Zarafa is a true story about a young giraffe that, in 1826, appeared at the port of Marseilles as a gift from the Viceroy of Egypt to Charles X of France. Her journey to France began with her capture and taming in the Ethiopian highlands of southern Sudan. She then travelled 3,500 miles down the Blue Nile and the Nile accompanied by three cows that provided her with 25 litres of milk each day. From Alexandria, she embarked on a ship across the Mediterranean to Marseilles, France. Due to her height, a hole was cut through the deck above the cargo hold to allow her to extend her neck. After the voyage of 32 days, she arrived in Marseilles. She was then carefully escorted the last 900 km by foot to Paris. Zarafa's arrival in Paris caused a sensation - the 'beautiful African' captivated crowds of people. Over 100,000 people came to see her, approximately an eighth of the population of Paris at the time. An enthralled Charles X made sure that Zarafa was exhibited daily in the Jardin du Roi. Soon, songs, poems, satires, clothes and hair fashions were reflecting the impact of her arrival.
Zarafa remained in Paris for a further 18 years until her death. Her body was stuffed and displayed in the foyer of the Jardin des Plantes in Paris for many years, before being moved to the museum at La Rochelle, where it remains today.
In 1999, the American author Michael Allin wrote the book Zarafa: A Giraffe's True Story, from Deep in Africa to the Heart of Paris published by Delta books and available in most bookstores.