During their world tour, Corentin and Robin spent a few weeks in the Sahara desert living with Abdu, a young Moroccan Tuareg. In this context, they met his father Mohammed, whose home was the Sahara for 70 years of his life. They tell their story.
Who would like to live in the desert?
The Sahara Desert is over 9 million km² of arid and, let's face it, rather austere land. Yet, although extremely depopulated, it is far from being a land completely deserted by any form of human life as one might imagine. So who are the people who have chosen this seemingly difficult way of life? Did they really choose it in the first place? Because after all, who would really want to live in the Sahara desert?
First of all, what do we find in the desert? Well, to begin with, there are cities. They are often located at the edge of the desert and are the "gates" to this immense arid zone, providing a connection with the more populated regions. Secondly, there are fixed camps, often converted into hostels or guest houses for tourists. They are located slightly further away than the last towns, but still close to the edge of the desert. And then there are the nomads. Those who travel on foot with their animals, setting up camp from one oasis to another following specific routes and travelling great distances across the width of the Sahara. This way of life may seem frightening and difficult, but for many of them it is a choice they make without the slightest hesitation.
The Free Man
Nomads live off the animals they keep. The camels, donkeys and goats that accompany them into the desert are their main source of food, but not only. The skin of the animals becomes the tent that shelters them and the teeth, jewels that they will sell at the market in exchange for wheat flour, tea or semolina, etc. Mohammed has known this simple way of life since he was very young and today, 75 years later, he still loves it.
"Life is simple in the desert, you have nothing to think about but looking after your animals. There are no problems, no worries. We are free to go where we want, when we want, without having to worry about anything". This was Abdu's answer when I asked him why the nomads lived in the desert. Then I understood that nomads did not live in the desert out of obligation but simply because it is where they feel free. This way of life, which would be extremely constraining for us Westerners, is actually a liberation for the Tuareg on the other side of the Mediterranean sea.
A threatened lifestyle
Traditionally, the Tuareg used to leave from Morocco, Algeria or Libya and cross the Sahara to Timbuktu, Mali, where they would sold their art or animals in exchange for some essential goods. This journey, which used to last about a year, is now very difficult to make because of global warming. Indeed, the oases are becoming increasingly rare and it is becoming difficult for the animals to survive in the desert and therefore, for the nomads too.
Mohammed and his fellow nomads are waiting for the rain to come back before they set off into the desert again. With their lifestyle, they are not the ones who have the biggest impact on global warming, quite the contrary, and yet, unfairly, they are among the first victims. Despite this, Mohammed remains confident: "As soon as the rain returns, then the nomads will return to the desert."
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