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THE TUAREG edited by Henrietta Butler

  • Written by  Mick Herron
  • Published in Books
THE TUAREG edited by Henrietta Butler
01 Mar
2016
‘Westerners have watches but we have time,’ as a Tuareg saying has it. The publishers of this handsome volume have adopted a similar freewheeling attitude to metrics: the caption to a photograph of a tree helpfully reveals that it is ‘about the height of six or seven men’

But that’s in keeping with a book that explores the Sahara; a world where the landscape both stays the same and constantly shifts. The Tuareg, we learn, live with, not against, the desert; accepting the constraints that their environment imposes, rather than limiting themselves to a livelihood based around oases. Their history and lifestyle is here examined in a series of essays which cover a huge amount of ground, from the Tuareg’s interaction with western explorers in centuries gone by, to some fairly bold suggestions as to their future (Jeremy Swift posits a more integrated relationship with the urban markets and societies that surround them: their role could include protecting the desert rock art and wildlife on behalf of the Saharan tourist industry, and patrolling desert borders against jihadist encroachment).

What is most striking is the spell the desert and its people cast on all who come within their reach, regardless of the reasons for their interaction. This is best described by Justin Marozzi, kidnapped by Tuareg during the Libyan revolution in 2011: ‘Once we had established they weren’t going to kill us, it was one of the most remarkable experiences of my life. I can only thank the Tuareg for it.’

This review was published in the March 2016 edition of Geographical Magazine 

Click here to purchase The Tuareg edited by Henrietta Butler on Amazon 

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