Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Zarafa: A Giraffe's True Story, from Deep in Africa to the Heart of Paris” as Want to Read:
Zarafa: A Giraffe's True Story, from Deep in Africa to the Heart of Paris
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Zarafa: A Giraffe's True Story, from Deep in Africa to the Heart of Paris

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  454 Ratings  ·  74 Reviews
In October 1826, a ship arrived at Marseille carrying the first giraffe ever seen in France. A royal offering from Muhammad Ali, Ottoman Viceroy of Egypt, to King Charles X, she had already traveled 2,000 miles down the Nile to Alexandria, from where she had sailed across the Mediterranean standing in the hold, her long neck and head protruding through a hole cut in the de ...more
Paperback, 228 pages
Published August 10th 1999 by Delta (first published 1998)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

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

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Rating details
Sort: Default
Clare O'Beara
This is a lovely book with much research into the times and wider history of the cultures and countries involved. A young female giraffe was sent as a present from Egypt to post-Napoleonic France; she had been captured by hunters who killed her mother, very young, and needed to be fed on milk for years.

This book explains how she was raised and walked or transported by boat from the smaller Nile rivers to the main course and the delta; she sailed to France and was walked the rest of the journey,
Bob Newman
Feb 21, 2018 rated it liked it
"Necked Came the Stranger"----a tall, but true story

If you think about history books as beer, then this one is definitely 'Bud Lite'. You're thirsty to read a good book, so you reach for ZARAFA. You chug it down. Hmm. Definitely liquid but not much of a kick. Well, OK, who could resist buying a book about a giraffe ? Not me, who always loved those weird-looking creatures. But I like well-organized books of history too, and I fear that this is not one of them. It's a kind of "cabinet de curiosité
E' la storia della prima giraffa giunta, nel 1826, sul suolo europeo, regalata dal viceré d'Egitto al re di Francia Carlo X. Interessante ma niente di più di un resoconto. Non c'è pathos, abilità narrativa, storia.
Avvincente come una tesi di laurea.
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
Nov 25, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
I quite enjoyed this book - more the parts actually about the giraffe than the history lesson, but as a whole I have it in there with a solid 3 stars.
Other reviewers have criticised the non-giraffe aspects of the book, but without this history, there would be so many unanswered questions. There would necessarily be references to many people and without the background to their actions and motivations it would be a confusing read. Even now, I am less than convinced I have a clue about the history
Jan 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
David L.
Jun 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Charming, amusing, even Fascinating! Who knew. I gave this book a mention in my just-published journal: Across Two Novembers: A Year in the Life of a Blind Bibliophile. I said this: "On an historic note, in 1827, Muhammad Ali, Ottoman Viceroy of Egypt, sent a young female giraffe to French King Charles X as a royal gift, to firm up relations between the two countries. Her journey by ship, her walk across France, and Paris’s reaction are described by Michael Allin in Zarafa: A Giraffe’s True Stor ...more
Dec 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this adventure story of a giraffe's journey from Sudan to Paris, France. Learned quite a bit of French history in the course of reading Michael Allin's story. The politics of the early 1900s among the world powers surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. Hope visit the Jardin des Plantes when we are in Paris.
Nov 13, 2018 rated it liked it
What I wanted: a charming, whimsical story of a giraffe.

What I got: 150 pages on the politics/history of the relationship between France and Africa. 50 pages on a giraffe.

I hate to stick my neck out here, but I found trying to learn so many names and events in such a short amount of time to be a tall order.
Sally T.
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: zarafa
Delightful and interesting!
Susan Reyna
Dec 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent, well-researched story of a giraffe who travelled from Egypt to France almost 200 years ago. I learned so much about the geography, culture, and history surrounding the event.
Gerald McFarland
Feb 10, 2018 rated it liked it
An amiable account of the politics back of the gift of a giraffe to King Charles X of France and this remarkable animal's long journey in 1826-1827 from far south in Africa to Paris.
Dec 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
Beautiful, wide-ranging. The best kind of biography (one that puts the life of its subject in complete context).
Aug 25, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The story of Zarafa's 4,000 mile journey from central Africa to Paris early in the nineteenth century is interwoven with the fascinating history of African/Egyptian/French relations from Napoleon through Charles X in this slim but well researched book. Michael Allin, who takes the liberty of naming the apparently nameless giraffe Zarafa for the Arabic term zerafa which translates as "charming" or "lovely one," does an excellent job of pulling a very complicated political history together into a ...more
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
Sep 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, 2009
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
Diana Sandberg
Jun 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
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
Linda Lipko
Mar 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Daniel L.
Jul 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 06, 2008 rated it liked it
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
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
Feb 04, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this little book at a free books stall by the county library, because who doesn't want to read about a giraffe that travelled from Egypt to Paris in the 1800s as a political gift?! The story of the giraffe's travel, the details of the journey and its people are fascinating. But the background of the political situation, the wars in Greece and Napolean's adventures and the Turks' fights, sort of glided over my head. Maybe because I just didn't know enough about the wars...or maybe I w ...more
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.
Aug 12, 2012 rated it liked it
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 is currently reading it
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.
Sep 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: egypt, non-fiction
This was a cute little book filled with the history of France's fascination with all things Egyptian and the state of Egypt under the rule of Ottoman viceroy Muhammad Ali. And of course, Zarafa the giraffe and her journey from Egypt to Paris as a diplomatic gesture of goodwill. For me, I got the most out of the political history detailed in the book because the period after Napoleon in France has always been a bit fuzzy to me. A quick but worthwhile read.
Mar 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
كالعادة الجزء التوثيقي داخل مصر واهي جدا و ربما هو ما اضطر الكاتب إلى التعويض عنه بالكثير من تاريخ بونابرت، كليبر و حملتهم التي يبدو انها فشلت ! مع طبعا الكثير من الذم و القدح في شخص محمد علي الأمي (الذي ربما يكون مستحق في بعض المواضع) إحقاقا للحق الكثير من الذم للكثير ممن اسماهم الكاتب حثالة التنوير الأوربي
May 31, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: xxxbc
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.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 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
  • Jumbo: This Being the True Story of the Greatest Elephant in the World
  • Ethics on the Ark: Zoos, Animal Welfare, and Wildlife Conservation
  • The Lizard King: The True Crimes and Passions of the World's Greatest Reptile Smugglers
  • The Beauty of the Beasts: Tales of Hollywood's Wild Animal Stars
  • Humboldt's Cosmos: Alexander von Humboldt and the Latin American Journey that Changed the Way We Se
  • Sweets: A History of Candy
  • The Rhino with Glue-On Shoes: And Other Surprising True Stories of Zoo Vets and their Patients
  • Scourge: The Once and Future Threat of Smallpox
  • Lost in Transmission
  • Ravens in Winter
  • Raffles and the Golden Opportunity
  • Darwin's Armada: Four Voyages and the Battle for the Theory of Evolution
  • The Prospect Before Her: A History of Women in Western Europe, 1500 - 1800
  • Perfection of the Morning: A Woman's Awaking in Nature
  • Magnificent Corpses: Searching Through Europe for St. Peter's Head, St. Claire's Heart, St. Stephen's Hand, and Other Saintly Relic
  • Thousand Mile Song: Whale Music in a Sea of Sound