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Zarafa: A Giraffe's True Story, from Deep in Africa to the Heart of Paris (1998)

por Michael Allin

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4731553,406 (3.57)78
This is the story of Zarafa, the Masai giraffe presented to Charles X of France in 1826, and how she captivated and inspired all those who came to see her. Allin describes the giraffe-inspired fashions of the day in this period of post-Revolutionary France.
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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 from Marseille to Paris, where the King awaited the presentation of this extraordinary gift.

Allin did exhaustive, and difficult, research. Many of those who were responsible for capturing and transporting the exotic “camelopard” were illiterate; crude or inaccurate translations further muddied the story. More importantly, the kinds of detailed records that Allin needed to confirm the giraffe’s itinerary (and to flesh out the story) – bills of sale for feed and lodging, for example – were long since destroyed as unimportant. Still, Zarafa was such a sensation in France that her presence had a wide-ranging effect – ladies had their hair coiffured a la Girafe (piled so high they had to ride on the floors of their carriages), children ate giraffe-shaped gingerbread cookies, towns along the giraffe’s route named streets and squares in her honor. She was, indeed a celebrity.

So the book should have been fascinating and interesting to someone like me – a lover of natural history as well as world history. My assumptions were wrong. The sections that dealt with the difficulties, inventive solutions and plain delight of Zarafa’s actual journey were the most interesting to me. On the other hand, Allin’s book bogged down in details of the politics and changing military powers of the time. In total, I thought it was okay. I’m glad I learned about this tiny little detail of history, but I’m not telling everyone to run out and read it.
( )
  BookConcierge | Jan 13, 2016 |
The Things you LEARN !
Learned Egyptian history, French history, much about giraffes.
Awesome.
Love love love these unusual interesting historical tales. ( )
  CasaBooks | Apr 28, 2013 |
This is beautifully writtten book a giraffe's epic journey from Africa to Paris- walking the last 550 miles through the French countywide in 1827. But it is so much more! ( )
  WinstonDog | Apr 4, 2013 |
Zarafa: A Giraffe’s True Story from Deep in Africa to the Heart of Paris by Michael Allin tells the story of this giraffe’s remarkable journey from her birthplace in the Sudan, far down the Nile River, to Paris, France in 1827. She was presented to Charles X by Mohamed Ali the Viceroy of the Ottoman Empire in Egypt as a good will gesture. Although Charles X would have to abdicate four years later, the giraffe won the hearts of all who saw her and lived her life out in relative comfort and security. Upon her death in 1845, she was then donated to a museum in La Rochelle on the west coast of France.

Zarafa was the first giraffe to set foot in France, and after sailing her from Alexandria to Marseilles, she was then walked to Paris. This walk of some 550 miles took over two months and became much more like a grand parade as people thronged to get a sight of this unusual animal who was nicknamed “The Beautiful Stranger”. She became a celebrity and soon women were styling their hair “a la giraffe” and children were eating giraffe shaped cookies.

The author uses the opportunity of Zarafa’s story to impart both history and geography lessons. Although at times I felt he was using this information as filler to his story, it was well researched and certainly gives the reader a fairly accurate picture of how this politically motivated gifting came about. Overall I enjoyed the book, but felt that it bogged down a number of times and didn’t flow smoothly. Perhaps so much information on facts and figures are included, that the reader isn’t given a chance to get lost in the story. ( )
2 vote DeltaQueen50 | Nov 9, 2012 |
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Michael Allinautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Eklöf, MargaretaTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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"Through a hole in the wall Of the Jardin des Plantes We come to go round The animals for the last time . . ." - James Dickey, "Goodbye to Serpents"
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This book is for Jack Allin
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At Khartoum, Shambat Bridge now spans the very beginning of the Nile.
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This is the story of Zarafa, the Masai giraffe presented to Charles X of France in 1826, and how she captivated and inspired all those who came to see her. Allin describes the giraffe-inspired fashions of the day in this period of post-Revolutionary France.

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