The Sahara: A Cultural History

Overview

The Sahara is the quintessence of isolation, epitomizing both remoteness and severity of environment unlike any other place on the face of the earth. Replete with myths and fictions, it is a wild land, dotted with oases and camel trains trudging through sand dunes that roll like the waves on a sea, as far as the distant horizon. But this is just part of the picture. The largest desert in the world, the Sahara ranges from the river Nile running through Egypt and Sudan in the east, to the Atlantic coast from ...

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The Sahara

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Overview

The Sahara is the quintessence of isolation, epitomizing both remoteness and severity of environment unlike any other place on the face of the earth. Replete with myths and fictions, it is a wild land, dotted with oases and camel trains trudging through sand dunes that roll like the waves on a sea, as far as the distant horizon. But this is just part of the picture. The largest desert in the world, the Sahara ranges from the river Nile running through Egypt and Sudan in the east, to the Atlantic coast from Morocco to Mauritania in the west; stretching from the Atlas Mountains and the shores of the Mediterranean in the north, to the fluid Sahelian fringe that delineates the desert in the south.

Invaders and traders have come and gone for millennia, but the Sahara is also the place that some people call home. While larger than the United States, this vast area contains only three million people: Africans and Arabs, Berber and Bedu, Tuareg and Tebu. Eamonn Gearon explores the history, culture, and terrain of a place whose name is familiar to all, but known to few.

· Conquered and Cursed: from the 50,000-strong army of Cambyses, swallowed in a sandstorm in the sixth century BC, to the us marines' first foreign engagement, in 1805; Hannibal and his elephants, Caesar against Anthony and Cleopatra, Alexander the Great, the armies of Islam, Napoleon, and Rommel versus Monty.

· Myths and Mysteries: from whales in the White Desert to the arrival of camels in the Great Sand Sea; chariots of the gods and colonialists' motor-cars; from the Land of the Dead to Timbuktu; salt and gold mines, fields of oil and gas and a man-made river.

· Artists, Writers, and Filmmakers: from the ancient rock art of the Tassili frescoes to the modernism of Matisse and Klee; from Ibn Battuta to Paul Bowles; from Beau Geste's French Foreign Legion to Star Wars.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A succinct and successful summary of the past, present and future of this surprisingly busy desert." —Michael Palin

"Gearon is the rare writer who uses humor and grace to tell the most humanistic of tales -that of a land with a history of both indigenous and foreign seekers, merchants, and poets... His tale goes beyond the simple charm of travel writing and rises beyond facile orientalist stereotypes." —International Social Science Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199861958
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 11/9/2011
  • Series: Landscapes of the Imagination Series
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Eamonn Gearon is an Arabist, author, and camel expert. For the past twenty years, he has lived in the Greater Middle East, focusing on policy issues as an analyst and special advisor.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments Introduction A Quick Tour of the Sahara Flora and Fauna Part One: Landscapes Chapter One Whales in the Desert The Green Sahara Chapter Two Rock Art Iconography and Graffiti Chapter Three Saharan Urban Oasis-Towns

Part Two: History Conquests and Empires Chapter Four From Ancient Egypt to the Arab Invasion Land of the Dead; The Phoenicians; Persian and Ptolemaic Dynasties; The Romans; The Garamantes;
Camels; Christian North Africa; The Vandals; The Armies of Islam Chapter Five Travellers, Chroniclers, Geographers Gilded Empires; Timbuktu

Part Three: History Exploration, Imperialism and Independence Chapter Six European Forays: The African Association and Napoleon Hornemann; Egyptomania Chapter Seven Further Horizons: Exploration and the European Land Grab Caillié, Barth and Rohlfs; Algeria and Abd al-Qadir;
The Scramble for Africa Chapter Eight War and Peace and War Motors, Maps and Planes Chapter Nine The Second World War Desert Warfare Chapter Ten Heaven and Hell: Independence and Since The French Legacy

Part Four: Imagination Chapter Eleven Classical Inspiration Riddle of the Sphinx Chapter Twelve Poetic Muse
"The Brutish Desert": War Poets Chapter Thirteen A Brilliant Palette Fromentin and the Orientalists: "Dangerous Novelties"
Chapter Fourteen Oriental Delights, Strange Worlds and Spy Stories Tales of the Legion; Desert Espionage Chapter Fifteen Silver Screen Sahara Beau Geste; Desert Epics

Part Five: Encounters Indigenes and Visitors Chapter Sixteen Men with a Mission Professionals; Missionaries Chapter Seventeen Literary Travellers and Tourists Early Observers; Wilfred Thesiger; Adventure Tourism Chapter Eighteen People of the Sahara The Tuareg; Toubou and Sahrawi ; Two Incomers: Isabelle Eberhardt and Paul Bowles Further Reading Index of Literary & Historical Names Index of Places & Landmarks

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