Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Zarafa” as Want to Read:
Michael Allin
Rate this book
Clear rating


3.48 of 5 stars 3.48  ·  rating details  ·  292 ratings  ·  44 reviews
Zarafa was a gentle 19th-century giraffe, a simple animal whose life was dictated by the tumultuous times around her. From the African savanna where she was caught and tamed as an infant, Zarafa was shipped down the Nile--along with the meat of her mother and several hundred human slaves--to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. From there she sailed on to France, a gift fr ...more
Published (first published 1998)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Zarafa, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Zarafa

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 621)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Book Concierge
The book is subtitled: A Giraffe’s True Story, From Deep in Africa to the Heart of Paris.

In October 1826 a ship arrived at Marseilles carrying the first giraffe ever seen in France. She was a gift from the Ottoman Viceroy of Egypt to the King of France; a politically-motivated offering to ensure a powerful ally. Zarafa had already travelled over 1,000 miles to that point, but still needed to get to Paris. Eventually it was decided that the best approach would be to have her walk the 550 miles f
I bought this book for my giraffe-loving father several years ago and spied it on the shelf when I was visiting at Thanksgiving. My father gave it a lukewarm review, but it wasn't long and I love giraffes, too, so I brought it home to read. There was surprisingly less about the giraffe, Zarafa, then I expected. Nearly the first half of the book is dedicated to Egyptian and French history and the relations between the two countries. In fact, Zarafa's 550 mile walk from Marseille to Paris is almos ...more
Max Renn
i really was looking forward to loving this book. on paper it looked perfect. the charming tale of a gentle giraffe's long journey from the headwaters of the nile to the heart of paris complete with fairy tale pashas, dashing tomb robbers, devoted handlers and lovable bureaucrats (?!) to pump the romantique.

unfortunately, despite this wealth of potential loveliness, too much of this slender volume reads like an accountants diary. perhaps its the source material, apparently the lions share of pri
This is an incredibly charming and well-written and researched book. Michael Allin condenses a lot of complicated political history of the 18th and 19th century in a straightforward and clear way, all entwined around the journey of Zarafa the giraffe. I was especially excited to read about Zarafa's brief stay in Valence, where I used to live in France. My only complaint is that I wish it was longer. I wanted to know more about Zarafa's life in Paris, but I guess the really interesting story is o ...more
Linda Lipko
This wonderful book chronicles the 4,000 mile trek of a giraffe captured in the Ethiopian highlands then shipped by land and sea from Central Africa to Marseille in Paris.

Zarafa was given to King Charles X of France by Muhammad Ali, The Ottoman Viceroy of Egypt in 1827.

Rich in historical detail, the author does not bore the reader, but rather weaves fascinating tidbits regarding Africa, Egypt and France during the early 1800's.

I learned about the slave trade perpetrated by the Arabs, about Napol
The giraffe is a gift from the Egyptian viceroy Muhammad Ali to the French king Charles X.

Egypt and the French established very close ties after Napoleon's 1798 attempt to acquire it from the British. Ties were established by the number of "savants" Napoleon left behind after his defeat. They went on to catalog everything and produced a multi-volume discourse on it. Most exceptionally, Charmillion) and thus hieroglyphics could finally be deciphered.

The giraffe's journey and its acceptance by th
2006 bookcrossing:

I've just been reading this book today. It isn't so long but it has been an absolutely fascinating read. It would appeal to anyone interested in history - particularly Egypt and the French plundering/excavating (depending on how you view it) the country's national treasures in the 1700/1800s, travel stories, zoology.... or just a really good read to be honest.

It's the story of a female giraffe transported from the Sudan, up through Egypt and across to France to be presented to
Diana Sandberg
Very nice. I like this sort of history - an interesting peculiarity from the past, recounted with supporting information about the time and place. This is about the gift of a giraffe to King Charles X of France from the Ottoman viceroy of Egypt, one Muhammad Ali, in 1826. She was the first giraffe ever seen in France and caused quite a sensation, especially during her long slow walk from Marseille to Paris. In the course of telling this tale, the author shines intriguing light on the history of ...more
Daniel L.
Zarafa Stands Tall

In "Zarafa," author Michael Allin has the gift of engaging the reader in a tale he or she would not have necessarily selected off a bookshelf. Zarafa is the main character - not a king, conqueror or superhero, but a giraffe. As we follow this giraffe from the depths of Africa to cosmopolitan Paris, we get to know her as intimately as any human travel companion. Along the way, we learn about French and Egyptian history, Arabic customs and Parisian ways, geography, exploration an
Joy Weese Moll
Zarafa tells the story of the first giraffe in France, arriving in Paris in 1827 after a journey from the southern reaches of the Nile by boat and on foot. As much about northern Africa as about France, this tale involves colorful characters in history that are little studied in the US — the leaders, scientists, and merchants who ushered in the field of natural history and the biological sciences.

More on my blog, including photos from when I visited the Rotunda in Paris, the building where Zaraf
Diane Tabatabai
I knew nothing about this giraffe before buying the book at a book sale. It's short, easy to read and an interesting glimpse at a little known historical event
This was a great book that was really more about the political and historical climate of 1820s Africa and Europe than Zarafa herself. I love the Arabic word zarafa - means "charming one," and is where the word "giraffe" comes from. I also find them charming.
A short, charming tale of the first giraffe in France – her journey is traced from her birthplace in Ethiopia, to Egypt, and then to France, where she walked from Marseilles to Paris. Allin manages to combine the natural history of the many exotic animals that flooded into Europe as gifts during the 19th century, with the colonial histories of places that were changed forever by European influence, most notably in Egypt. By using a gentle, innocent animal as the lens for recalling an often bruta ...more
Kimberly Hall
Read a book at the bottom of your to -read list
Leider wurde ich von diesem Buch enttäuscht. Ich halte auch nicht durch, um zu sehen, ob es sich bessert. Ich breche nach ca. 1/4 ab.

