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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Marc de Villiers, the award-winning author of Water, takes to the sands with coauthor Sheila Hirtle. Rescuing the great Sahara Desert from its image as an uninhabitable wasteland, this vivid history turns that daunting, bewitching expanse into a fertile ground filled with gushing springs, brightly hued mountains, petrified forests, and a range of cleverly adapted species -- not to mention the now-faded wonders of the great cities Timbuktu and Agadez.
De Villiers and Hirtle spice their text with observations gleaned from their journeys across the great desert, from Egypt to Mauritania. They refer throughout to the accounts of early European wanderers, showing how life among the Tuareg nomads (known as the "blue men" for their richly colored robes) of the deep desert has changed little in a century. Interesting side journeys lead into subjects ranging from the geology of sand dunes to the routes of salt caravans to legends of the djinns, evil spirits of the desert. While much of this is fascinating, the authors risk losing readers at times, as names and places appear, vanish, and recur. Ultimately, however, the lively portrait here reminds us not to view the arid land through the filter of our own dependence on water. Sahara shows how great cultures have long called this desert home. They are familiar with its twists and turns, its beauties and terrors, and their tolerance for its extremes has evolved not by defying the place but by accepting it. Jonathan Cook