Desert Flower: The Extraordinary Journey of a Desert Nomad

An outstandingly dramatic and moving tale of an obscure African who becomes internationally admired.

Waris Dirie's Desert Flower: The Extraordinary Journey of a Desert Nomad

Waris Dirie's Desert Flower: The Extraordinary Journey of a Desert Nomad

In 'Desert Flower: The extraordinary journey of a Desert Nomad,'  Waris Dirie, a native of Somalia, with co-author Cathleen Miller, chronicles her journey as a desert nomad who ended up appearing in, and on the covers of numerous glossy magazines. Growing up in the Somali desert, Dirie was obsessed with a shoe. For a child who walks miles on the hot rocky fields of the dessert in search of water and feeding the animals, this was the height of her fancy. Life as a nomad was simple and hectic for Dirie, where her daily chores were taking care of the goats and camels their family owned. The experiences of handling daunting tasks since childhood and having limited access to food and water, made her a hard-working, and patient, women who appreciated the simple aspects of life. 

At the age of five, Dirie would become a victim of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) – a practice that ensured her marriageability in Somali culture. She writes in chilling detail about her ordeal, which would go on to exacerbate numerous medical issues later in her life, at the hands of a gypsy woman. At age 13, she would run away from home when her family arranged her marriage to a 60-year-old man in return for a few camels – worth a fortune to Somali families at the time. She walked the desert alone for days, in the hope of finding her uncle who lived in Mogadishu, with no idea of her own whereabouts and with no map for directions. 

In the midst of this chaos, and with help from a few strangers along the way, Dirie finally makes her way to Mogadishu, weary and deprived of food. She spends a few months living in Mogadishu with her uncle and reuniting with her sister who had also fled from an arranged marriage. She seizes an opportunity to work as a housemaid for her uncle in London where she would go on to be discovered as a model and embark on a successful career. 

Dirie struggles to launch her modelling career, all the while dodging British immigration authorities with a convenience marriage — another dreadful experience she would have to overcome later in her life. Her unique African features are seen as an interesting catalog for the fashion industry, and while she is flooded with an influx of opportunities from all around the world, quite a few of those moments are also fraught with pain, while some others are more enjoyable. As much as she enjoyed modelling, she sees her career mainly as a source of affording a life in London — of never having to go back to her overwhelming life in Somalia. 

Later in her life, Dirie undergoes surgery on her genitalia and she realises the harms of this, culture driven, act and that numerous little girls are still victim to FGM. Dirie becomes an international UN ambassador on the issue of FGM after sharing her personal story with the magazine Marie Claire.

Her book offers insights into FGM, a practice that is reportedly performed on over two million girls every year. She campaigns for the eradication of female circumcision and women’s right around the globe.  

 It is a truly engaging autobiography and a story well-told —  the journey of a woman of great strength and vindicated as a heroine with a life that she has built all on her own. The inspiring story of Waris Dirie speaks of hope for women struggling in hardship and being subject to the strict, and at times ridiculous, rules some societies deem for them.

Today Dirie is a model, author, actress and human rights activist admired by thousands of people around the globe.

Her journey exemplifies that change can only happen with courage and with seizing every opportunity presented along the way. She is an inspiration to women who wish to pave their own path. She is proof that, no matter where you come from and with the right mindset, anyone can create an impact that can change the lives of many.

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