Book review: The story of a trader who made it big in the scramble for Africa

Updated 19 September 2018

Book review: The story of a trader who made it big in the scramble for Africa

  • A must-read for anyone interested in real-life adventure
  • This biography transports the reader into his extraordinary world with its exotic cast of characters

BEIRUT: There was a time when, before the advent of a synthetic substitute, piano keys, billiard balls, combs and handles for cutlery were all made of ivory. Arab traders were interested in the lucrative trade to cater to the huge demand for ivory in Europe, America and the Far East.

Enter Tippu Tip whose first journey took place in 1855 and went on to establish him as a highly- successful ivory merchant.

His name is not easy to forget — it has an inner rhythm, a musical sound that stays with you and yet few know the truth about the iconic Omani trader whose life story turned into the stuff of legends.

Born in Zanzibar as Hamed bin Mohammed Al-Murjabi, Tippu Tip’s father, Mohammed bin Juma Al-Murjabi, was originally from Muscat and particularly proud of his mother’s ancestry.

Author Stuart Laing came across Tippu Tip while doing research for a dissertation on the abolition of the slave trade in East Africa and the Indian Ocean during the 19th century. “The aim of this book is to introduce the reader, through the life of Tippu Tip, to the extraordinary world of East Africa in the second half of the 19th century,” Laing wrote.

During that period, known as “The Race for Africa” and the “Scramble for Africa,” Europeans and Arabs opened up vast tracts of territory for trade in the East and Central part of Africa. Laing says us that these journeys were huge enterprises, with Arab trading caravans boasting porters and soldiers in huge numbers. Tippu Tip’s caravan itself had 2,400 men.

Besides being a smart trader, Tippu Tip had remarkable leadership qualities that would help him during his third journey lasting 12 years. During that trip, Tippu Tip made a decisive encounter with Henry Morton Stanley who acknowledged his unique qualities in his book, “Through the Dark Continent.” “After regarding him for a few minutes, I came to the conclusion that this Arab was a remarkable man, the most remarkable man I had met among the Arabs…”

The fascinating players outlined in this book make it a must-read for anyone interested in real-life adventure.


What We Are Reading Today: Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

Updated 23 August 2019

What We Are Reading Today: Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

  • Digital minimalists are all around us

Minimalism is the art of knowing how much is just enough. Digital minimalism applies this idea to our personal technology. It is the key to living a focused life in an increasingly noisy world.

In this timely and enlightening book, the bestselling author of Deep Work introduces a philosophy for technology use that has already improved countless lives, according to a preview published on goodreads.com.

Digital minimalists are all around us. They are the calm, happy people who can hold long conversations without furtive glances at their phones. They can get lost in a good book, a woodworking project, or a leisurely morning run. They can have fun with friends and family without the obsessive urge to document the experience.

Drawing on a diverse array of real-life examples, from Amish farmers to harried parents to Silicon Valley programmers, Newport identifies the common practices of digital minimalists and the ideas that underpin them. 

He shows how digital minimalists are rethinking their relationship to social media, rediscovering the pleasures of the offline world, and reconnecting with their inner selves through regular periods of solitude.

He then shares strategies for integrating these practices into your life, starting with a 30-day “digital declutter” process that has already helped thousands feel less overwhelmed and more in control.