Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town” as Want to Read:
Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  13,263 ratings  ·  903 reviews
In Dark Star Safari the wittily observant and endearingly irascible Paul Theroux takes readers the length of Africa by rattletrap bus, dugout canoe, cattle truck, armed convoy, ferry, and train. In the course of his epic and enlightening journey, he endures danger, delay, and dismaying circumstances.

Gauging the state of affairs, he talks to Africans, aid workers, missionar
Paperback, 485 pages
Published April 5th 2004 by Mariner Books (first published 2002)
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 Dark Star Safari, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Patrick Colgan Dear mr. Lomayani, I just would like to point out that mr. Theroux has lived in Uganda for many years and that the travel from Cairo to Cape town took…moreDear mr. Lomayani, I just would like to point out that mr. Theroux has lived in Uganda for many years and that the travel from Cairo to Cape town took him several months, not a day or a week. Travel writing tends to generalise, but I must say that this book is much harsher towards white people and westerners in general.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.97  · 
Rating details
 ·  13,263 ratings  ·  903 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town
Apr 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Caroline by: Shelley
Shelves: world, 4-star-reads
Grrrrr! Oh how this man irritates yet enthrals me!

I have just tramped down through Africa in the footsteps of Theroux, sighing and tsking, yet unable to put the book down. This man is a genius writer, yet so darn cantankerous, curmudgeonly and scathing that he made me want to throw the book on the floor and mash it. Even when he relishes a place, it often seems that it is the dirt, the stink and the squalor that inspires him. It's a kind of machismo. Proof that he isn't a tourist, but a bona fid
Jun 29, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: arrogant tourists who think they're "not really white"
Shelves: booksofthepast
WHY do I keep reading books by this man? For some unknown reason I assume that I'll garner some great knowledge form his books or be more amused than frustrated. Thus far: not. Instead I'm annoyed by his arrogance and his assumption that he's different from other white people in Africa because he "knows" that the aide system is faulty or because he lived there in the 60's. Just because you have a backpack and a history with Africa doesn't make you an expert, and Theroux whining about the fact th ...more
Feb 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Planes, trains and automobiles…

…and a ferry; rickety, smelly mini-buses; a dugout canoe, taxis and a cattle truck.

I give mad props to Theroux for humping it from Cairo to Cape Town at the age of 59, but this type of transport (he only used a plane once: to fly into Khartoum) would scare away the more discerning traveler – me. This makes me even more grateful for Theroux’s firsthand account of Africa.

Foreshadowing book spoiler: He quotes and draws comparisons from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darknes
Hai Quan
Sep 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
For people who wish to travel to Africa and the Middle East but for whatever reason, can't physically do so, Theroux will take you with him , show you the harsh environment, the potholed roads , the ancient cattle trucks that you share with camel cargo, blew out tires, broken axles and being stranded for days while the driver was trying to repair, hotels without running water or not any water at all ,hotels that were not better than a barn or no hotel at all: camping in the open sky with scorchi ...more
Jul 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This was my first Theroux and, on finishing it, I couldn’t fully judge of the tone of a book that was written near what will likely be the end of his career, after a certain cynicism has taken root. Since then, I’ve read The Great Railway Bazaar (his first travel book) and now a good chunk of Ghost Train.

First, it has to be said that this book is very NOT-P.C. (to say the least!). Theroux has what often appears to be an open and unapologetic contempt for many of the black Africans he meets and d
Aug 22, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel
When Paul Theroux was a young man,he lived and taught in Africa.After thirty five years,he returns to Africa for this travelogue.

He starts off in Egypt,doing the rounds of the usual tourist attractions.In Cairo,people don't see themselves as being part of Africa.Africa to them is poorer,under developed and dangerous.

