super-cool reading fun
reading atlas

This 30-page Reading Atlas takes you around the world with dozens of excellent books and gorgeous travel photos. Get your free copy when you subscribe to our newsletter.

get our newsletter
We'll never share your email with anyone else. Promise.
follow us

Content on this site is ©2024 by Smudge Publishing, unless otherwise noted. Peace be with you, person who reads the small type.