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Sahara

Day 54: Near Ingal

Michael Palin - SaharaThere are, at a rough estimate, one and three-quarter million nomads in the Sahara, of whom about a million are Arab and half a million are descended from pre-Arab inhabitants, like the Berbers of Algeria and Morocco and the Touareg, Toubou and Fulani of the central and southern Sahara. Every year a substantial number of these transient populations converge on the town of Ingal, 70 miles west of Agadez, in the Republic of Niger, for a grand get-together called Cure Salée. It means, literally, 'salt cure', a celebration of the fattening of the cattle after the summer migration.

It's the beginning of September when we return to the Sahara and though the sun is still powerful, something is different. The desert air is humid. The hard brown earth is covered in a thin fuzz of green grass. The rains have come and transformed a desert that is always ready to blossom. Where there was only sand a few weeks ago there are now small ponds and trees waist high in standing water. And the Sahara is no longer a bug-free zone. At dawn and dusk the mosquitoes are out, malarial and dangerous.

The bush is busy with people, moving, like us, towards Ingal; but unlike us they are walking and have walked several hundred miles with their families and their animals to the summer grazing in the south and back again. We fall in with a group of Wodaabe, a pastoral and nomadic branch of the Fulani people, who are found right across the southern Sahara from Senegal to Chad.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 54
  • Country/sea: Niger
  • Place: Ingal
  • Book page no: 160

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