But Paul Theroux is determined to traverse Africa,no matter how dangerous it may be.He manages to procure a Sudanese visa,with considerable difficulty and thus begins his trip to the
Mar 21, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa, travel
"Out of touch in Africa was where I wanted to be. The wish to disappear sends many travelers away." - Theroux on Africa

"Really there is no deadlier combination than a bookworm and megalomaniac. It was for example the crazed condition of many novelists and travelers." - Theroux on Mugabe

In 2001 Paul Theroux returned to Africa and traveled from Cairo to Capetown at age sixty. Thirty four years earlier he had taught in Uganda, where he worked with V S Naipaul, later to become Nobel Laureate. Since
For me this is the best Paul Theroux that I have read.
It was better (in my opinion) that his other travel non fiction (The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia, The Old Patagonian Express, Riding the Iron Rooster: By Train Through China), and I think there are a couple of reasons.

Firstly, in Dark Star Safari the travel was not all by train. This meant there was more to write about. In his other books (which I also enjoyed - don't get me wrong), there is only so much he can describe about
Jul 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
Near the end of Paul Theroux's north-south journey across the African continent, from Cairo to Cape Town, he allows himself the luxury of a swanky South African train trip, a rare mode of transportation for this usually spartan traveler in this fascinating trek on board cattle trucks, minivans packed to the roof with Africans, rickety matutus, canoes and proper boats. During a train stop a child begs in a prayerful way. Theroux, from the train, can't bring himself to toss food to her. After the ...more
Mar 10, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Theroux is a pompous ass. A just-compelling-enough pompous ass.
Aug 23, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: development
This book was a great read for a student of international development/relations. I understand the author's cynicism, admire his risktaking, and appreciate his insight into the impact of decades of foreign intervention in Africa. I didn't feel he was overly arrogant for a journey of this depth and magnitude; it certainly added to the story, for better or worse. It was an enjoyable read, full of analysis, rather than simply description. ...more
Dec 13, 2011 rated it did not like it
Mayn! This flipping book was an endlessly patronizing, infinitely tedious rant from a burdened white man.

Perhaps the most annoying travel book I read. Gah!

Take 54 seats Paul Theroux. I'd recommend Dark Continent My Black Arse if you're looking for a Cape to Cairo travelogue. Infinitely better.


This article? This article right here is The Truth. While the review is about The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari, it might as well have been reviewing this book.


"As Th
David Sarkies
Apr 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like travel diarys
Recommended to David by: Saw it in a bookshop
Shelves: adventure
A trek through the heart of Modern Africa
16 May 2015

Well, I have already written three blogposts worth of thoughts on this really interesting book, however I will simply touch on a few more important points for those of you who don't have the time (or the inclination) to read through what I have written elsewhere (and the links to those posts are below). Anyway, this is the diary of a journey that the author took from Cairo, across the African continent, to Cape Town. His original intention was
Chris Steeden
Apr 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At Elephantine Island near Aswan an Italian priest talking about Sudan says ’Wonderful people. Terrible government. The African story.’

Theroux goes back to Africa 40 years after being there as a schoolteacher. He says that ‘Africa is materially more decrepit than it was when I first knew it – hungrier, poorer, less educated, more pessimistic, more corrupt and you can’t tell the politicians from the witch-doctors.’ You know what you are going to get from Theroux. Yes, he can be a little grumpy bu
Aug 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: africa reality readers
"Safari," in Swahili means "journey," and is Theroux’s reason for returning to Africa: to escape a life usurped by schedules, appointments, e-mails and cell phones. After 40 years, Paul Theroux returns to Africa where he began writing. At 60, no one has so conquered the genre like Theroux.

