“Sahara, a Promised Land”: From the rainy season to the dry season, the endless life in the desert

Original link: https://sehseh.substack.com/p/8b3

Plant trees in the desert. (Provided by Times Publishing)

🔗Official website easy to read version|”Sahara, a Promised Land”: From the rainy season to the dry season, the endless life in the desert

Text / Cai Shiren

“The desert cannot be spoken, it can only be lived.”

The ecology of deserts and oases is diverse and rich, and the best thing that can instantly transform life in the barren gravel desert is water.

On the barren and desolate land, life lurks in the form of seeds, waiting for the rain to come. Different terrains have vegetation, and when the rain comes, the white flowers that look like narcissus can brighten the whole mountain. The beauty and vitality of the Sahara are there, and the little wildflowers emerging from the cracks in the dry rocks say: “Life is everywhere, just wait for the rain to come.”

One year, the autumn rain was sufficient, and in the early spring of the next year, Besan and I took the guests into the desert in a jeep, and the wild flowers bloomed everywhere, just like a lavender garden that was born in heaven. I can’t believe that Sahara also has a wild purple garden, and it is “limited to flower season”!

The disappearance and return of lakes in the desert also depend on the abundance of autumn rain.

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The water that nurtures life in the desert

Every time the rain falls, the desert terrain naturally allows the rain to converge on the “big lake”. When the rain is sufficient, the lake returns to the desert, and the lake is full of flamingos, wild ducks and stilt plovers ( Himantopus himantopus ). The lakeside is moistened by the water, and many vegetations grow. The plants growing next to the ground have delicate gradient shades, and the petals fall to the ground, which is very beautiful against the orange-red sand dunes in the distance.

The dense and splendid vegetation is also the best food for sheep and camels. The camels lead the camels to the lake to graze, and the flamingos bow their heads to forage in the lake. The lake is like a mirror, reflecting the blue of the sky.

The long-term drought has caused the lake to shrink or even disappear. It is said that the “Great Lake” was once very large. The nomads of Erxi did not have the habit of measuring. No one can tell the exact size. Only twenty years ago, when the rain was abundant, the lake was so deep that Children swim and dive, there are fish in the lake, the lake is full of desert-specific birds, flamingos, waterfowl and shorebirds, a lively lake of life!

I remember visiting at sunset. The golden sunset shone on the gathering place of the lake in the distance. When I narrowed my eyes, I could vaguely see flamingos, stilt plover and wild ducks foraging on the lake. On the gravel not far from us, a few white wagtails were lively. Looking for traces of food, those smart eyes and the black scarf on the snow-white chest are so cute!

Another time, we took Taiwanese guests to the lakeside to witness the miracle of water in the desert. The guests were moved by the existence of the lake in the desert and said it was beautiful! In the distance, a bird stopped by the lake, and upon a closer look, it was an eagle! Desert Eagle, Lakeside Eagle, what a beautiful and magical creation of heaven and earth!

Rainfall is good for desert life as a whole, but water flow and rain will also greatly change the landscape in a very short period of time, so we must adjust the itinerary in response to natural factors.

On one occasion, it suddenly rained heavily in the desert, and the water spread everywhere. One stream poured into a nearby lake, another went to Algeria, and some penetrated into the ground to replenish the water source. We happened to be taking Hong Kong guests to the desert, and the original barren wasteland became a muddy shallow pool and impassable, forcing us to take a detour, which was full of dangers.

Passing through a place that looks like a hard rock, as soon as the jeep drove in, the wheels were deeply immersed in the mud, and the guests had to come down to help push the cart. After finally getting out of trouble, although he can continue to move forward, Besan still has to judge whether the return trip must be diverted according to the local hydrology, previous rain and current water flow.

The simple black tent built by everyone together guards the old tree. (Provided by Times Publishing)

In dry land, a little milk camel learns to walk

Even in the dry season, the desert’s ecology is still rich.

Visiting the oasis farmland, the unique karez irrigation channel flows slowly among the palm trees, and you can encounter sparrows, white wagtails, shrikes, bead-necked turtledoves and various unknown birds. In remote dry land, occasionally encounter sand chickens (scientific name Pterocles coronatus ) whose feather color is quite similar to gravel, and only Besan’s nomadic eyesight can recognize sand chickens with strong protective color in gravel piles. In the winding dunes, in addition to the skink ( Scincus scincus ) commonly known as “Poisson de sable” and the jerboa with a long tail, there are also many fennec foxes with a pair of big eyes and a pair of big ears. .

The most common animal encountered in the desert is the camel.

There are no wild camels in Morocco. The camels that roam leisurely and graze in the wilderness are all raised by residents or restaurants in the surrounding area. The camels are likely to be quietly guarded in a shady corner nearby.

The Bedouins like camels very much, and even call themselves “camel people”. The importance of camels to nomads is self-evident. In addition to being used as a means of transportation, camel milk and camel meat are edible, and camel skins can be used for clothing and drum faces. , Camel hair can be woven into tents, camels can be used as brides and kidnappers as ransoms, and it is also a way of calculating wealth.

A Turkish proverb says, “The camel walks slowly, but it can reach its destination.” The camel, known as the “boat of the desert”, is smart and understandable. It is known for its perseverance, drought resistance and carrying heavy loads. The property is a powerful partner for the nomads to live by water and grass, or to carry goods. The camel caravan makes commodity trade possible in the desert. At this time, it mainly carries tourists and still participates in the important economic activities of the nomads.

