This is the account of a journey through realms of Africa so remote, so geographically and culturally isolated that their frontiers have rarely been breached.
The Sahel region of the lower Sahara - whipped by ferocious winds, shrouded in secrets and home to a vast Muslim population - is the southernmost outpost of Islam's dominance in Africa.
Comprising the southern Saharan regions of Chad, northern Nigeria, Niger, Mali and Senegal, they once witnessed the emergence of Africa's wealthiest and most exotic kingdoms and empires. To this day they produce some of the continent's leading writers, musicians and artists. But now, perilous and poverty-stricken, they rarely see travellers.
Yet Jeffrey Tayler, crossing 2,500 miles across the Sahel by truck, taxi, bus and boat, uncovers this lost area of continent, revealing it as beset by ethnic rebellion and sectarian violence, rife with Islamic fundamentalism, yet home to people of extraordinary hospitality and fortitude.