The Book and the Sand: Restoring and Preserving the Ancient Desert Libraries of Mauritania Part 1
Abstract: Ever since prehistoric times, the Sahara desert has been a barrier to communication and exchange, as well as a site of trade and habitation. The introduction of the camel, between the second and the fifth centuries A.D., and the spread of Islam to North Africa during the seventh and eighth, significantly increased the volume of transSaharan trade, leading to the establishment of a number of commercial outposts along the main caravan routes. In addition to gold, salt and slaves, books and the materials to produce them (paper in particular) were among the top commodities of the transSaharan trade, which helped some strategically located trading posts to become important centers of book production and intellectual activity. By the eighteenth century, when the trade reached its heyday, a few caravan towns in Mauritania, namely Ouadane, Chinguetti, Tichitt, and Oualata, had become so renowned throughout the Islamic world for their religious scholars and their libraries, that only the legendary Timbuktu rivaled them in this part of the world. Today, these "desert libraries" are represented by several thousand manuscripts and printed books that document the evolution of Islamic thought in western Africa, while providing important insights in the transSaharan book trade. This article describes the origin and evolution of Mauritanias desert libraries, the attention and interest they generated outside the Islamic world, and the main efforts conducted so far to locate, collect, catalog, restore, and preserve this unique cultural treasure.
There is no desert but the Desert, asSahara, uncompassionate, unmerciful, fabled and forbidding as any respectable myth is supposed to be. As the name itself implies, the Sahara is the desert par excellence, a geographical archetype imbued with a hypertrophic sense of place or placelessness. Together with its climatic opposite, the Poles, it fulfils and represents our civilized, Oedipal need for an ultimate terra incognita: immense, unconquerable, and unforgiving as any motherearthly place can be, or as the imagination of an outsider will make it. To the Tuaregs and the Moors who inhabit its "Fearful Void" (as a British traveler has called it), and whose material and spiritual lives are shaped by it, the Sahara is neither fearful nor void, but alive and rich and resourceful, just like the frozen tundra is for the Inuit of northern Canada. On the contrary, to an European, whether he has been scorched by its sands or charmed by its legends, the great desert is first and foremost a cultural construct, a Western myth forged, nurtured, and exploited, over the last twentyfive centuries, by geographers and historians, explorers and travelers, poets, publishers, tourist operators, and other vested interests. A myth, indeed, whose survival is guaranteed by the same forbidding environmental conditions which, in the Sahara as at the Poles, prevent most forms of life from surviving.
Among the various opinions and beliefs shaped by Saharan mythmaking (some of which did not pass the test of time, while others persist today as they fit in the contemporary purposes of the myth) is the idea of the desert as a formidable barrier to human communication and cultural exchange. A geographical feature, largely devoid of cultural or historical meaning. Rooted in the "longheld bias, classical Greek and Roman as well as modern European, against any thought that the Sahara might once have been a cradle of civilization" (Abdelaziz in Werner, 2004), such ideas long shaped popular views of the great desert while also affecting scholarly research,
to the point that:
"Until recently there has been, as far as the writing of history is concerned, an almost unabridged gulf between North Africa and the rest of the continent. Historians either studied Africa south of the Sahara, or Africa north of the great desert. The latter was considered to be part of the Muslim Middle Eastern world, or part of the Mediterranean world; but not part of Africa historically speaking" (Atmore, 1970, 612).
In spite of the progress made in the last three decades by African history, to some extent Atmores point remains valid today. For most scholarly purposes, in fact, Africa continues to be divided between two distinct academic fields: Islamic and Near (or Middle) Eastern studies, which covers North Africa; and African studies, which deals with subSaharan Africa properly. Since, depending on the inclusiveness of the concept, North Africa may or may not include the great desert, we can see how the latter, rather than belonging firmly to either of these two fields, remains in a sort of interdisciplinary limbo and, in spite of the significant amount of overlap and collaboration, can still represent a chasm between them. At first, such academic distinction between North Africa and subSaharan Africa seems to be based on cultural and linguistic factors; but since Islamic Africa expands well beyond the geographical limits of North Africa, we realize that what actually splits the continent between two different academic fields is the Sahara itself, or rather the old bias which sees it as an immense solitude of sands, of little or no interest for the historian or the archeologist .
The Sahara represents indeed a formidable barrier, although not an insuperable one. In the words of the Senegalese poet and statesman Léopold Sédar Senghor,
"the Sahara is an ocean of sand which merchants and explorers managed to cross long before they were able to negotiate the high seas. In fact this huge expanse of rock and sand, stretching from the Atlantic to the Red Sea, so as to give the impression of an insuperable barrier between the Mediterranean and Black Africa, has for two thousand years connected peoples culturally and geographically distant who would communicate along caravan routes" (Gaudio, 2002a).
These caravan routes were the lifelines of the transSaharan trade, which long predated the Arab invasion of North Africa and defined the economic, political, and cultural life of a large part of the African continent until the end of the nineteenth century. By overcoming the natural barrier of the desert, these routes promoted commercial exchanges between Africa, Europe, and Asia, which in turn led to political and cultural relations among the various peoples involved.
