Water, That Important?

A Tuareg boy on his first camel caravan, determined to find the object that is said to be as precious as gold.

October 20, 2014

 By Saci-Elodie Marty

 This is the amazing story of the Tuareg people and their strive for water. Water is important not only to drink, wash, bath and irrigate crops, but water can be a matter of economic survival and,  life and death.

The dry season has ended, rain is crashing on to the ground, which tells Adam that it will be soon time for his first camel caravan. Before that, there is a lot to be done. Preparation is key; having enough supplies, such as water and food for their six months journey. This journey of passage to manhood teaches them mostly about finding and trading the object that is said to be as precious as gold. And braving the dangers of the desert.

On the day of their journey, a camel race is held for the men. Lifting up spirits and relaxing minds. Laughter and happiness spreads through the village, but now it is time. The moment has come, goodbyes and prayers are being said. And they’re off on their ominous journey.

Vocab: Irrigation is when artificial application of water is put on land or soil. It is used to help grow crops, maintain land and rebuild destroyed soil.

Danger Of The Sahara
The likelihood of a person dying in the Sahara is very high. The most likely way to die is from dehydration, this is not only for humans but also for the camels. A camel can survive without water for up to 5 days. As there is very few wells in the Sahara, the Tuareg men can walk for days without coming across a well. If they miss a well, their camels will die. In other words, the supplies that one camel was carrying will be thrown away. You might wonder how can a camel stay so long without water? That’s because during the 2 days of no water, their kidneys slow down the process. This means they don’t need as much water. A thirsty camel can drink 30 gallons of water, missing the well might mean a death sentence.

There are other dangers in the Sahara as well.  A scorpion’s bite paralyzes anything and everything in it’s claws. The hyena’s teeth rip and tear anything and everything in it’s sight.

Lost in the dunes, forgotten in the piles of sand, it’s dangerous but how dangerous can it be? The Tuareg men don’t stop during their journey, you will be left alone in an ocean of sand.

The Race
You might ask what is more precious than gold, and this is salt. Salt is not just valuable for cooking, but also to refrigerating and trade. Over the years the competition has been tough for the camel caravans. Trucks are more efficient in carrying salt, therefore they have more economical value. They get to the destination faster, meaning they take the business from the camel caravan, and the trucks also can carry more salt at a time which makes the salt cheaper. This can lead into the camels caravans not being able to obtain essential items that the community needs. When they arrive in Bilma, Adam’s uncle talks with the salt dealer.

In Bilma, there is an oasis, a large pool or large pond that provides water. The oasis is used to drink, to clean, to wash, to irrigate crops and to swim. Since oases are found in the desert they are very important for the survival of the communities that surround it.

The caravan starts their journey to the villages. Knowing the different languages of each village helps them economically; it is a very important part of the industry that they work in. Without it, no business.

Nothing says welcome home like dates and candies being throw at the children from the men at their arrival! Everyone is home safe, everyone is full of joy and this year the trip was successful.