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Desert Flower

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  26,476 ratings  ·  1,363 reviews
Waris Dirie ran away from her oppressive life in the African desert when she was barely in her teens, illiterate and impoverished, with nothing to her name but a tattered shawl. She traveled alone across the dangerous Somali desert to Mogadishu — the first leg of a remarkable journey that would take her to London, where she worked as a house servant; then to nearly every c ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published March 15th 2011 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published August 19th 1998)
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Average rating 4.10  · 
Rating details
 ·  26,476 ratings  ·  1,363 reviews

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Julia Miller
Oct 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow this book left me speechless. It leaves this lump in my throat and is at the same time very inspiring. With her story Waris Dirie brings awareness to the terrible tradition of female genital mutilation in Africa. Makes me feel so blessed to be living in a country where I an live a self-determined life.
Ahmad Sharabiani
Desert Flower: The Extraordinary Journey of a Desert Nomad, Waris Dirie

Waris Dirie escaped from her native Galkayo, Somalia, fleeing to Mogadishu to escape an arranged marriage.

Moving with relatives to London, she worked for a while at a McDonald's and was discovered by chance by fashion photographer Terence Donovan.

She continued via modelling in film and fashion to a stage where she was considered a supermodel. It was at this point that, with Miller, she wrote this autobiography.

Shortly afte
Feb 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
Waris Dirie's memoir is an extraordinary journey : from desert nomad,to domestic servant,to supermodel,to UN ambassador for the elimination of FGM.

She grew up in the Somali desert where life was tough. At age five,she had to endure an extreme form of FGM,which left her with lifelong damage. She was still luckier than many other girls,some of whom even died as a result of this ritual.

A few years later,her father wanted to marry her off,to a much older man in exchange for five camels. She ran away
Jul 29, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
brilliant book, I could not put it down once I started reading it.

I read it within 24 hours, and found myself mesmerised by this womans story, and how she overcame obstacles that most of us wouldn't dream of, to get to where she is today.

Without going into too much detail, she managed to convey the horror and trauma of being subjected to female genital circumcision, a practise that causes more problems, than it prevents, and convinces you, that as a woman, we have a duty, irregardless of where w
Sotiris Karaiskos
Jul 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
The position of women in many African regions where old customs are prevalent is very difficult. Their lives are determined by the wishes of men who wish to control every aspect of their existence, including even their sexuality. Violence, forced marriages, genital mutilation in childhood are the main expressions of this oppression.

A young woman tries to escape all this and after many adventures he succeeds and achieves international recognition in the modelling world, thus gaining independence
Diane in Australia
Waris is an inspiration to all. She overcame so much to grasp a chance at true freedom. She is now a determined spokesperson against female genital mutilation. Very good book.

3 Stars = I liked the book. I'm glad I read it.
Diane S ☔
Feb 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 5000-2019, lor-2019
Thoughts soon.
There is a lot to admire about Waris Dirie and her story. Raised in a nomadic Somali family, apparently raped at age four and then mutilated in a female circumcision ritual at age five, Dirie bravely ran away from home at thirteen to avoid being married off to an old man. Dirie endured a great many trials and tribulations -- finding her way to Mogadishu and to her long-lost relatives, a string of unsuccessful living arrangements, working as a maid in London and then as kitchen help in McDonalds ...more
Feb 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In my opinion this is a tremendously important book. It is not just a wonderful memoir and a tale of amazing bravery of Waris Dirie, but also an detail account of FGM from the perspective of a victim. The reason why I picked up this book was mainly because I wanted to learn something more about FGM. I did learn something more, the kind of information that is personal not just theoretical. In addition, Waris does not only tell her story. She tells the story of other women she had known that have ...more
Feb 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Through this very intriguing autobiography you learn about the life of nomadic herders and the world of high fashion models. More striking than these desriptions is the first hand account of a female genital mutilation (FMG) and its life long consequences.

