Sahara Sands

I am fascinated by the frontier nature of Tombouctou. I made a brief tour of some of the historical and cultural sites, but my main interest has been the interface with the Sahara desert. White dunes flank the city and daytime winds try to fill the streets with sand. To the north, the Sahara stretches all the way to the Mediterranean, and Tombouctou is the last outpost. It is a timeless landscape, where camel caravans disappear into the desert as they have for centuries. Today, these caravans still connect to Sahara salt mines more than 800 km to the north. The peak of activity is in the winter months when droves of camels line the desert. But even now, in the hottest month of the year, I was able to find 32 camels marching north with one Tuareg in the lead and one at the rear. They were loaded with supplies for the long journey. I walked for a few kilometers along side of them and rode on the lead camel for a brief spell. When I turned around, Tombouctou was obscured by distant dunes. I was surrounded by the Sahara and imagined what it would be like to be walking south as I was after more than a month in the desert. My thirst was already intense after a couple of hours. The first rows of Tuareg houses were a welcome sight when they appeared beyond the sand.View new photography at www.carltonward.com