By the sixteenth century, when the transSaharan trade entered its golden age, a number of trading centers strategically located at the end or the intersection of the main routes had grown into prominent cultural hubs. Their position and the increasing demand for African goods (the latter largely generated by European and American markets) made them part of a vast commercial network extending to the limits of the known world. Products coming from as far as Persia, India, or China were bought and sold in Timbuktu, Chinguetti, or Sijilmasa; while Ghanaian gold shone in the workshops and the courts of Europe, and Italian paper was used by calligraphers and copyists from Fez to Kano. This period of economic and intellectual prosperity lasted three hundred years at most; by the middle of the nineteenth century all main commercial arteries were drying up, most trading centers had entered a longterm decline marked by progressive isolation and decay, while the desert was swallowing up their vestiges of past wealth. This process continues today, as all efforts to revitalize these ancient caravan towns are frustrated by the increasing desertification of the Sahara and the consequent displacement and urbanization of its nomadic tribes.
If the transSaharan trade has been largely overlooked by historians and archeologists alike, it is because the majority of them continues to study "Africa north of the Sahara, or Africa south of the great desert,"
while the great desert itself remains, for most scholarly pursuits, a no-mansland between Near Eastern and African studies. An example of this interdisciplinary gap is the research in the trade between West Africa and the Atlantic world, a topic that has been traditionally dominated by European and North American scholars, interests, and issues (particularly slavery, abolitionism, and African American heritage). For decades studies focused either on gold and slaves (the two African commodities that were most demanded on European and American markets), or on the Gold Coast, as it played such a prominent role in the transatlantic slave trade that, by the middle of the eighteenth century, the control of its ports had become a serious issue for European players.
But gold and slaves were exported through Maghribi ports as well (particularly Tripoli, Tunis, and Algiers), and the only way to attain them from the gold and slaverich lands south of the Sahara was through the desert itself. Moreover, from an African point of view, slaves and gold were only two of the many goods carried across the sands, and not even the most valuable ones. Slaves for example, while highly perishable, were less scarce and reputedly less profitable than gold, salt, or books the latter being the most profitable merchandise to be found in Timbuktu, according to Leo Africanus who visited the town in 1510 (1956, 46869). Similar observations by other Muslim travelers confirm the importance of books and book products (particularly paper) in the transSaharan trade, as they attest to the flourishing of traditional book arts such as calligraphy, illumination, and binding along the main caravan routes.
The TransSaharan Book Trade and the Birth of Desert Libraries
When, in the first half of the fifteenth century, the Portuguese emissaries of Henry the Navigator made their way to the Saharas southern shore from the Atlantic coast, they discovered that its markets had been reached, for a thousand years at least, by caravans of camels crossing the desert on a regular basis and along wellestablished routes. The transSaharan trade dates back to prehistoric times, although it is virtually impossible, based on historical documents and the archeological record, to fathom its nature and extent before the seventhcentury Arab invasion of North Africa.
The Greek historian Herodotus, in his description of Libya (i.e., North Africa), written in the fifth century B.C. and based on information collected during a sojourn in Cyrenaica, identifies four distinct physical regions: a coastal area inhabited by nomadic pastoral tribes; a region where "wild beasts are found"; a "great belt of sand, stretching from Thebes in Egypt to the Pillars of Heracles"; and a "waterless desert, without rain or trees or animal life, or a drop of moisture of any kind." Along the great belt of sand, "separated from one another by about ten days journey, are little hills formed of lumps of salt, and from the top of each gushes a spring of cold, sweet water. Men live in the neighborhood of these springs beyond the wild beasts region, they are the furthest south, towards the desert, of any human beings" (Herodotus, 1972, 3313). About thirty days journey west of Thebes lies the oasis of the Garamantes, from which is the shortest route another thirty days journey to the Lotophagi of the coast. The Garamantes, relates Herodotus, "hunt the Ethiopian holemen, or troglodytes, in fourhorse chariots," a peculiarity that generated much speculation about the ethnic identity of both peoples and the use of horses and oxen in the central Sahara before the introduction of the camel.
While some hypotheses about the latter issue have been substantiated, if not confirmed, by the archeological findings of the last century (particularly rock carvings and paintings), it was the introduction of the camel, in the first or second century A.D., that created the conditions for economic, political, and cultural development in North and West Africa (Bulliet, 1975, 11140). A far more environmentallyresistant riding and pack animal, the camel gave the Berber tribes who lived on the northern fringes of the great desert more mobility and power, allowing them to extend their influence over a vast territory, virtually reaching as far south as the Senegal River, and to establish regular routes between the oases of the Mediterranean hinterland and the trading centers of western Sudan.
