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Michael Palin - SaharaI'm glad to be home, but in the all-moving, all-talking mayhem of modern life, my restless thoughts go back to that great place of silence and apparently infinite space. I need to be reminded of its special qualities, but, like keeping up with an old friend, that can be hard work.

Even checking the weather (sad person that I am) isn't easy. The likes of Nouakchott and Bamako rarely show up on a list of world cities.

A few scraps of news have come out of the desert since we finished our journey. A United Nations report blames high-tech foreign fleets for destroying Mauritania's fishing industry. The Polisario has released 115 Moroccan soldiers, held in their desert jails for twenty-five years (they never told me about them), but Saharawi independence looks as far away as ever as the UN discusses an American-backed compromise proposal for Western Sahara. Nancy Abeiderrahmane has had her attempt to sell camel cheese in Europe turned down, because the camels are not mechanically milked, and the drought in Algeria ended savagely and dramatically soon after we left, with hundreds drowned by flood-water in the capital. Dave Hammond, the British motorcycling hope in the Dakar Rally, was in twentieth place with only two stages left when he fell into a hidden chasm on the blind side of a sand dune. He spent many weeks in a Paris hospital but is now back home and recovering. As I write, the British and Spanish prime ministers are meeting to discuss plans for the Rock, whilst the government of Gibraltar is putting ads in British newspapers to ask for support.

Otherwise, the mystery of the Sahara remains largely intact. Except in my dreams, where it still springs vividly to life.

Michael Palin, May 2002
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  • Series: Sahara
  • Chapter: Afterword
  • Country/sea: England
  • Place: London
  • Book page no: 255

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