Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Men of Salt: Crossing the Sahara on the Caravan of White Gold” as Want to Read:
Men of Salt: Crossing the Sahara on the Caravan of White Gold
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Men of Salt: Crossing the Sahara on the Caravan of White Gold

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  262 ratings  ·  56 reviews
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published January 1st 2006 by Lyons Press
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 Men of Salt, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Men of Salt

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.98  · 
Rating details
 ·  262 ratings  ·  56 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Men of Salt: Crossing the Sahara on the Caravan of White Gold
Dec 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, six-stars
This book is amazing! Men of Salt is a role model of what every travel book should be, an exotic fairy tale, but real.
This book is amazing! I know I said it before, but I need to say it again - AMAZING! Men of Salt is informative without being overwhelming, imaginative without being falsifying, descriptive but not overly so, and so deliciously perfect it hurts. I learned so much about the Sahara from this book. It's all I've been talking about for days. I've gone over every sentence of this book
Jan 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. love love love. The author portrays the Malians he meets with such candor and subtle love, which is exactly how everyone who ever spends time in Mali feels. His description of the trek across the desert, peppered with descriptions of the dunes to reflections on his meals, dreams, relationships, goals is so well done I am transported back to Mali (Peace Corps) and both thankful that I've been to Timbuktu so I have a sense of what he's talking about and that I will never, ever ha ...more
Sep 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best travel+adventure narratives I have read. A very enjoyable book to read.

Books of this sort ideally have a number of ingredients, ideally balanced so that the shifting back and forth between them isn't distracting (or even annoying). While the main focus is typically on the description of the travel in a narrative, the author needs to provide enough background about himself to provide the narrative context and to provide some historical and other description of where the tr
Mary Overton
"As though we'd entered a different room in the desert, the scenery changed dramatically. Here, rows of red sand ridges poured like ribs from both sides of a spine of ancient black rock. A few flat-topped mesas abruptly broke the northern horizon line, jutting more than a thousand feet from the desert floor....
".... Since we were in the midst of the most stunning terrain we had yet crossed, I asked Walid and Baba if they, too, thought it was beautiful.
"They each grimaced involuntarily, looked at
Kat Kiddles
Jul 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
There’s something so empowering about seeing the extraordinary in the everyday. Salt is something we so readily take for granted. Doctors advise us to limit it for the sake of our hearts, restaurants feel pressured to overuse it in a depressing attempt to please the ravenous appetites of over-consumption and greed, while artisans still rely on it to cure the meats and salt the fish that we nostalgically consume in a futile attempt to reconnect to a world of handcrafted dishes and face-to-face co ...more
Mar 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
I saw this book on display at the library and was intrigued by it. The author travels by camel across about 500 miles of open desert to a working salt mine. I was amazed at the skills of the guide, the serviceability of the camels, the know-how of the nomadic people. There is wonderful description of the desert, a bit of humor, and interesting cultural and historical information about that part of the world. Very readable, very enlightening.
May 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Fast read for me! A good sign since I'm such a slow reader. A glimpse into a place I will never visit. Michael very respectful of all he encountered - people, environment, camels. Have discovered his photos on the web. Beautiful.
Zora O'Neill
Apr 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Really fascinating. I missed my subway stop both ways because I was so engrossed. Particularly good background on Tuareg culture.
Jul 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Interesting, but not quite as riveting as I expected. The author came off a tad arrogant, and at one point immature with a bit of a rant as to how he was bored with his girlfriend of 4 years and would probably not go back to her. redeemed himself at the end with a humble conclusion.

