Zarafa, A Curious Book for the Curious Reader


The cover of Zarafa: A Giraffe’s True Story, from Deep in Africa to the Heart of Paris caught my eye and came home with me from the bookstore a few years back.  Last month while I was browsing my gold mine of books to read–wanting something different–this caught my imagination.

The book has a map that shows the starting and ending places of Zarafa’s journey from Khartoum to Paris.  The prologue (you can read it here) will delight the heart of any reader blessed with curiosity. The author provides the context of how he discovered the story of a giraffe given by an Egyptian ruler to the king of France in 1827.  A special ship was built to accommodate Zarafa who walked to Paris from Marseille .

If you are the curious type, you will enjoy reading this fascinating book.  If you are particularly interested in Egypt, Napoleon, Muhammad Ali (not the former Cassius Clay!), Muslim-Christian relations, the Rosetta Stone, giraffes, travel or the nineteenth century don’t delay in getting this title. Most of the charming illustrations are from nineteenth century artists. 

Fun facts I learned from reading this book:

The Nile is shaped like the letter S in Sudan.

Printing presses brought to Egypt by Napoleon were later used by Muhammad Ali to modernize Egypt.

Of all land animals, giraffes have the largest eyes…enabling them to communicate with one another visually from as far as a mile away.

Zarafa walked 550 miles from Marseille to Paris in 41 days.

This book will do for folks allergic to history what Longitude did for this science shy person.

A children’s book, The Giraffe That Walked to Paris, was written by Nancy Milton about Zarafa.


1 thought on “Zarafa, A Curious Book for the Curious Reader

  1. Fascinating and charming!  In all my French studies (college minor), I never ran across this story.Enjoyed the prologue via NPR, looked at the link for the children’s book (starts @ $72!!!), and noted that the Atlanta Zoo had a baby giraffe born this summer.Blessings on your Advent ~

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