In Search of King Solomon's Mines: A Modern Adventurer's Quest for Gold and History in the Land of the Queen of Sheba


King Solomon, the Bible’s wisest king, possessed extraordinary wealth. The grand temple he built in Jerusalem was covered in gold from the porch to the inner sanctum, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. Long before H. Rider Haggard’s classic adventure novel King Solomon’s Mines unleashed gold fever more than a century ago, many had sought to find the source of the great king’s wealth. In this new adventure—“a hybrid of Indiana Jones and Herodotus” (Sunday Times, ...
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In Search of King Solomon's Mines: A Modern Adventurer's Quest for Gold and History in the Land of the Queen of Sheba

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King Solomon, the Bible’s wisest king, possessed extraordinary wealth. The grand temple he built in Jerusalem was covered in gold from the porch to the inner sanctum, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. Long before H. Rider Haggard’s classic adventure novel King Solomon’s Mines unleashed gold fever more than a century ago, many had sought to find the source of the great king’s wealth. In this new adventure—“a hybrid of Indiana Jones and Herodotus” (Sunday Times, London)—Tahir Shah tries his hand at the quest. 

Intrigued by a map he finds in a shop not far from the site of the temple, Shah assembles a multitude of clues to the location of Solomon’s mines. Some come from ancient texts, including the Septuagint, the earliest form of the Bible, and some from geological, geographical, and folkloric sources. All point across the Red Sea to Ethiopia, the land of the Queen of Sheba, Solomon’s lover, who bore Solomon’s son Menelik and founded Ethiopia’s imperial line. Shah’s trail takes him on a wild ride—by taxi, bus, camel, donkey, and Jeep—that is sure to delight all travelers.

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Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
In making this journey Shah was following, by his own ready admission, the trail charted by H. Rider Haggard in his once-famous novel King Solomon's Mines 1885, "a tour de force of Victorian literature, a swashbuckling tale which has appealed to generations of young men," inspiring them "to leave their ordinary lives behind and go in search of adventure … to hunt big game and to track down treasure." The book is fiction pure and simple, but the appeal it makes to our inner longing for adventure is entirely real. Much the same quality is to be found in Tahir Shah's engaging, perspicacious -- and presumably nonfictional -- book. — Jonathan Yardley
The New Yorker
Shah, a British-educated Afghan aristocrat, arrived in Addis Ababa a few years ago intent on finding the Biblical gold of Solomon. As a historical detective, he's a bust -- content with a bogus map and half-baked ideas. His only asset is an ironclad earnestness that borders on the pathological. Blithely descending into bat-infested caves at the merest hint of success, he really believes he's going to find the gold at any moment. Shah's pratfalls garnish his quirky tour of contemporary Ethiopia -- a land with all of the ills of modernity and none of its benefits. Ultimately, Shah wins you over with the mad purity of his quest. As he wedges into a Land Cruiser with twenty-three other people or worms his way down mine shafts, he displays the stoic grace of the Victorian explorers he so admires.
Publishers Weekly
Travel writer Shah Sorcerer's Apprentice; Trail of Feathers paid 600 shekels in a Jerusalem souk for a dubious map of the route to King Solomon's mines; he admits, "I have an insatiable appetite for questionable souvenirs." The London-based writer is also fond of danger: "As soon as there's a bomb, an earthquake, a tidal wave or a riot, I call the travel agent and book cut-price seats." But the ultimate thrill is a challenging mission, and this time, it's finding the biblical land of Ophir, legendary source of the gold for King Solomon's Temple and perhaps of the Queen of Sheba's riches as well. History and geography point to Ethiopia. In Addis Ababa, Shah hires a vocally Christian taxi driver who becomes his guide, and the two set out on the quest. They wander rural Ethiopia, sleeping in brothels, slipping into illegal mines, walking through deserts in camel-led caravans and finally, riding mules to the alleged source of Solomon's gold. Along the way, Shah learns loads of useful things: prostitutes require customers to wash themselves with Coca Cola to avoid AIDS; the hyena-man of Harar feeds the hyenas nightly to keep them from carrying off the village children; gold miners fear disembowelment by thieves trying to extract the nuggets they've swallowed on the job. Does Shah get the gold in the end? Well... he's more Don Quixote than Indiana Jones. Shah is so entertaining, most readers won't realize that while walking on the wild side, they've also just done a quick course in Ethiopian history. 16 pages of b&w photos, one map. May Forecast: Given the rave reviews for Shah's previous books, this one should get good media attention, and Arcade plans a 15,000-copy first printing. Shah is a Pashtun Afghan, although his nationality isn't related to anything currently topical. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Rightfully called the Indiana Jones of contemporary archaeological expeditions, Shah was born into Afghan nobility but grew up in England. Here he sets out to find the mysterious mines of Ophir, where King Solomon, the Bible's wisest king, was supposed to have buried a fortune in gold. Tantalizing biblical passages, one florid novel, and two movies have turned these mines into the stuff of legend, and Shah boldly takes readers on his own journey of discovery. According to his reckoning, the mines should be in modern-day Ethiopia, so he set out on an adventure of a lifetime with a shifty bookseller named no kidding Ali Baba. Along the way, readers are treated to his accounts of everything from the California gold rush to a sadistic Sultan. Does he find the mines? If you were told, it would spoil the enjoyment found on every suspenseful, hilarious, and rollicking page of this literary treasure worth just as much as anything King Solomon could have found. Essential for public libraries.-Joseph L. Carlson, Allan Hancock Coll., Santa Maria, CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Studying an old map he purchased in the Jerusalem bazaar that supposedly showed the location of King Solomon's mines ignited in Shah a dormant interest in actually finding them. Arriving in Ethiopia, he hired a taxi driver who rapidly became interpreter, guide, historian, companion, Christian missionary, and more. They visited legal and illegal gold mines, explored ancient sites, and identified and visited areas important to their goal. They experienced total immersion in the cultures of Ethiopia. Transportation became the biggest challenge whether in the form of buses, vans, on foot, or by mule, for roads were often little more than beaten-earth pathways filled with rocks, holes, and other hazards. Tired of various modes of travel, they hired a car, whose driver chewed qat, a mildly addictive and narcotic leaf that manifested itself in the form of erratic driving, and resulted in an impressive amount of roadkill. Snatches of humor helped to alleviate the constant scenario of poverty just as the generosity of the Ethiopians soothed some of the rigors of the trip. Students interested in adventure, history, African culture, or biblical history will find themselves caught up in the book's excitement and drama.-Pam Johnson, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781611454246
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing
  • Publication date: 6/1/2012
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Tahir Shah was born into Afghan nobility in 1966 and grew up in England. He has worked for the Institute of Cultural Research and with the Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge,
and has written widely on the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa,
and South America. When not traveling, he lives in London with his wife and daughter.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements vii

Map x

1 Ali Baba's Map 1

2 Seven Stones 15

3 The Father of Madness 27

4 The Mines 47

5 Children of the Devil 63

6 Breakfast with Idi Amin 79

7 The Emperor's Jeep 97

8 Sheba's Gold 113

9 The Jinn of Suleiman 129

10 The Place of Gold 147

11 Prester John 163

12 The Mad Sultan 181

13 Used Mules 199

14 Tullu Wallel 217

15 Return to the Accursed Mountain 231

Glossary 235

Bibliography 237

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