Learned some really interesting facts about camels. Water is stored in their body tissues (not the hump, which is fat) and when faced with dehydration they tap this. Other mammals draw water from their bloodstreams w
Amy Meyers
I would rate this higher except for two elements: the author's worldview clashed with mine significantly on several points (for example, global warming worries weren't needed here [p. 73 & others]) and secondly, this book is NOT fitting for youth to read. The latter point is only a concern because it was recommended to me when I asked for literature recommendations for a year of geography studies. The theme goes very well with week 19 MFW ECC, as the prayer focus that week is on the "Tal-Kamasha ...more
Thomasin Propson
An adventurous trek through the desert via camel. I enjoyed reading of the author’s experience, and even though I personally am not fit enough (or am too happy with an 8-hr night’s sleep and not certain to be as resigned as he to sand infiltrating every bite of food for 5 weeks) to make the journey as he did, I feel disappointed that I would never be welcome on a trip like this because I’m a woman and this sort of guided experience is only open to men. I rarely find myself completely barred from ...more
Cathy Kristiansen
Jul 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An excellent account of an adventurous trip across the Sahara, by an American traveler fulfilling a dream. You feel his awkwardness and pain from the camel riding, sense his frustration at his limited ability to communicate and being kept in the dark about changing plans, and also see through him the beauty of the desert and an ancient lifestyle that, although not on the endangered list quite yet, can hardly survive more than a few decades. He mulls the dilemma of wanting to preserve the deep ro ...more
Galactic Hero
Jan 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Benanav recounts a 5-week camel round trip from Timbuktu to salt mines in the middle of the Sahara, on which he was accompanied by his guide, Walid, and various other "azalai" (salt traders).

Saharan salt caravans not being anything resembling an area of personal expertise, the novelty of this story and setting were the primary appeal to me. Still, there's only so much story to be milked from slogging through dune after dune with stone agers you can barely understand. Not a trip I'd ever conside
May 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An enjoyable and educational look at the salt caravans crossing the Sahara. Benanav's descriptions of the sunrises, sunsets and surrounding landscapes as he crosses a truly inhospitable place are breathtaking.
May 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating account by a Jewish author who journeys to a Muslim country to experience first-hand the grueling life of traditional salt miners. Reads almost like a novel, with just enough background and history to flesh out the story without bogging down in details.
May 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was the first book I felt I couldn't put down for at least one year. I enjoyed the author's sense of humor. His writing style made me feel like I was taking the journey with him.
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Finished this book in about 24 hours. It fit perfectly with the unit I am currently teaching my kids, about ancient Mali, built around the salt/gold trade.
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating story of a man joining a camel caravan across the Sahara desert. It’s a great look of a unique way of living. A quick read.
Sharon Zink
Aug 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Peggy Jamison, Ellen Standley, Keisha Davis, Julie Pelton, Bob Brandt
Shelves: 2019
This is an account of the author's trip beyond Timbuktu in Mali in the Sahara Desert with a camel caravan of salt miners. Excellent.
Pat Bedinger
Oct 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
A real adventure, one that I would not personally want to undertake but very fun to read about.
May 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
I bought this book for my father and he visited Timbuktu. Now that I read it I wonder how he and my mom traveled to that out of the way place. Very interesting read
Jul 03, 2020 rated it liked it
I really liked the descriptions of the desert. I did not like the descriptions of animal slaughter.
Feb 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Too soon for a definitive rating, however I am enjoying the premise and thinking about how ancient the location and the ritual are, wondering where I can get the disposable income to make my own trek. The narration showed insight and suggested the author got lots of time to contemplate both during and after the journey as he made sense of his experience and give a realistic portrayal of what it would be like to be the tourist on deck for the real experience and story of this phenomena.
Jul 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Michael Benanav's book, Men of Salt: Crossing the Sahara on the Caravan of white Gold, turned out to be a complete and wonderful surprise to me. I picked it from a challenge list for July's reading and I am so glad I did. I don't read many travel memoirs but this one is not just that alone. Benanav combines some history of both the Sahara and the salt trade with the retelling of his travels with the Tuareg tribesmen from Timbuktu to Taoudenni in Mali. Intent on joining the salt caravan and spend ...more
Jul 29, 2011 added it
This book is at its best when Benanav describes his adventures. There are beautifully written sections focusing on the stark landscapes of the Sahara and on his firsthand experiences digging in the remote salt mines of Mali. The narrative provides some insights into what it takes to survive in the desert as well as some unexpected humor regarding the food Benanav ate during the trip.

