Ernst Aebi

Action Adventure, based on the true story in SEASONS OF SAND by Ernst Aebi (Simon and Schuster, 1993)

An American adventurer, Ernst, races across the Sahara in the Paris-Dakar Rally. After the organizer dies in a crash, the race becomes a nightmare. When Ernst also crashes in the vast dunes, he is not rescued and is near death when an emaciated boy finds him.

The boy, Boudjema, is from a tiny, dying oasis. Its 130 occupants, abandoned black slaves and a few remaining Arab masters, all near starvation themselves, nurse Ernst back to health.

In gratitude he decides to stay and try to help them survive. From Timbuktu, a seven-day camel ride away, he brings gardening tools and seeds to show them how to grow food, something that has never been done in that part of the Sahara. Despite tremendous cultural and physical obstacles, Ernst becomes obsessed with the mission.

To build a garden, he has to buy slaves. Arab masters threaten him because he undermines their position. Strict Muslim customs prohibit the starving women from working with him. Ernst begs an acquaintance from New York, Emilie, to come and deal with the women. But, before Emilie’s arrival, Ernst’s college-age son, Tony, shows up to bring his “wayward” father back home to New York. Causing great pain for both, Ernst decides to stay.

Emilie, the city girl, arrives and manages to involve the women in gardening, but the whole population, never having seen or tasted a vegetable or a fruit, won’t eat them because they believe them to be poisonous. In a new school, besides reading and writing, Ernst and Emilie teach how to prepare vegetables by cooking them together with the customary camel meat.

Ernst and Emilie fall in love, decide to get married in the oasis, just as civil war breaks out. They are ordered out of the country (Mali) by the central government.

When, despite the military’s warning, they return the following year, the caravan with which they try to reach the oasis, gets attacked by rebels, one of their cameleers gets killed. They discover their work in the oasis has been destroyed in the rebellion.

Rescued and brought to Timbuktu by nomads, they find the boy who’d saved Ernst after his Paris-Dakar accident. Boudjema, who, without Ernst’s intervention would have been a slave in a salt mine, has taken on a leadership role.

He has started a business which allows him to feed the whole oasis’s population despite the ongoing war.

Copyright 2004 Ernst Aebi
All Rights Reserved