Dancing with the
a journey through
Zanzibar and Madagascar, published by Hamish Hamilton
1991 (illustrated by Richard Pomeroy),
The Long Riders' Guild Press 2006
In an attic in Devon Helena Drysdale discovered family
papers which revealed that her nineteenth century ancestors
had traded in Madagascar, Zanzibar and the Comoro Islands.
There were hints of piracy and slave trading. She set
off to follow in their wake and seek out any lingering
On dhows, cargo boats, dug-out canoes, in lorries
and on foot, her journey took her from old colonial
Mombasa to the labyrinthine alleys of Zanzibar, from
Moslem ceremonies of 'second marriage' in the Comoro
Islands, to ancestor-worship in Madagascar with the
annual exhumations of the dead.
This is not only a story of the wilder parts of the
Indian Ocean, but also of our own relationships with
our ancestors. Dancing with the Dead is intensely
romantic and delightful. Helena Drysdale writes with
a freshness and vigour which makes every page of this
unusual and engaging travel book sparkle with pleasure.
'She has an exceptionally good eye for fleeting, but
tell-tale details. A brilliant saga.'
Richard Dowden, The Independent
Chapter 1. Chasing Shadows; 2. Mombasa; 3. Dar Es
Salaam; 4. Zanzibar; 5. Comoro Islands; 6. Madagascar
- Antananarivo; 7. Down the East Coast; 8. In the
Highlands; 9. The North West; 10. The North; 11. On
the Pirate Trail; Appendix: Nineteenth century rulers
of Zanzibar and Madagascar; Glossary of Swahili and
Malagasy words; maps and photographs