Dirie describes her early years of tending the family's animals and avoiding the dangerous ones. It was never ending backbreaking work. Punishments were severe. There could be days without food or water. Her mother bore 12 children, not all su
This book was informative and touching to read, and I suggest anyone to take a look at it, it will open your eyes to another world on our planet. 
Mikey B.
Nov 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is an autobiography of a very resilient and head-strong Somali woman who up and left her desert nomadic clan. She was to be betrothed, as a young teenage girl (birth dates were not recorded in her tribe), to a much older man. She was having none of that!

She trekked solo to Mogadishu – and from there managed through relatives, to get a posting as a maid at the Somalia London embassy. Eventually she entered the world of high fashion modeling.

Her Somalia narrative was intensely interesting, b
Dec 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: true-stories
Dirie's story really shocked me. I remember when I first heard of this book.. a teacher told us and I thought to myself...I have to read this book! I've read it two years ago. It's so heartbreaking knowing the world is so different in some places. Things, that really shouldn't happen to anyone, sadly DO happen. ...more
Jan 09, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
The best biographies take the reader to a life so alien to his own that it might as well be set on a different planet, & "nomad in Somalia" comes close to Tatooine. With grains a luxury addition to a staple of camel milk, it incidentally has a heavy 'be thankful for what you got' vibe, even before the appalling consequences of zero medical care come into view.

I saw the movie first; it follows the original story closely & adroitly conveys Dirie's inner voice through images. We cannot feel the mut
Jan 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. Waris' time in Somalia as a child was my favorite part. It was both disturbing and lovely and wholly real.

What I also love about this book is the way this book addressed Genital Mutilation. Discussion about problematic tribal rites like female genital mutilation is best done from within the culture as well as from the outside. If there is no point of view from the inside all it looks like is a bunch of outsiders calling a group of people barbarians. When people feel disrespect
Jul 12, 2015 rated it liked it

I picked up this book on pure chance, when it popped up as a recommendation. Since I’m interested in culture-clash and the African experience, I started reading it. Waris Dirie, who was an international model, came from the life of a desert nomad in Somalia. Fleeing in order to escape an arranged marriage to a much older man when she was just fourteen, Waris’ extraordinary flight across the desert leads first to the country’s capital of Mogadishu, and then to London, where she worked as a house
Apr 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was my final book of our first Novel Ideas Book Voyage. Such an excellent story, told with such honesty and bravery; bravery for Waris Dirie to bare her soul and open herself up to tell of the barbaric custom of FGM native to her heritage in the hope of bringing it to light and saving other young girls from the same fate.

While sometimes hard to read given the subject matter, this is not all that this book encompassed. It also is the story of growing up free, a nomad, in Somalia; the memorie
Sep 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm always excited when I read biographies, I'm always rooting and like "show them what you can", "oh shit, you are going to fight through this hun" and be so utterly proud of their achievements and their outlook on life. The same goes for this book. Waris Dirie is an admirable woman. She went through shit, and yeah her personality would clash with a lot of people (I probably couldn't handle her, I like quite people like myself) but she worked for everything she got and had her portion of luck s ...more
Feb 27, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars
Simplistic though certainly not boring writing. It’s like having a cup of tea with Waris while she tells her life story. There are people that don’t like that kind of writing, but I do, it feels very natural. Though I sometimes disliked Waris because of her being so stubborn and headstrong and because of the way she talks about certain things, I also realise that this is the result of our very different upbringing and the completely different lives we’ve lived. Also, I think it’s thanks
May 04, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Waris had an extraordinary story to tell but the narration left much to be desired. I suppose writing an autobiography is so subjective. Opens one up to scrutiny. What to put in. What to leave out. The story left a bitter taste in my mouth.

