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The Adventures of A Free-Spirited Writer Who Sparked Curiosity in Algeria

The French colonists in Algeria didn’t know what to make of Isabelle Eberhardt. Eberhardt packed a lot of adventure into her brief life — she died at 27 — dressing as a man when she abandoned her European upbringing to devote her life to Islam and roam the deserts of North Africa, writing both fiction and nonfiction about her travels. Eberhardt fell in love with an Algerian soldier, Slimane Ehnni, whom she later married. She continued traveling and became a war correspondent, chronicling the Moroccan-Algerian border clashes. She was the first woman ever to take part in the fantasia, a traditional desert horse race done at a gallop while firing a rifle. A failed assassination attempt left Eberhardt with one arm almost severed, and she lost all her teeth. (Legend has it that she traveled with a gun, not a toothbrush.) As she wrote in her journal, “No one ever lived more from day to day than I.”