IN A DESERT SANDSTORM
The most interesting feature of
the trip to Jalo was eight days of sandstorm.
The desert is usually very calm,
with an occasional breeze, which becomes stronger and stronger; then
gradually the land looks as if it has been fitted with pipes emitting
steam. The fine sand first rises, but as the velocity of the wind
increases heavier grains rise. When the sand gets as high as one's head,
it becomes distressing, and perhaps dangerous, if the traveler has to
face it. Now he is obliged to go very slowly, and if he is not careful
and vigilant he may miss the way. But if the wind is blowing from the
right or left, it is not so difficult, because the sand can be warded
off with the Bedouin clothes.
One day we had to advance in the
teeth of the storm, and I saw how it could keep moving slowly. To stop
means to be drowned by the sand. The camels instinctively know this and
continue to advance in site of the tormenting blast. On the other hand,
the moment the rain comes they stop or even kneel down.
During my previous travels I had
collected many of the rules of sandstorms and their behavior, according
to Bedouin information, but to my great regret, they were all broken in
those days of trial.
Sometimes, however toward
sunset, when we had been battling for hours against the seemingly
interminable bombardment, the wind would stop dead, as if a master hand
had given a signal. For an hour or more the fine sand and dust would
settle slowly, like a falling mist. A short while afterward the moon
would rise, and under the pale magic of its flooding light the desert
would assume a new aspect. Had there been a sandstorm? Who could
remember? Could this peaceful expanse of loveliness ever be cruel? Who
could believe it?
IN THE CUSTOM
OF THE DESERT
At Siwa the author put aside
his khaki uniform and assumed the garb of a Bedouin sheik (see text,
page 237). [photo page 241]