Wednesday, August 21, 2013

In the Beginning

The picture, above, is of one of the oldest known paintings of man hunting with dogs. This is a rock painting in the Tassili N'Ajjer of Algeria, an area so remote that it was not discovered by "modern" eyes until 1933.

This is harsh country, and back in the day, the only way to get there was by mule and camel and foot -- a journey I made without my parents (but with some adult supervision of the Arab kind) in about 1972.  I wrote a travelogue of that trip when I was 13, and it was the first thing I ever wrote that was published. It begins:

We were flying low over the sand.  This was our third hour on our flight south from Algiers, and the plane was getting hotter and hotter. We hadn't set foot in the desert, and already we were dying of thirst. Earlier, we had touched down in Laghouat, a remote village, but were not allowed out of the plane. An hour later, we landed at a desolate airstrip to refuel, and finally got out for a few minutes.  Parched passengers headed for an "oasis" -- a building marked "lavatory" -- only to be greeted by a sign on the door, "Sorry, no water."

We flew on.  The plane got hotter as we headed even deeper into the Sahara.  Finally, the old turboprop landed, bumping across a potholed airstrip. I looked around for the airport. Where was it?  Why had we stopped here?  The pilot said "nous viola" -- this is our destination -- a thousand miles into the Sahara.

Not too bad a beginning
for a 13 year old.

The title of the article, above, refers to the Tuareg people who dress in traditional blue indigo turban and veil, the dye of which rubs off into their skin, leaving it a shimmering blue-black. The old primitive dark blue dyes have made way for modern hold-fast dyes of a lighter color, but otherwise things remain about as they ever were in that part of the world, albeit now there are machine guns and American drones hunting down Al Qaeda!

The picture below was taken more recently in Marrakech, Morocco and shows a Tuareg pharmacist's wares -- a little of the old and a little of the new.


No comments:

Post a Comment