There are no wild camels in Morocco. The camels that roam leisurely and eat grass in the wilderness are all raised by residents or restaurants in the surrounding area. (Provided by Cai Shiren)

Once, we took a newlywed couple from Hong Kong who were on their honeymoon into the desert. We didn’t know if they were infected with joy. We ran into a little milk camel that was just born that day. The big eyes were still squinting, but they were not fully opened yet, so cute!

In the distance, we saw the baby camel resting in the grass, and the mother camel who had just given birth was grazing next to it. Besang carefully parked the car, let us take pictures in the car, and keep an eye on the mother camel. After all, the baby camel was just born. , Camel mother is eager to protect her child, and may be aggressive.

Seeing that the little milk camel is so cute, Besang’s childish innocence is not lost. This indifference could not dampen Besang’s enthusiasm at all. Seeing that the camel mother not far away did not respond, he tiptoed out of the car, approached the little milk camel at a very slow speed, and gently stretched out his hand, successfully kissing them. After a while, the little milk camel staggered back into the arms of the mother camel.

Oh, the little milk camel that just arrived was born in the depths of the rough and vast desert, witnessing the ubiquity and toughness of life. Maybe the physique is still weak, maybe the heart is not so strong and stable, maybe the pace is still swaying and fragile, but the light and love are there, even if you stumble, you still firmly move towards the direction you desire, towards happiness, hope and abundance!

In the desert, people can pay for wild animals for free

The endangered African wild ass is undoubtedly the most common wild animal we encounter.

The desert summer is extremely hot and long, the daytime temperature is approaching 50 degrees, and the wind is blowing with sand, even the lizards prefer to stay on the treetops, after all, the sand is too hot.

The land is barren, and it is difficult for the wild donkey family to find water sources on their own. They surround the ancient well and wait under the scorching sun for humans to draw water to quench their thirst. Among them, there are many potbellied female donkeys or newly born young donkeys.

Every time he sees this scene, Besan’s reaction is always “The donkey is thirsty and needs to drink water.” Then he got off the car and walked to the ancient well. Under the bright sun, he took out buckets of water from the bottom of the well and poured it into the simple sink beside the well. The birds smelled the water and came, too thirsty to fear humans, and hopped on the edge of the well. The most daring feral donkeys were often eager to drink water at this time, while the others waited until the trough was full and Bessan left the well, then cautiously approached to drink water.

If there is a simple ancient well without a sink, Besan will cut the bottle in half and fill it with water.

Wild ass in the desert. (Provided by Cai Shiren)

Once, when I was walking through a place with a guest, on the dry land, I saw the family of wild donkeys guarding the well in the distance. Besang got out of the car immediately, but found that the well was almost dry.

It is said that this century-old well has always had water, but it has only dried up in the past two years. Once the well cannot draw water, the desert will lose its important water source, and the nomads may be able to leave, but many creatures will suffer silently and fall one by one in places that most tourists cannot visit or see.

I gave the donkey the only water left in the car, but it was still not enough. Bessan was very sad and reluctantly said to leave. I knew he was soft-hearted, and quickly emphasized: “Don’t know how long the donkey has been waiting here, it must be very thirsty, very thirsty. , look, there are little donkeys and pregnant female donkeys! If there is no more water to drink, they will surely die!”

Nomads know best what kind of “thirst” is when there is no water to drink in the midsummer desert. Besan couldn’t abandon the wild ass in the waterless wilderness, and wanted to lead the wild ass’s family to another nearby well, but the wild ass was a wild ass and was afraid of people.

After thinking for a while, Besan quickly took off his blue robe, grabbed the thick rope on the reel, and went down to the bottom of the well himself, scooping water into the bucket with both hands, while the guests stood by the well, pulled the rope, and put the bucket in. Pull it up and pour it into the sink for the donkey to drink. Bessan went further and dug a hole in the soil at the bottom of the well, allowing some water to come out. After working for a long time, he pulled the rope and slowly climbed out of the well to continue our unfinished tour.

Yes, in the Sahara, humans and animals can share water resources, and humans can serve and pay for wildlife simply and free of charge. Sightseeing activities are not necessarily the destruction of the land. A guided tour can deeply bring tourists from other places into the beauty and ecological richness of the Sahara, and make the whole process a kind treatment and protection of desert life. (Finish)

The Sahara, a Promised Land. (Provided by Times Publishing)

This article is included in “Sahara, a Promised Land” , which is authorized to be reprinted by “Walk the World”. The title of the article and the subscript of the text have been edited and adapted by “Walk the World”.

Since 2011, Cai Shiren, who has an anthropology background, has been conducting field research on climate change in the Sahara Desert. He met and fell in love with her Bedouin husband and decided to stay in Morocco.

This article narrates that the author led visitors from afar to see the true appearance of the Sahara under the veil of romance and to witness the ever-changing ecological environment of the desert in the small village of Meruka in Morocco.

About the Author| Cai Shiren

PhD in Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology from the French Academy of Social Sciences (EHESS). Author of “Sahara, a Promised Land”, “Desert Turned into a Well: The Sahara of Sanmao as I Know It”, “Eagle Is Going Home”, “Don’t Call Her Belly Dancer” and “Take His Ph.D. ,lets Dance”. Currently living in Morocco, he runs a “Paradise Island” homestay, and strives to promote activities such as Saharan in-depth tours, eco-tourism and desert tree planting, in response to our era under climate change.

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This article is reprinted from: https://sehseh.substack.com/p/8b3
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