László Almásy: "The Unknown Sahara"

The english translation of
"The Unknown sahara" and
"In Air...On Sand",
complete with the corrected transcript of the Operation Salam diary.

Click on CD cover below for ordering information

  Operation SALAM - László Almásy’s most daring Mission in the Desert War

Kuno Gross, Michael Rolke
& András Zboray

Click on book cover below for details and ordering information

Almásy wrote three books about his travels and explorations in North Africa. All appeared in The Library of the Hungarian Geographical Society series, edited by Jeno Cholnoky. (The series reproduced in Hungarian many important foreign books on exploration and travel, alongside the works of Hungarian travelers & explorers).

Autóval Szudánba
(With Motorcar to the Sudan)
Budapest, 1927
Az ismeretlen Szahara
(The Unknown Sahara)
Budapest, 1935
(In Air...on Sand)
Budapest, 1937

The first book, "With Motorcar to the Sudan" described a motorcar trip (the first with an ordinary automobile) from Alexandria to Southern Sudan, via Cairo and Khartoum in the company of Prince Antal Eszterházy.

The second, and most significant, "The Unknown Sahara" described his explorations in the Libyan Desert between 1929 and 1934, and formed the foundation of later French and German versions.

The third book, "In Air... on Sand..." (which is extremely rare) contains more chapters on the early explorations and aviation feats, plus some chapters on the explorations in the Libyan Desert in 1935-36.

In 1936, Almasy published an abridged version of "The Unknown Sahara", "Recentes Explorations dans le Desert Libyque", focusing primarily on the discovery of "Zarzura", and the rock art sites, complete with a chapter on the more recent explorations in Cairo in French language. (This became the standard reference book on Almásy's discoveries in the scientific literature.)

Some years later Almásy published "Unbekannte Sahara" in German, which was a shortened combined version of "The Unknown Sahara" and "In Air, on Sand", containing about 66% of the chapters of the two works. I have recently discovered, that an abridged paperback version containing only the 'Darb el Arbain' and 'Waddan' chapters was published by Brockhaus in 1943 titled "Die Strasse der Vierzig Tage".

Recentes Explorations
dans le Desert Libyque

Cairo, 1936
Unbekannte Sahara
Leipzig, 1939
Die Strasse der Vierzig Tage
Leipzig, 1943

In 1949 or 1950 a British intelligence officer found an excerpt from the 1942 diary of Almásy describing Operation Salam through the Libyan Desert (when he transported two German spies, Eppler and Sandstede to Assiut from Jalo via Kufra and the Gilf Kebir behind enemy lines). This diary (the original of which is now lost) found its way to Ralph Bagnold, and survived in several slightly differing transcripts.

In January 2013 Belleville Verlag (München) published our book co-authored with Kuno Gross and Michael Rolke, Operation SALAM - László Almásy’s most daring Mission in the Desert War, the product of three years of painstaking research in various archives. This book is now the most complete (and we hope accurate) account of Almásy's activities in North Africa in 1941-42. Aside a complete account of Sonderkommando Ritter, Operation Salam and Operation Condor, the book contains the ull transcript of Almásy's Salam Diary, excerpts from Stanstede's unpublished memoirs and transcripts of all relevant wireless messages decrypted, translated and processesed at Bletchley Park. The book is supplemented with over 500 maps and illustrations, half of them historical photographs, mostly those taked during the actual operations.

Following all the fuss and publicity generated by the movie "The English Patient", a number of other new publications were released related to the life and works of Almásy.

A new edition of "Unbekannte Sahara" was published in Vienna in 1997 as "Schwimmer in der Wüste", including the missing chapters from "The Unknown Sahara", but not those from "In Air, on Sand". It also included a re-translation of Almásy's wartime diary of Operation Salam.

In 2002 Saul Kelly published the result of years of painstaking research in the British and German archives, revealing many previously unknown details on Almásy's wartime activities.

In 2002 John Bierman published the only available English language biography of Almásy, summing up everything available up to that date from Hungarian, German, Italian and other sources, but revealing no new information.

Schwimmer in der Wüste
Vienna, 1997
Saul Kelly
The Hunt for Zarzura
London, 2002
John Bierman
The Secret Life of
Laszlo Almasy

London, 2004

Over the past years I have completed the full english translation of the original Hungarian version of "The Unknown Sahara" and "In Air...on Sand", complete with added paragraphs from "Recentes explorations...", complete with the english transcript of 1942 Operation Salaam diary. The translations may be ordered online either separately in pdf format (online delivery) or on CD together with original photos.

Click here to read a sample (pdf) chapter from "The Unknown Sahara" (Alone in the Desert)