But this return to Africa is more rumination than entertainment, and it is depressing. His first years in Africa—as Peace Corps volunteer and University teacher—saw a continent full of hope and promise. Toda
Jan 06, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel-natl-hist
A reasonably well written and interesting book about Africa.
There are very interesting bits about places rarely visited by Westerners (such as Sudan) that are surprising and vividly narrated by the author.
Quite heartbreaking is the terrible condition in which many countries in Africa still find themselves in, and the author's cynicism is very understandable, considering the history and the realities which Africa must face. His insight into the impact of decades of foreign intervention in Afric
4.5 stars

A grim and fascinating journey through Africa, the "dark star" continent, with Paul Theroux. This is my fourth book by Theroux, my third of his travel diaries. I have now followed Theroux on intrepid and gripping trips in China (Riding the Iron Rooster) and South America The Old Patagonian Express: By Train Through the Americas), in addition to Africa. Theroux is older here, jaded and cantankerous, but his writing is just as sharp, his observations just as cutting, his style just as per
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Funny. I had a Paul Theroux on my shelf for years, untouched, and finally decided to take it with me to the Chicago Book Festival last summer where I released it. Theroux was speaking so I thought it would be cool to release one of his books just outside the tent where he was speaking. I left the book next to one of the tent stakes and went inside to hear him talk. He was a fabulous storyteller and I immediately regretted that I had given away his book. I went out to try to retrieve the book, bu ...more
Apr 08, 2014 added it
What an arrogant, hypocritical dick! One picks up this book hoping for an armchair traveling voyage through East Africa. What one gets is a self-righteous White Man who describes himself as grizzled and wise at the ripe age of 70-something, pointing out numerous times that many Africans guess he's in his 40s because they are so unused to seeing old men. He paints himself as impervious to the dangers of Africa because he's Been There Before, and can speak to natives in their own language. He snee ...more
Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)
Curmudgeonly cogitator creeps curiously from Cairo to Cape Town. Crazy old coot!

Travel writer + several months of free time = Egypt--->Sudan--->Ethiopia--->Kenya--->Uganda--->Tanzania--->Malawi--->
Mozambique--->Zimbabwe--->South Africa--->Mozambique--->South Africa

Rearrange the letters in "Paul Theroux" and you get "Heat Up, Luxor!"
I feel it's my duty to point these things out. Make of them what you will.
A Man Called Ove
May 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travelogue
3.5/5 "Pessimistic Globetrotter wins d Nobel"
On reading this headline during this trip, Theroux's hopes went up that maybe he had hit d jackpot. He did not, Naipaul did :)
The word "pessimistic" is a little too harsh on Theroux but he is blunt, has a caustic wit at times, but like Naipaul he is observant and has empathy and hence is readable.
The dust, antiquity and fundamentalism of Egypt, the complete anarchy and poverty in war-struck Sudan, Kenya, the utter despair of Malawi, Mozambique and the
Jun 29, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In Dark Star Safari, Paul Theroux travels from Cairo to Capetown over land. His journey takes him through Egypt, the Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. As much as Hans Rosling (of fame) urges his audience to see these countries as unique, I suspect that for many readers these countries are all just parts of a hazy mental map titled "Somewhere in Africa." On the legend might be the following notes:
Blood Diamond was a good movie set in Africa.
Jun 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel, africa
Paul Theroux does not admire foreign aid workers or the work they do. The first 200 pages of Dark Star Safari contain several accounts of rude, obnoxious, self-important aid workers, often depicted as roaring through blighted communities in expensive Land Rovers, refusing to give rides. Two aid workers tell him they are on their way to “supervise a wet-feeding,” an outreach effort that Theroux characterizes as “going to a village to dump [corn-soy blend] in a trough for people to eat.” He gets i ...more
JHC was this a slog. I've heard the name Paul Theroux bopped around as a great travel writer for quite some time, and picked this guy up because it fit with my read all the Africa books from this year. And it's a cool topic, too- an "overland safari" from Cairo to Capetown. But truth be told, do not start here.