From page 15 to page 224, the narration is flat, flat, flat. As much as her events are chronologically laid out, there was no hook for me as the reader. I kept thinking "where's the rising action?". The one event that would lead to the peak of her story. Nothi
Charles Edwards-Freshwater
Dec 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 30-before-30
I don't often read non-fiction and I usually avoid memoirs and biographies as there are few people that I'm intrigued enough about to make reading about their whole lives worthwhile. However, as this book was suggested to me as one of my 30 before 30 options, I decided to pick it up anyway. Powerful. compelling and filled with astute observation, outrage and gratitude, Desert Flower has changed my mind about memoirs, especially as Waris has lead such a rich and exciting life.

I think what struck
Jun 15, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of biographies
Anne Russell wrote: “This is an easy read that gives one insight into female circumcision. One finishes the book with an interest to learn more about the issue and how effective the work the UN has done. It also provides an angle on the illegal immigrant story that is not as grim as so many tales are. For those of us living overseas one can appreciate her reflections in the end about being a nomad yet being very loyal to Somalia despite its problems.”

I read this memoir a couple of years back. I
May 23, 2017 rated it did not like it
I feel like I must do my part for the Goodreads community and tell you all that this is truly a terrible book.

The characters and their actions make no sense. Gratuitous profanity! The overuse of onomatopoeias such as "beep beep!", "phew!", and "shhhhh"! (That last sound is the sound of, as Waris would put it, "pee-pee and poo-poo".) And Waris herself, who I want to understand and admire, but who I cannot help but dislike because her internal monologue never goes much farther than the two basic
Mar 17, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: women
Certainly worth the read. It is a short, easy, and intersting autobiography. I really enjoyed the first 150 ish pages and, despite the human rights issues at the end, I was less impressed with the conclusion. Still, quite good with an important message.
The Anxious Bookaholic

I have very mixed feelings about this book, mainly because even with my most vivid imagination I could not imagine what that woman went through. Not just her but hundreds of women that even today have to go through this barbaric ritual to prove themselves untouched, innocent. To become the ultimate symbol of a good women.
This book made me think a lot about the life we live and the conveniences we have. The things we take for granted, for something normal that all people have, yet we do not real
I just... I don't even know how to begin to say how inspired I was by Waris' story. It was harrowing in many places and yet somehow, against all odds, she has not only survived but emerged resilient. She shows such bravery in fighting back against the scourge of Female Genital Mutilation. It is such a hugely personal and difficult thing to discuss but she has done it, not fearlessly but despite her fear and doing so helped to bring this important issue back into the public's attention. Horrifica ...more
Ghada Muthana
Aug 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
I found this book at a festival i was attending in Würzburg, it was the happiest moment when i opened it to discover that it belongs to an organization called BookCrossing, its main idea is to let book travel the world, on the book there is a sticker saying “ I’m a very special book. You see, i’m traveling around the world making new friends. I hope I’ve met another friend in you, please go to and enter my code number. You will discover where i have been and who has read me, ...more
Such an interesting life history and a courageous woman. I read this in 2 days.
Shocking but hopeful. Such an engaging and important story!
Jan 23, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Moved by a story itself, which teaches a lot about the world, brutal cultural injustices that touch millions, and strong yet voiceless women in it.

Didn’t enjoy the writing itself, as I feel it scratched the surface and was rushed.
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Waris Dirie (Somali: Waris Diiriye, Arabic: واريس ديري‎) (born in 1965) is a Somali model, author, actress and human rights activist.

In 1997, Waris abandoned her modeling career to focus on her work against female circumcision. That same year, she was appointed UN Special Ambassador for the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation(FGM).

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58 likes · 15 comments
“I feel that God made my body perfect the way I was born. Then man robbed me, took away my power, and left me a cripple. My womanhood was stolen. If God had wanted those body parts missing, why did he create them?
I just pray that one day no woman will have to experience this pain. It will become a thing of the past. People will say "Did you hear, female genital mutilation has been outlawed in Somalia?" Then the next country, and the next, and so on, until the world is safe for all women. What a happy day that will be, and that's what I'm working toward. In'shallah, if God is willing, it will happen. ”
“My mother named me after a miracle of nature: Waris means desert flower. The desert flower blooms in a barren environment where few living things can survive.” 34 likes
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