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Wealth of the World's Waste Places and Oceania

The Tuaregs and Bedouin Arabs are the best known


The

camel is the institution upon which the commerce of the desert depends. A more awkward, ungainly beast can hardly be imagined--a shambling collection of humps, bumps, knobs, protruding joints, and sprawling legs seemingly attached to a head and neck in the near foreground. But that shambling gait will carry a load three times as heavy as the stoutest pack mule can bear, and it will carry it twice as far in a day.

A horse or a mule must be fed twice a day, but a camel will worry along for a week at a time with nothing more substantial than its cud. Horses and mules cannot traverse regions where the watering places are more than twelve hours apart, unless water be carried in storage; but the camel is its own storage reservoir, and can carry a supply sufficient to last for ten days.

At the end of his week of fasting the hump of the camel has shrunken to a fraction of its former size. When the animal has a few days of feeding the hump grows to its former proportions again. Indeed, the hump is merely a mass of nutrition ready to be formed into flesh and blood.

[Illustration: A caravan crossing the desert on the road to Jaffa]

Within the paunch of the animal and surrounding its stomach are great numbers of cells capable of holding seven or eight gallons of water. When the camel drinks copiously these cells become filled and afterward slowly give

up the water as the stomach requires. It may be truly said that the camel is a camel because of the desert and not in spite of it.

The sparse population of the Sahara--Arabs, Berbers, and negroes--are dependent upon the camel, for until the railway shall traverse the Sahara the camel will be practically the only means of transportation. The camel's flesh furnishes about the only meat consumed by the dwellers of the desert, for ordinary cattle can live only in a few localities along the desert border lands.

The native people of the desert are mainly of the race to which the Arabs also belong, although there are many Arabs and negroes. The Tuaregs and Bedouin Arabs are the best known. The Tuaregs are thought to be the descendants of the Berbers and of the same race as the Carthaginians, whom the Romans many times defeated but never conquered. They have whiter skins than the Arabs and in appearance are perhaps the finest peoples of Africa. They are also the most ferocious and blood-thirsty villains on the face of the earth. Many of them live in the white-walled cities such as Ghadames, Kand, and Timbuktu--all large centres of population.

Their government is well organized. Each of the larger tribes is governed by a sultan, and in each there are several castes--a sort of nobility of unmixed Tuareg blood being at the head and negro slaves at the lower end of the social ladder. The families of the highest caste are usually well-to-do, and both the men and the women are taught to read and write. The garments usually worn by a Tuareg man consist of white trousers, a gray tunic with white sleeves, sandals of ornamented leather, and a white turban. When away from home the Tuareg covers the lower half of the face by a cloth mask.

The usual occupation of the Tuaregs is twofold--to guard caravans or to rob them. The average Tuareg is perfectly indifferent as to which he does. A caravan from the Sudan enters, we will say, Kano. The garfla sheik pack master, or superintendent, goes at once to the financial agent of the sultan and pays the usual liken, or tariff charges. Then he goes to the sultan himself and incidentally leaves in his possession a generous money present. Then, if he desires, he may hire half a dozen or more guards.


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