A Book Many Lessons: Desert Dawn by Waris Dirie


waris1I watched the film adaptation of the book, Desert Flower, years ago as a teen. It is a work of art about the odyssey of Somalian model and activist Waris Dirie, who is tackling the issue of female genital mutilation. So, while I was randomly sitting in this library-café on a Sunday, I find myself right in front of, Desert Dawn, her second book and I knew I should give it a try.

I did not remember all the details of the movie yet I did not forget how it made me feel – totally in control. Indeed, even though the account of her story was completely different from mine especially as a teen, I still could mirror some of her internal and external circumstances as many of the challenges she encountered are universal.

What are we talking about?

Desert Dawn is about her journey back to her homeland in Somalia, after 20 years and specifically her search for her mother and the family that shaped her. Desert Dawn is more than Waris Dirie’s account of her return to her country.

It is an account of her internal struggles dealing with her success, the duality of her identity, her longing for her family yet her certitude that her belonging is somewhere else. It also deals with her external struggles being a woman, raising a child who has several cultures, her involvement in her country and much more.

What are the three most important things I learnt?

  1. Questioning our beliefs system is vital

Waris Dirie’s has come to Europe in her twenties and throughout the book she questions the philosophy and way of life of both cultures she lived in. She questions relationship dynamics, the way children are raised, gender relationships, community’s relationships, the place of spirituality and much more. She thinks critically about what she experienced and transforms this knowledge into empowerment, empowerment of herself first, then of others.

Spending time undoing what our parents taught us, diversifying our thought patterns when it comes to our being and society is not an option, it is vital. Why? Because beliefs hold the key to controlling our thoughts and actions. Questioning our beliefs system is key to improving our life experience, living accordingly to our truth and empower others as well.

  1. Postponing living truly fully before reaching our goals do not make sense

waris3The discrepancy between her upbringing and what she has come to become is particularly impressive. However, the success she seems to have encountered in all the things she undertook does not calm the emptiness she feels.

She deals with depression and lack self-confidence. She seems to be lacking something vital in her life, longing for more and drinking by herself has become a form of comfort.

Living truly fully and turning each day into a unique experience, a journey of discovery is vital. Our current achievements and financial situation, where we are on our journey to reach our goals ultimately do not matter. We should do our best daily with what we already have and who we have around to constantly build an internal and external life in accordance with our aspiration.

  1. Having it all is a state of mind

It is not about fame or recognition. I feel that one of the strongest extracts are when Waris Dirie begs her mum to come and live in New York with her for she could give her everything.

Her mum continuously questioned what she meant by everything for it makes no doubt that she already has everything right here, right now. Her words imply that part of having everything is accepting our reality and being completely at peace with it.

With care,


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