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Between Terror and Tourism

An Overland Journey Across North Africa

List Price: $16.95

February 16, 2010 | Paperback | 5.9 x 9, 384 Pages | ISBN 9781582434346
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"Mewshaw admits that "travel is a need as urgent as oxygen." That urgency is evident in each well-turned phrase and incisive observation." —Library Journal

For his 65th birthday, acclaimed novelist Michael Mewshaw took a 4,000-mile overland trip across North Africa. Arriving in Egypt during food riots, he heads west into Libya, where billions in oil money have produced little except citizens eager to flee to Europe or join the jihad in Iraq. In Tunis, Mewshaw visits an abandoned Star Wars movie set where Al Qaeda has just kidnapped two tourists.

Ignoring U.S. Embassy warnings he crosses into Algeria, traveling through mountain towns and seething metropolises where 200,000 people have died during more than a decade of sectarian violence. Searching for the tombs of seven monks murdered by Islamic fundamentalists, he reaches a village where six more people have been beheaded the day before. When he interviews a repentant terrorist responsible for 5,000 deaths, the man praises the Boy Scouts for training him.

By contrast, the Moroccan city of Tangier seems almost tame. But then he meets the last literary protégé of Paul Bowles who accuses Bowles of plagiarism and murder. In the end, the reader, like the author, is immersed in a fascinating adventure that’s sometimes tragic, often funny, occasionally terrifying and always a revelation of a strange place and its people.

MICHAEL MEWSHAW is the author of novels set in Morocco, Algeria, and Egypt. He has written hundreds of travel articles for publications such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times. He has lived and traveled extensively in North Africa. He spends the winter in Key West, Florida, and travels the rest of the year.


“Seasoned travelers will sympathize with the cultural misunderstandings and bureaucratic troubles encountered in various places, particularly Libya. Mewshaw admits that “travel is a need as urgent as oxygen.” That urgency is evident in each well-turned phrase and incisive observation.” —Library Journal

“Mewshaw wonderfully engages the travel reader’s vicarious demand for history, cultural insight, and unexpected incident.” —Booklist

“At last, somebody’s come to grips with North Africa, and the good news is that that somebody is Michael Mewshaw, the veteran novelist and travel writer. His droll, plucky, hands-on trek from the Suez to the souks of Tangier, a region marked by doubtful democracies, Islamic fundamentalism and colorful characters, leaves us far wiser—not to mention superbly entertained. Mewshaw’s fascinating, never-dull book should be required reading for the State Department and, better yet, for the Pentagon.” —Theodore Stanger, former Newsweek Bureau Chief in Jerusalem and Paris

“In a part of the world where the perils of sand and sunburn really do compete with the danger of bullets and bombs, Michael Mewshaw travels with humor, insight and a sense of history. Don’t miss this trip!” —Richard Roth, CNN correspondent

“This is the story of a journey through a part of the world both unknown and relevant to most Americans. It is an enlightening and very entertaining book.” —Tracy Kidder, author of Mountains Beyond Mountains

“Michael Mewshaw takes the reader on a journey most can only dream of. He scares, thrills and informs on his gritty tale of solo travel through a region little understood by the outside world. His hilarious accounts of his quixotic experiences underplay the dangers he faces. If you want to feel the warmth of the Mediterranean sun, the chill of north African rain and the bumps in the road this is the book to read. Mewshaw is one of the finest travel writers of our time.” —Nic Robertson, Senior International Correspondent at CNN


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