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Day 24: Azougui to Atâr

Michael Palin - SaharaPass the night in a thatched hut, shared with Basil, with barely room to stand up straight. Woken in the small hours by the sounds of a ferocious cat fight. The ensuing trip to the loo is quite tricky. The door of the hut is tiny. I crawl out like a bee leaving a hive, to be rewarded with a massive and magnificent night sky. In the absence of moonlight the definition and abundance of the heavens is overwhelming, and I find myself praising my Maker for giving me such a weak bladder.

The morning reveals a number of similar straw huts, shaped like igloos and set around a large tent, over 30 feet square, and two whitewashed stone buildings with gabled roofs which look incongruously like Welsh chapels. Looking beyond the camp, I see a much less inimical landscape than the rest of the western Sahara. Palm trees and long grass fill in the empty spaces between the acacia trees and dry-stone walls border the tracks that lead up to the quiet, laid-back little town. Over a breakfast of fresh-baked bread and bananas, Cassa tells me that Azougui was once a trading post on the edge of the desert, where gold and salt and slaves changed hands. It was from here that a particularly aggressive dynasty of Berber peoples known as the Almoravids set out on a quest for more land, which led them north, to found Marrakesh, before moving across the Strait of Gibraltar and into Europe.
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  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 24
  • Country/sea: Mauritania
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  • Book page no: 83

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