donderdag 7 september 2017

Geoffrey Moorhouse: The fearful void

Product DetailsIn oktober 1972 begint Moorhouse aan een tocht in de lengte door de Sahara, van Mauretanië tot aan de Nijl bij Luxor in Egypte.

Deze tocht is nog door niemand voor hem gemaakt. Als voorbereiding op zijn monstertocht spreekt hij met enkele vermaarde woestijnreizigers zoals de Fransman Monod en de Engelsman Wilfred Thesiger. Beiden raden hem af om het in zijn eentje te proberen wat hij eerst van plan was. Verder leert hij Arabisch spreken en went hij zich in de Londonse Zoo aan de omgang met kamelen. Eenmaal onderweg blijkt hij nogal afhankelijk van zijn gidsen voor het omgaan met de kamelen en het vinden van de juiste route.

Het boek beschrijft prachtig wat er allemaal komt kijken bij een kamelentocht door de woestijn en ook hoe de omgang tussen Moorhouse en zijn gidsen verliep. Uiteindelijk haalde Moorhouse Tamanrasset in Algerije waar hij van de rest van zijn tocht afzag.

Een aantal citaten:
- These people concealed so little from each other. My people concealed so much.

- I had some time since shed the innocent notion that the purchase of camels was comparable to buying a motorcar in Europe, merely a matter of identifying a salesman, discussing the matter with him for an hour of two, handing over the cash, then driving the vehicle away.  Most of the animals owned by the men of Chingueti were grazing in pasture halfway back to Atar; it would take days to fetch them and more days to talk bout them before ever a price was agreed.

- The most eagerly awaited moments were those at midday and evening when we drank the first glass of swet and syrupy tea, knowing that there were two more to come, each loaded with properties that would restore energy to our wilting bodies.

- Everything in these nomadic lives was bent towards a preoccupation with food, for man and beast alike. There is a word, ghudda, which in Arabic can be translated variously as "lunch" or "vegetables" or "greens", but which in Hassaniya is an omnibus expression for food of any kind, for feeding, for whatever represents the antidote to hunger. Whenever men talked together in this undernourished land, for however long they talked, you could be sure that the word ghudda would be uttered by one person or another every few sentences.

- Once, as we started eating our midday meal, ould Mohammed looked up at the whistling noise above. "How is it," he asked, "that an aircraft can find it's way when it doesn't have a guide?" He was unconvinced when I told him that it relied, as we had done for most of the time, upon the muchderided compass.

- Then a small boy was running towards me, trying not to spill what wa sin the bowl. The water in it was the colour of diluted blood. This was the most beautiful thing in the world, more beautiful by far than the stained glass of Chartres, than a fugue by Bach, than the moment after ecstasy with the woman you loved, or the moment when your son scrambled to squeeze the breath out of you and say, "I think you're smashing, Dad." There was nothing in the world as beautiful as this bowlful of water.


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