After Lily’s parents are murdered in a Moroccan alleyway, she is brought up by the Great Abdal—a Sufi saint’s disciple—so that Lily has no affiliation with England. She trains as a nurse and moves to Ethiopia where she lives with Amina while working with Doctor Aziz. Soon the pair form a bond, but political upheaval separates them when Lily flees to England, a country she has never known. While Amina searches for her husband, Lily desperately searches for Aziz.
In the 1500s in Morocco, Mustafa ibn Muhammad is a kind older brother to his twin brothers and a successful merchant. But when he loses his position due to difficult times, he is forced to sell himself into slavery so that his mother and brothers will not starve. After several years he becomes part of an expedition to New Spain (today’s Southern U.S.A.) led by de Narvaez who plans to capture the land for the Spanish crown and become as famous as Cortes. But once they land in New Florida starvation and disease force the contingent to steal and plunder whatever they can from Indian tribes. Within a year only four have survived: Mustafa (who was reassigned a new name — Estebanico), his master, Dorantes, Cabeza de Vaco and Castillo. Will they ever be able to return to their native countries or will they too, die from disease or at the hands of Indians? This is a fascinating account seen through the eyes of Mustafa/Estebanico a desperate survivor who only hopes for his freedom from bondage.