Ich hoffte auf eine interessante Geschichte rund um eine Giraffe und ihre Reise. Stattdessen wirkt das Buch anfangs wie ein Geschichtsbuch. Die Giraffe wird kurz erwähnt und dann schweift das Buch ab in historische Daten rund um Napoleon, Sudan, Ägypten... Das waren mir zu viele Daten, Fakten und zu wenig Giraffe. Sprachlich hat es mich auch nicht mitgerissen.
I read this book on Nancy Pearl's suggestion. Really enjoyed the way the author Allin has of personalizing the past and giving a personality to the giraffe. I found it so interesting to hear about Napolean's part in Egyptian history and the journey of this giraffe by boat and then by land through Africa and then France. Having been to Egypt recently, I found the Egyptian part fascinating. But, of course, the French part of the story was my favorite.
Jay Shahwan
Sep 20, 2008 Jay Shahwan is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting true story following the path of the first giraffe from the deserts of the Sahara to Paris where Zarafa will become the King's "pet". The story contains many details of historic content, so it's not a quick or easy read, but it's a lovely story and sheds some interesting light on the nature of this lovely animal and how lovingly Zarafa was cared for during this long and arduous journey.
È un saggio interessante per il suo contenuto, ma che non avvince a causa della sua forma. La storia mi è piaciuta e ho apprezzato molto tutto il lavoro di ricerca che deve esserci stato dietro ad una ricostruzione del genere, ma l'esposizione mi è sembrata alquanto inamidata e difficoltosa. Peccato perché è una vicenda con forti potenzialità.
A delightful little book about something totally off the track. Who'd think that sending a giraffe to Paris would be interesting. My older sister recommended it, thinking I'd know some of the places mentioned, and I did. I've spent a bit of time in the Jardin des Plantes i Paris, which is where the giraffe ended up.
An interesting story telling the history of the region at the time of Zarafa's journey, but I was expecting more of the book to be about her and her carers' travels. I wanted to be ‘lost’ in the story as she ambled across the countryside, but I wasn’t. Lots of facts, but without the balance of atmosphere.
What a great read! Ostensibly about the arrival of a singular giraffe into Paris, this story is really a tour de force about the Age of Enlightenment, the quest for learning about natural history and the interplay of politics and personality in the first half of the 19th century.
Beth Cutwright
Lots of history, more than I cared for, but the specifics about the giraffe who wAs captured and travelled to Paris was charming. I fell in love with her just as the people did who she met along the way. I did not know that a giraffe could be so docile, as well as gorgeous!
Open Books Store
The giraffe is more than the world's most beautifully exotic animal - he (or she) is a window into history, particularly (and possibly) French history. So for Francophiles and giraffe-ophiles alike, Zarafa is a definite must-read! (Open Books volunteeer, Melissa)
Biraz tarih, biraz antropoloji, arşivler, resimler... Hoş bir öykü. İnsanlar nelere merak salıp emek veriyor? İlgiyle okudum, Sunay Akın'ın İstanbul'da Bir Zürafa'sını okuyup beğenenlere tavsiye ederim.
Interesting piece of history. I enjoyed that aspect. I did not think it was well written. And the author never discusses the Arabs mention in the book. As if they are just a part of the scenery.
Might need to give this one another chance as i did not finish it. Subject was very interesting, writing not so great. Why is that so often true with cool nature/animal writings?
This is beautifully writtten book a giraffe's epic journey from Africa to Paris- walking the last 550 miles through the French countywide in 1827. But it is so much more!
Well researched. This book unites a spectrum of historical spheres and makes a lovely story that I look forward to reading to my kids and recommending to others.

Vicki Carroll
I really enjoyed this genre though I expected to find out more about Zaraffa (the giraffe) than political history. It was a good introduction to reading history.
The Things you LEARN !
Learned Egyptian history, French history, much about giraffes.
Love love love these unusual interesting historical tales.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 20 21 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Open Books Chicago: Volunteer Review: Zarafa by Michael Allin 1 2 Jul 25, 2012 10:51AM  
  • The Medici Giraffe and Other Tales of Exotic Animals and Power
  • Dangerous Beauty - Life and Death in Africa: True Stories From a Safari Guide
  • The Rhino with Glue-On Shoes: And Other Surprising True Stories of Zoo Vets and their Patients
  • Jumbo: This Being the True Story of the Greatest Elephant in the World
  • The Lizard King: The True Crimes and Passions of the World's Greatest Reptile Smugglers
  • Sweets: A History of Candy
  • Darwin and the Barnacle: The Story of One Tiny Creature and History's Most Spectacular Scientific Breakthrough
  • The Beauty of the Beasts: Tales of Hollywood's Wild Animal Stars
  • Barrow's Boys: The Original Extreme Adventurers: A Stirring Story of Daring Fortitude and Outright Lunacy
  • Scourge: The Once and Future Threat of Smallpox
  • The River's Tale: A Year on the Mekong
  • In the Company of Crows and Ravens
  • Perfection of the Morning: A Woman's Awaking in Nature
  • Kicked, Bitten, and Scratched: Life and Lessons at the World's Premier School for Exotic Animal Trainers
  • Pass the Butterworms: Remote Journeys Oddly Rendered
  • The Moon by Whale Light and Other Adventures Among Bats, Penguins, Crocodilians and Whales
  • Ravens in Winter
  • The Bird Man and the Lap Dancer: Close Encounters with Strangers
The Christmas Kid: A Novel زرافة محمد علي: من مجاهل افريقيا إلى قلب باريس Theory of Markets Value

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »