The Desert and the Sea by Michael Scott Moore (Book Summary)


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If you were to pinpoint one country most notorious for piracy, your choice will most probably be Somalia. Obviously, generally, if we put this in historical context, piracy isn’t limited to Somalia

In any case, between the years 2005 and 2012, piracy in Somalia skyrocketed. Somali tyrant President Siad Barre’s national government crumbled in 1991, prompting disarray. After a short time, ships from Europe and Asia were taking fish from Somalia’s seaside waters. To battle this, some local heads set up pontoon patrols controlled by militiamen. Nevertheless, vessels were just seized by whoever was watching the waters in the earlier period of the 2000s. Organized criminal systems began joining in on the activities by 2007, and the circumstance soon escalated. 



Under these circumstances, Michael Scott Moore’s study excursion to Somalia and his subsequent capture occurred. In this piece, we’ll discuss a side of piracy that’s generally human, from the perspective of one hostage who figured out how to dig deep into himself and muster enough strength to endure and survive. 


1 – Michael Scott Moore was particularly drawn to Somalia because of his interest in comparing the relationship between piracy and its modern iteration. 


When you’re youthful, there’s a specific excitement about piracy. For previous eras, it was the experiences in Robert Louis Stephenson’s Treasure Island that appeared seemingly alluring. For the author – similar to a lot of other Americans of the same age – Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean made it more common. Indeed, even as a grown-up, when he’d left his California youth home and began touring the world, tales about present-day piracy interested him. 

This was especially the case during the time he was working at his 2011 book Sweetness and Blood. 

His studies on how surfing had turned into a worldwide event took him to different places all over the world, which included São Tomé in West Africa and the Caribbean.

While on his trips he heard comprehensively genuine stories about pirates of the past. His interest was aroused. 

Meanwhile, simultaneously, somewhere else in the world, piracy in Somalia had started to become rife. Regularly on the evening news, there were numerous reports of hijacks. 

The author was amazed by exactly how piracy in Somalia varied from the idealized stories he’d heard on his trips. This current version appears more brutal.

So he began to think: what did the ascent of present-day theft imply? What did that ascent uncover about the breakdown of the order generally in the world? 



The author persuaded himself that at that point in time going to Somalia was something he had to do. Most importantly, he was led there by the trial of ten Somali pirates in Hamburg.

Fortunately, Moore, as a German-American, had settled in Berlin thus he could keep tabs on the proceedings of the trial. 

The pirates had been caught in 2010, as they were trying to commandeer a German cargo ship. While he was covering the trial, the author befriended a court translator who, subsequently, acquainted him with a Somali elder living in Berlin, Mohammed Sahal Gerlach. Gerlach was initially from Galkayo, the origin of a number of the respondents. In addition, he was once a guide for a TV journalist filming in Somalia. 


Gerlach helped Moore and a kindred writer make the necessary arrangements in the lead up to traveling to Somalia to begin their studies. Earlier in 2012, they touched base in Galkayo, where they were welcomed and hosted by provincial president Mohamed Ahmed Alin. Gerlach and Alin were related, as he was Gerlach’s cousin, Alin was a member of the powerful Sa’ad clan. 

It appeared as though Moores’s adventure would be successful. His supposed book project was in order, and he seems to have secured his local connections. Nonetheless, it was before long obvious that they’d been overly trusting in the process of making their arrangements.


2 – Moore avoided potential risk, yet there were still signs right off the bat that something was out of order. 


Moore was no jumble-headed traveler. He is an expert journalist and recognizes the stuff required to work as one. Therefore, he’d conceived a reasonable arrangement for his studies. He would go to Hobyo, maybe the most famous home base for pirates on the Somali coast. There, he would meet a pirate. 

There’s no denying it was dangerous, yet the author thought he’d played it safe. 

His status as President Alin’s visitor would give him a little assurance. In addition, he had Gerlach. Gerlach was persistent that if kidnappings somehow happened to occur, the two of them would be taken together. That represented a risk to the hijackers in light of the fact that Gerlach was an individual from the Sa’ad tribe, implying that the kidnappers would attract retaliation from members of the Sa’ad clan. 

That last idea was additionally reinforced by the support of Digsi, a Sa’ad local elder. He was very influential, which was certain to keep things in order once they got to their goal. 

It didn’t take a lot of time before things stopped running as easily as arranged. 

At some point, as they were passing time and about to leave Galkayo for the next phase of the trip, Hamid, the man entrusted with organizing security, referred to something odd. Seemingly, there was gossip that the pirate boss Mohamed Garfanji had offered a $15 million reward to anyone who could capture Moore. 

Moore thought about flying home, yet Gerlach persuaded him generally. It was a mere rumor flying around. 



At long last, the expedition began. As Hobyo was far off, a transit stop was required. So they passed a night at Digsi’s relatives’ home. 

Something didn’t feel very appropriate to the author. At supper, Digsi offered the most prized bit of the goat to him. He was told it was a show of respect, however, something about the excessively formal and stylized part of the exhibition baffled Moore. It was as though Digsi wanted his activities to be seen by the others and remembered. It wasn’t reasonable. For what reason would he do this? Moore was full of premonition. 


Next, at the airport, things got stranger. Gerlach’s partner risked reading Moore’s business card out so anyone could hear. A Somali man at a table close by coincidentally recognized Moore’s name and said he had heard about Moore by searching on the web – to him, Moore was very much a famous personality. 

Moore’s made up his mind: it was clear he would need to leave Somalia, and he would need to do so shortly. 


3 – Going to Somalia had been absurd, something Moore just acknowledged looking back. 


As he was returning back from Galkayo airport, Moore’s car was brought to a halt. A flatbed truck carrying a cannon came before them, yet even when around twelve armed men dropped out if it, Moore still thought it was only a traffic stop. Everything happened so quickly. There was essentially nothing he could do. Blows descended upon him. His glasses were broken when the hijackers struck him in the face. They hit him hard with the shaft of their firearms as he hung on tight to the car entryway. The bones in his wrist were broken. 

Right then and there, he understood that things were now terrible; he no longer had his freedom, he was now a captive. Terror had been unleashed. It wasn’t only the idea of his quick circumstance that stunned him, but the possibility that his family would bear a lot of pain. 

The author was hauled and tossed into a Land Cruiser nearby. The gas pedal was pumped, and off it went. His misery had really just started. For the following 977 days, he was moved from one holding spot to the next, never knowing where the following trip would take him. 

It didn’t take long in imprisonment for Moore to begin contemplating where he’d faulted. One of his captors just said he’d committed a faux pas. Yet, Moore couldn’t think of anything particularly, even as the idea engulfed in the following months. Where precisely had he failed? 



As he kept digging deeper into his past, the missteps became clearer.

Heading out to Somalia was silly in itself. Obviously, an American couldn’t simply travel to Somalia and spend time with pirates. Also, being a Western writer was not really an impartial status, either. It was quite audacious on his part to figure he wouldn’t be viewed as the foe. 

He’d likewise put an excessive amount of trust in his contacts, thinking they’d really be there to support him. 

Gerlach’s entire idea about a hijacking starting a war with the Sa’ad that no one needed was obviously mistaken as well. It both assumed that Gerlach would be seized with Moore if any kidnap ever took place and furthermore that Gerlach’s argument was dependable. 


Presently a prisoner, Moore understood that such affirmations were mostly unreliable. 

He had been forsaken, basically. Some individuals from the Sa’ad tribe had benefitted from allowing the kidnapping to occur. 


4 – In imprisonment, Moore made companions with hostages from everywhere throughout the world. 


As you can envision, being a prisoner is very unpleasant. For Moore, it was the segregation that disturbed him. Fortunately, he was once in a while put together with other hostages. 

Only days subsequent to being captured, Moore met two other prisoners, both fishermen from Seychelles. One of them, Rolly Tambara, turned into his firm companion as they tried to brave out their experience. 

Despite the fact that Tambara was amicable, he wasn’t willing to let out from the start. In any case, at some point, he simply opened up. What’s more, he had a lot of stories to tell. Moore was listening attentively, thus their companionship had started. 

Tambara’s story demonstrates how the pirates’ reasoning verged on the unusual. Tambara had been caught with his companion, Marc Songoire, on a pontoon close to Seychelles. That is more than 800 miles from Somalia! It seemed that the pirates had misread the writing on the back of the boat, “ARIDE, PORT VICTORIA.”

It was, obviously, related to Port Victoria, on Aride Island in Seychelles. In any case, the pirates got it into their heads that it one way or another suggested that the fishermen were Australian. They just wouldn’t let go of that thought, presumably on the grounds that they figured they could get a higher payoff for Australians. 



One of the pirates even pointed his rifle at Marc to frighten him into “confessing.” But Songoire could only speak Seychellois Creole, so he couldn’t reply. The silence caused tempers to flare, and the pirate pulled the trigger.

He shot blanks. Marc had survived however was left flustered by the occurrence. 


The Seychellois fishermen were not the last individual prisoners Moore met. He also met others, notable among them was the team of the captured Naham 3 whom he met when he was moved onto the anchored ship. They were a combination of men coming from China, Taiwan, Cambodia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. 

It was an odd group, all things considered, however, ultimately, Moore blended in. They even figured out how to converse in a pidgin developed from English, Chinese and a few different dialects, for example, Chinese words like “hai dao” for “pirate.” Even Spanish words found their way in their conversations – “loco-loco” signified “insane.” 

There are unquestionably more agreeable approaches to making companions, however, for Moore, it worked. It was an escape from loneliness and alleviated his pain. 


5 – The pirates were contradictory in their practices. 


The pirates Moore came across weren’t too regular in their practices and convictions. First of all, a considerable lot of them were khat addicts. 

Khat is a plant whose leaves when bitten, produce a stimulating effect. To Somalis, khat is quite common. It’s about as regular as liquor is in the West. Be that as it may, it is additionally addictive, and users before long become dependent on it.

It’s a costly tendency. As indicated by Gerlach, it’s a typical motivation behind why men moved toward becoming pirates, however, that is a bit of an exaggeration. 

In any case, if you’re dependent on khat, you’d normally need around twenty dollars every day to satisfy the habit, which is quite a lot of money in Somalia. One of the pirates, Bashko, was dependent on such an extent that he could expend as much as 600 dollars every month. 

Obviously, the pirates’ heavy dependence also influenced their tendencies and conduct. Indeed, the unfolding of their behavior throughout a day was dictated by khat. In the hour preceding its delivery, the watchmen started to get somewhat dull. But as soon as they were high once more, confusion ruled. 

The opposite side to the addicted stealing pirates is intriguing; a considerable lot of them still considered themselves to be devout Muslims. They would pray five times each day, which overwhelmed the author, to such an extent that he informed his watchman, Bashko about this inconsistency. 

Bashko argued that being both a thief and a Muslim was ok since the emergency in Somalia required it. Moore didn’t wasn’t certain that Islam allowed such contradictions, however, for Bashko it obviously did. 



Half a month later, Bashko, in addition, told Moore that the Koran instructed Muslims to stand against unbelievers. Stealing was in this manner allowed, as far as he was concerned, as long as non-Muslims were the receiving end. 

Bashko wasn’t the only one looking for a vindication of his activities from the shameful acts happening in Somalia. 

For example, Italian columnists had discovered that the Mafia was dumping factory waste in Somalian waters with the assistance of Somali warlords. Prior to being captured, Moore had met a pirate in Galkayo who’d actually presented the opinion that piracy was a sort of war against the West. 

That is not how the author saw it, however. He couldn’t help thinking that the watchmen clung to Islam was generally tribalistic. They weren’t that keen on the actual teachings of their religion.


6 – Thanks to pirates’ inefficient and odd requests hostage negotiations were almost impossible. 


Any individual who’s made any sort of arrangement is aware that you need to hold fast to a couple of essential standards: set sensible objectives and be set up to negotiate. Sadly, the pirates who’d captured Moore were out of touch with that. 

First of all, their payoff request was too exorbitant. It started at an unreasonably high – and in all honesty, bewildering – 20 million dollars. As time passed and it became increasingly obvious that Moore’s mom and companions weren’t going to be able to get to that sum, the pirates still would not even consider the amount by a cent. 

Besides, the negotiations via the phone were just completely strange. 

At an early stage in confinement, Moore was made to address his mom in California. He was told to present the first form of the ransom payment request – 20 million dollars within 24 hours, or he would no longer be provided food. 

Obviously, that sum was difficult to raise, let alone provide it within 24 hours. The due date came – and nothing occurred. The pirates kept on giving Moore his meals similarly as in the past. It was the first of many threats that proved to be empty. 



The confused behavior extended even in the second call as well. Moore was woken during the night and driven someplace for 60 minutes. There, a man who called himself Mohamed requested that Moore calls a hostage arbitrator in the United States and in addition to figure out a way for President Obama to send a letter. 

Mohamed was persistent in what the president’s letter ought to contain. It was to express that Mohamed was the main negotiator and guiltless of any contribution to the abducting itself. While Moore was conversing with the hostage negotiator, Mohamed went ahead ranting about the Obama letter i in the background. Unbelievably – as the hostage negotiator told Moore – this man was no one but Mohamed Garfanji, the person controlling the entire activity. It appeared he was utilizing his genuine name as well as attempting to figure out how to avoid any punitive punishment for his activities. Furthermore, his strategy for doing so was to demand something totally unreasonable.

By and large, it may appear to be hilarious, yet at the time, the author found the outlandish requests, ridiculous dangers and disinformation alarming, and they wore him out. He just became increasingly more infuriated by conflicting rationale and conduct. 


7 – Life as a hostage was generally tiresome, and its psychological impacts were unavoidable. 


When you’re a hostage, there’s a lot to fear. An atmosphere of violence clouds over everything, and there’s no means of anticipating what will occur on some random day. 

Notwithstanding, if there’s one perspective to being a prisoner that is again and again overlooked, then it’s the reality it feels both trivial and tiresome. 

Before long enough, the circumstance started to influence Moore’s mental wellness, such that it got worse. 

He was moved from one place to another suddenly, and occasionally he found it hard to move for a considerable length of time. He didn’t have anything to do. Consequently, he became fractious and precarious. It was while he was held onboard the Naham 3 that he first contemplated committing suicide. By the time his misery was over, he could hardly prevent himself from thinking about the idea. 

It required exertion to do as such, however thinking about his friends and family kept him sane. His demise was certain to devastate them. 

Diversions and personal habits likewise made a difference. For an extended period of time, he practiced yoga regularly, while a radio given to him toward the end of his captivity helped him attached to the outside world. 

At last, what truly helped him through captivity was a change of mentality. 



One night, he happened to be listening in to a program on the then-new pope, Pope Francis. Francis contrasted human sin with the stars and the light of day to God’s benevolence, which, consecutively, makes them imperceptible. Moore wound up profoundly moved by these words, and they helped him change his viewpoint on his captivity.

He understood that while the pirates owed him a moral debt for his calamity, he, as well, owed a lot of moral debt. All things considered, his family and friends were working hard to get him released. 

He saw at that point that it was pretentious to consider himself only a victim. Right then and there, he understood the indignation he felt toward his captors was a choice he made. He didn’t have to behave that way. 


As far as his everyday activities, this acknowledgment had little effect, other than now being able to talk to his guards all the more pleasant. Be that as it may, inside himself, he felt a change. The weight of agony was now starting to fall off. 

There was a downside to letting go of hostility. His sentiments of expectation about a possible rescue also vanished. That is not as terrible as it may sound; Moore acknowledged he could grasp embracing the here and now, unconcerned with the past or what the future may bring. 


8 – Moore’s ultimate release came as an astonishment. 


In the long run, Moore’s time as a prisoner arrived at an end. Yet, there was no buzz about it. It simply came to an end suddenly. 

There came a point in his bondage when the telephone calls no longer meant anything, eventually leading to disillusionment. Along these lines, at some point, when he was given a telephone to talk with one more hostage negotiator, he didn’t appreciate it. He would not give himself a chance to trust that it would make a difference. In any case, this time it did. 

On the same day, a Land Rover drove into his compound. The guards just told him to prepare to leave – he was free. Obviously, the author doubtful if this was really the case. All things considered, the pirates had consistently told him that they were planning to offer him to terrorists. He got into the car, still uncertain. 



During the voyage, the Land Rover took him through Galkayo. He saw families out strolling, just as schools and medical centers were by the side of the street. It just appeared to be so ordinary however at the same time unsettling. He had been a captive for such a long time that the possibility of simply being, simply passing regularly through a city appeared to be absolutely unusual. It made him feel a sickening panic.

At Galkayo airport, a pilot named Derek picked him up. The creator’s mom had contracted him to take Moore back securely to Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. From that point, the sojourn back home to Berlin started. He had been in captivity for 977 days. 

Being home had never felt so comfortable, and fortunately, his apartment was still there; his uncle had secured the lease while Moore had been in captive. The place even looked well-looked after courtesy of his companions’ tidying the place up. 

Obviously, Moore couldn’t go straight back to ordinary life. First of all, his legs were currently so thin that strolling across a few blocks was very difficult. 


His recuperation occurred on two fronts: mental and physical. Exercise helped a lot, obviously, however so did the author’s refusal to his experience as abnormal. 

It was appropriate, for example, that a therapist he saw was clearly against trying to diagnose him with PTSD. The author feels that such a diagnosis would have had an adverse effect as opposed to assisting in his recuperation. 

Almost three years in captivity had transformed Moore, however, there were some important lessons from his calamity, particularly when it came to accepting his fate and striving to exist in the present. There is still quite much for him to process and comprehend from the experience. It will take a considerable amount of time, however, it will be over. 


The Desert and the Sea: 977 Days Captive on the Somali Pirate Coast by Michael Scott Moore Book Review 


Michael Scott Moore’s time as a hostage was stressful, dreary and horrific. He wound up helpless before irrational pirates who controlled everything he did. Occasionally it appeared that suicide was a way out of his misery. In any case, he learned a lot during the experience – from how to control his feelings, to controlling his expectations – helped prop him up. In the most trying of conditions, figuring out how to in the present at the time was an actual life-saver.


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Savaş Ateş

I'm a software engineer. I like reading books and writing summaries. I like to play soccer too :) Good Reads Profile: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/106467014-sava-ate

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