The Nomad: The Diaries of Isabelle Eberhardt

ISBN: 1566565081
ISBN 13: 9781566565080
By: Isabelle Eberhardt Elizabeth Kershaw Nina Voogd

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About this book

Eberhardt's journal chronicles the daring adventures of a late 19th- century European woman who traveled the Sahara desert disguised as an Arab man and adopted Islam. Includes a glossary. Previously published in English by Virago Press in 1987, and as The Passionate Nomad by Virago/Beacon Press in 19

Reader's Thoughts


This is excerpts of Isablle Eberhardt’s diaries writing in 1900. She was an iconoclastic woman, Russian born in Switzerland of questionable progeny on the male side. The family’s tutor ostensibly her father tutored her and converted her and her mother to Islam. She was brilliant speaking French, Russian, German and Arabic and a voracious reader. She dressed as a man and travled alone through Algeria sleeping in the sands and being sexually promiscuous. During the diary time she fell in love and married an Algerian soldier. She was a problem to the French occupiers since she was friendly with Algerians and was inducted as a Sufi. Her diaries are characterized by a heightened examination of her own consciousness and a fierce desire to learn and a mystical sensibility. Worth reading for the descriptive detail of the lands around the Mediterranean and the desert, as well as the political streams of oppression of woman and colonization of North Africa.

Kendall Banks



Left many questions about her life unanswered.


A thin volume, with little background; I likely should've started with a biography first. Was thinking she'd get to Morocco, but apparently not. Still, an inspiration for her love of the Maghreb and passion for travel. Too bad that, in her time, she had to dress as a man to do it ... and that she held her own gender in such contempt.

Carey B.

fascinating...but i want more!!!

Elianne Farhat

beautiful writing from a strong woman travelling throughout north africa. her story is captivating & her cosmopolitanism is way before her time.


What an amazing woman. It is a pity more of her work was not preserved.


I'm halfway through and disappointed. Eberhardt was a very interesting character who as a young woman decided to live in North Africa, converted to Islam, and frequently dressed as a boy to enjoy more freedom than she would as a woman in this era (ca 1900) and environment. She is enraptured with her surroundings. I was hoping for something as evocative and powerful as Beryl Markham's West With the Night or Durrell's Prospero's Cell, but her diaries seems thin somehow. Maybe it's the translation.

Imen Lameri

Perhaps I shouldn't have read Eberhardt's diaries after Leslie Blanch's Wilder Shores of Love! Isabelle Eberhardt reminds me so much of Lawrence of Arabia as both of them are sex-crazed, mysterious, mysteriously in love with the Arabian desert and the gate from which colonialism entered the Orient...

Swiss Miss

Still a lot of holes in her story. Would've been nice for the editor to add much more to the diaries so her life and death were a bit clearer, but really fascinating nonetheless.


"Eberhardt's story is reason enough to read these collected memoirs; Born in Geneva in 1877, she moved with her mother to Algeria, converted to Islam, and lived her life as a man. She had many friends, lovers and enemies, and died in a mysterious desert flood at age 27." (from Conde Nast Traveler, one of the 86 best travel books ever written)

Kaisha Khalifeh

I gave this 3 stars, not because of Isabelle herself, but because of the prig of an editor who compiled this edition. I would be reading along, enjoying Isabelle’s perspectives on life, and then the editor would interject "and here Isabelle goes on to describe her great sexual satisfaction in her lover..." or "Isabelle's drug habit had grown so strong that she roamed the streets of Paris smoking the leaves off any tree she could find..." WTF? Why cut these parts out, I ask? So I had to go out and get an actual biography of this fin-de-sicele bohemian to learn the rest of the story.

Ember Leigh

Isabelle Eberhardt could have easily been one of my childhood friends. Though she lived in the late 1800's, her worries, woes, and tribulations echo that of many women these days in the throes of New Adulthood, struggling to strike out on your own, make sense of the world, and be true to some quivering idea of oneself buried deep on the inside. Some of Isabelle's thoughts are verbatim for things I've written in my own diary. The solidarity felt with this wanderer and seeker from another time is shocking. Her affinity for religion and the path in which her life ultimately winds are both interesting and shocking. One can't help but think who she might have been had her life not ended so early.

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