I'm gonna be real mean now so I sure hope that Paul Theroux never reads his goodreads reviews (given the general state of misanthropy towards all things new in his book, I think this is a
Aug 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Although Paul Theroux’s The Great Railway Bazaar is one of my all-time favorite books, I stopped reading him when he fell into what seemed to me to be an interminable bad mood--somewhat ironically, along about Happy Isles of Oceania, I think, in 1993, so it’s been quite a while since I picked up a Theroux travel narrative. But a friend recommended his Dark Star Safari (Houghton, 2004), and, ever trusting (and, as always, looking for a good book to read), I tried it, and was immediately hooked. I ...more
Don Becher
May 05, 2015 rated it it was ok
Well either the entire continent is headed to hell in a hand basket, or Paul Theroux is one of the bigger pessimists I know. His theme seems to be in part that Europeans kept the place up and when it was handed over to those of African lineage corruption and incompetence took over. He heaps great blame on the NGO programs in Sub-Saharan countries-- essentially articulating that they have removed from citizens of many Africans nations any incentive to fend for themselves. He also has no respect f ...more
Feb 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I like to experience travel with a little grit and Paul Theroux certainly is of like mind. While traveling from Cairo to Cape Town, crossing the African continent from north to south, he suffers discomfort, uncertainty, hostility, and life threatening situations. There is no public transportation through many of the countries he traversed. He hitched rides in rickety overloaded trucks and buses traveling on roads strewn with potholes and boulders. He freely expresses his disdain for aid organiza ...more
Dec 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: 'real' adventure travellers
Renowned travel writer, Paul Theroux's, account of a solitary journey from Cairo to Cape Town in 2001. If you do not appreciate nostalgic, and often quite opinionated ramblings, then give the book a skip. You may enjoy a glossy safari lodge brochure better. I enjoyed his narrative because of its individualistic tone and Theroux's often contentious rantings against foreign aid workers and African governments' inability to put their people first.

His nostalgia is quite evident when he writes about
I got this mainly because:

1. Paul Theroux is Louis Theroux's father and I like Louis Theroux.

2. It was a Kindle bargain.

And No.3 (maybe ought to have mentioned this first) I have a bit of a fascination with that vast continent that can be glimpsed from my terrace.

Bearing in mind this is a good 10 years out of date I thought it was nevertheless a good way of seeing the real Africa as PT tends to go off the beaten track and retains a dry scorn for the touristy-type tours which in his opinion miss
Gerald Sinstadt
Jul 23, 2015 rated it liked it
Why does one admire Paul Theroux and at the same find him hard to like? As a travel writer per se he is among the best. His desire to explore the less travelled regions of the world leads him into interesting places and encounters with interesting people. The problem for this reader is that no one seems to interest him more than himself.

This overland journey from Cairo to South Africa comes with detailed historical and biographical background which often spills over into showing off. As he cross
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Good Travel Writing Like Paul Theroux 1 4 Jan 10, 2019 09:46PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Lost on Planet China: The Strange and True Story of One Man's Attempt to Understand the World's Most Mystifying Nation, or How He Became Comfortable Eating Live Squid
  • Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart
  • In Patagonia
  • The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific
  • In Siberia
  • Getting Stoned with Savages: A Trip Through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu
  • Chasing the Devil: The Search for Africa's Fighting Spirit
  • The Zanzibar Chest: A Story of Life, Love, and Death in Foreign Lands
  • Eight Feet in the Andes: Travels with a Mule from Ecuador to Cuzco
  • In a Sunburned Country
  • Gijp
  • Video Night in Kathmandu and Other Reports from the Not-So-Far East
  • Born Free: The Full Story
  • The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence
  • 1,000 Places to See Before You Die
  • Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman
  • Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time
  • The Art of Travel
See similar books…
Paul Edward Theroux is an American travel writer and novelist, whose best known work is The Great Railway Bazaar (1975), a travelogue about a trip he made by train from Great Britain through Western and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, through South Asia, then South-East Asia, up through East Asia, as far east as Japan, and then back across Russia to his point of origin. Although perhaps best know ...more

News & Interviews

  Some people love books. Some people fall in love. And some people love books about falling in love. Every month our team sorts through...
21 likes · 6 comments
“You go away for a long time and return a different person - you never come all the way back.” 84 likes
“The measure of civilized behavior is compassion.” 39 likes
More quotes…