However, I have to dock the author a couple of stars for his clumsy attempts to draw bigger conclusions about the
Apr 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Michael Benanav is a writer, photographer, and adventurer whose account of traveling across the Sahara in a camel caravan is fascinating to read. Starting from Timbuktu in Mali, they trek 450 miles to northern Mali to a salt mining town named Taoudenni, in the middle of nowhere. Michael is fluent in French and speaks some Arabic. He travels with a guide named Walid, whose ability to plot a route to their destination through the vast Sahara amazes Michael. On their return trip, the camels carry ...more
Jul 07, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: africa
This was not bad as someone's acount of thier trip to the Taoudeni salt mines. It did not have a lot history, or background reasearch and that's okay if it wasn't inteded too. There was however one glaring error that made me cringe from pg. 6 where if first apeared to the end of the book. He states that Azali is a camel driver and uses it as such. It is NOT a camel driver it is the salt caravan. It coveres the whole process from the preparation to the treck to obtaining the salt at the mines to ...more
Jan 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Men of Salt. Michael Benanav writes a wonderful account of his journey with a camel caravan in 2003. He joined a caravan to get slabs of salt from salt mines outside a small village called Taoudenni in Mali. The route stretched across the barren desert 450 miles to Timbuktu! Wells were few and far between. On the return trip the camels went 12 days without any water. When they were given water they sucked up gallons of it until their stomachs were swollen. The trip was brutal,(sometimes travelli ...more
Oct 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A book for an older reader, but nonetheless, very interesting! Nonfiction. The author, Michael Benanav, loves to travel and loves adventure in remote areas of the world. In this book he travels to Timbuku, Mali to join a camel caravan with the nomadic people, the Taureg. These are the people that travel to the salt mines and bring back slabs of precious salt on their camels. This is know n as the Caravan of White Gold. He spends 5 weeks in an incredible difficult climate of the Sahara desert, on ...more
Oct 18, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: school-2k8-2k9
This is one of the few non-fiction books I have read. It is about the salt caravans in the Saharan desert. The author chronicles his journey into unfamiliar territory. His stories include his personal revelations, getting over the language barrier and earning his keep in a land unfamiliar to him. He questions himself and those around him wondering what he was thinking when he decided to spend five weeks in the desert.

Interesting concept. Lots of interesting things happen while he is there. It i
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey
  • This Is How You Lose the Time War
  • David Livingstone: Africa's Trailblazer (Christian Heroes: Then & Now)
  • Algebra I: Expressions, Equations, and Applications
  • Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty
  • The Breadwinner (The Breadwinner, #1)
  • The Plutarch Primer: Publicola
  • Desert Solitaire
  • Five Children and It (Five Children #1)
  • Anne of Green Gables Collection
  • Confessions of a Transformed Heart
  • Bad Medicine: Doctors Doing Harm Since Hippocrates
  • Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
  • Lucifer's Hammer
  • The Wisdom of No Escape: How to Love Yourself and Your World
  • Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001
  • The Making of the Atomic Bomb
  • Polio: An American Story
See similar books…

Related Articles

In these strange days of quarantine and isolation, books can be a mode of transport. We may have to stay home and stay still, but through t...
58 likes · 39 comments
“Camels can go many weeks without drinking anything at all. The notion that they cache water in their humps is pure myth—their humps are made of fat, and water is stored in their body tissues. While other mammals draw water from bloodstreams when faced with dehydration, leading to death by volume shock, camels tap the water in their tissues, keeping their blood volume stable. Though this reduces the camel’s bulk, they can lose up to a third of their body weight with no ill effects, which they can replace astonishingly quickly, as they are able to drink up to forty gallons in a single watering.” (pp.69-70)” 6 likes
“You travel faster alone, but farther together.” 4 likes
More quotes…