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:: LIFE IN THE SAHARA ::Life in the Sahara is a brief documentary made by Encyclopaedia Britannica Films in 1953 about life in the Sahara desert. The film depicts a traditional way of life that today is largely extent. Here is a description and a selection of photograms from the film.
The Sahara is a barren land of plains, sand and rugged mountains, a region where rain is sparse and few men and plants can survive. It ocuppies an area of around 9 millions square kilometers, being in size, not far from the United States or China. In many regions, years can pass without a single rainfall. The Sahara has ranges of mountains with some peaks of more than 3000 meters high, wide plains where tricky mirages created by high temperatures appear in the far distance and seas of sand, where dunes that can be several dozens of meters high, are sculpted by arid winds, and where vegetation is practically inexistent and no human or animal can live for long.
In modern times some railways have been constructed along the edges of the Sahara. Paved roads are sparse and most of them are only tracks marked by piles of rocks aligned along the route or just by the traces left by the vehicles themselves. Some marginal stations have gasoline and water available and some cargo trucks carry supplies to the isolated desert towns. Airplanes are also helping to conquer the Sahara, carrying passengers and cargo, covering in a matter of hours long distances that would take days to trains and road vehicles, and months afoot or by camel. The airlines operate only in the main desert towns, and even these are just a few hundred houses where only some thousands of people live, mainly arabs, berbers and negroes of the mahometan faith.
These settlements are constructed near water sources, that supply farms and make possible to create adobe bricks made from clay and sand. The white adobe walls reflect the heat of the sun and make the houses much more comfortable. These towns have a closed structure with narrow streets; what is lost in light and air, is gained in escaping from the sun. In these towns, trained donkeys carry loads that seem heavier than the donkey itself. In the markets people trade for goods that come from other regions or foreign countries, brought by trains and trucks. These towns are surrounded by millions of square kilometers of arid desert. To reach these areas humans use the transport animal best adapted to desert, the camel, whose hooves don't sink in the desert sand. Although temperate and hard to train, the camel is the most valuable animal in the desert. It can endure conditions that would kill a horse. A camel can travel fifty miles a day with a rider or a load of 150 kg. Camel caravans are still the only means of transporting supplies to the most remote places in the desert.
Occasional rainfall allow to grow in the plains grass that can be eaten by the herds. When all the grass in the area is eaten the herds have to be taken to another location to find another pastures. Tents shelter nomads, people that hasn't a permanent home. A small caravan of camels may carry a family of nomads and all their belongings. If pastures are found that can feed the herds during some days, a camp is made. A nomad's tent is resistent to endure the strong desert winds and at the same time it can be rolled to be transportable in the back of a camel. While camping, nomads make tasks such as making bread, spinning and weave their own blankets and clothes in a rudimentary loom.
Scattered in the desert are water springs and wells; these water sources are called oases and are places where people can live settled. An oasis can become a lush garden in the desert aridity, where crops, fruit trees and flowers can grow. A typical product cultivated in oasis crops is grain, that is harvested by hand and winnowed by camels that step on it. The palm tree is very important in the desert and it is exploited in many ways. In summer time palms provide shade and freshness; a palm grove can be the only shade in many miles around. Saharan dwellers climb to the palms to gather their leaves that are used for making fire for cooking. Palm trunks are used to make the structure of the roofs in small dwellings. Palms also provide dates, that are an additional source of food. Though an oasis can seem a pleasant place to live, even here the humans are in constant struggle with nature. Water streams that come from rainfall in mountain slopes can run some miles into the desert until Water is absorbed and dissapears. In some places there are artesian wells, underground water deposits. Clogging sands can obstruct these wells and often divers have to risk their lifes to free the wells from the sand. Such risks are assumed because water is so scarce in the desert and it is necessary to make Oases green and habitable.
The Sahara is the world's biggest desert; men have crossed this wasteland by road, railway and airplanes to carry goods to towns where only a thousand people live thousand miles far from the so called civilization. A lonely caravan that crosses the desert depending on a single well or people that live in an oasis that is like an isle in a sea of sand understand the problem of living in the desert.
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|:: Sahara Territory by Sakhal 2011-2014 ::|