The existence of a few, wellestablished and farreaching routes allowed the followers of the Prophet, after their blitz conquest of Mediterranean Africa in the seventh century, to penetrate farther south in search of gold and other valuable goods. By the eleventh century, when the second and far more consequential wave of Arab invaders reached Morocco, at least four camel routes crossed the central and western Sahara in a northsouth direction, with a number of trails connecting them at different latitudes. Their itinerary and their stops were defined by the presence of water or salt, Saharas most valuable resources and the only capable of transforming a palm grove into a trading post or even depending on a number of geopolitical and cultural factors an important commercial and intellectual center.
The easterly route connected Tripoli to Gao (on the middle Niger, about 200 miles downriver from Timbuktu) via Ghadames and Ghat in the Libyan desert. The central went from Sijilmasa, in the southern Moroccan oasis of Tafilelt, to the salt mines of Route Taghaza and Taodeni, in the northernmost corner of Mali, and from them to Oualata (western branch) or Timbuktu (eastern branch). The western route ran from Sijilmasa to the Almoravid capital of Awdaghast and the goldproducing Ghana empire via Ouadane, Chinguetti, Tichittt, and Oualata, from where an eastern branch led to the Niger River and Timbuktu.
In addition to salt, which was and, to some extent, continues to be mined locally, the main products traveling from the Maghrib, Spain, Italy, Egypt or further east to western Sudan included leather, cloth, paper, and books, while those crossing the desert in the opposite direction were primarily gold dust, slaves, ivory, ostrich feathers, raw leather, civet, and civet cats.
For centuries before the Europeans started to penetrate the markets of the interior, the only accounts of the transSaharan trade (and West African life in general) were provided by Muslim travelers, historians, geographers, and chroniclers. Some of them, like Ibn Hawqal in the tenth century, Ibn Battuta in the fourteenth, and Leo Africanus in the sixteenth, traveled extensively and based their narratives on firsthand information, while others, such as the eleventhcentury geographer AlBakri, who never left his native Cordova, relied exclusively upon oral or written sources.
The Arab conquest of North Africa and the spread of Islam to western Sahara and Sudan affected all aspects of life in the region, although probably none as deeply and significantly as intellectual and cultural life. The diffusion of Arabic as a lingua franca (the Latin of Africa, as it has been aptly called) gave a considerable impulse to diplomatic, commercial, and cultural exchanges within West Africa and beyond, with the rest of the Islamic world (which at the time, stretching from Spain to Central and South Asia, included the better part of the known world) and with Christian Europe as well. Moreover, the introduction of a rational, functional, and visually appealing writing system provided local peoples with a new and revolutionary way to record, store, and disseminate information, not only in Arabic but also in their native languages (particularly Hausa, Peul, and Wolof). All kinds of practical, intellectual, and spiritual knowledge that until then had been the object and prerogative of oral tradition could now be transferred and disseminated via the written word. Such a paradigm shift had major economic, social, and cultural consequences, one of them being the transition to a labourintensive, technologicallydriven, and marketdependent approach to knowledge and information management. By turning communication into a medium, writing created the conditions for a significant upgrade from technique to technology, and from artistic ability to technical specialization. What in the oral tradition had been accomplished through the mnemonic and performing skills of the griot, now required specific materials (paper, ink, leather, glue), arts (writing, penmanship, illumination), and services (copying, bookmaking, bookselling). During the twelfth and the thirteenth centuries, the growing demand for, and increasingly organized supply of, these materials, skills, and services led to the development of a distinct transSaharan book trade and the flourishing of book arts and crafts along the main caravan routes. Paper in particular became as valuable as salt or slaves (the two top commodities of the transSaharan trade), especially after the eleventh century, when it replaced parchment, and even more after the introduction of Italian paper in the thirteenth, which significantly raised the standards of quality for this type of material. Paper was more practical to use but also more difficult to recycle since, unlike parchment, it could not be scraped and overwritten; besides, it came from farther away than parchment, salt or slaves (all North or West African commodities), and it was more perishable than any of them.
The demand for specific services and skills generated by the transSaharan book trade gave rise to professional figures such as copyists, scribes, calligraphers, illuminators, bookbinders, and booksellers. Some of them were highly regarded and wellremunerated , while others had a more entrepreneurial profile that required a combination of business acumen, managerial skills, and cultural awareness. Booksellers would often combine the functions of "publisher," dealer, and collector, maintaining a workshop of calligraphers, illuminators, and binders, while also sending agents to various parts of West Africa to buy or copy works .
Books manufactured and traded along the main caravan routes were mostly of two kinds: fine editions of important works (particularly the Koran), elegantly laid out, calligraphed, illuminated, and bound; and cheaper copies of works used for instructional or reference purposes and produced with economy of means. The latter were often carried around on camelback, in leather saddlebags specifically made for this purpose, and used for nomadic schooling in traditional institutions known as mahadras (Ould Ahmedou, 2000).
Books were collected and treasured by scholars, holy men, and their families, as well as by religious institutions such as mosques, zawyas ("monasteries"), and madrasas ("colleges"). Individual collections passed from one generation to the next according to a wellestablished patrilineal system, while institutional libraries were formed by direct acquisitions as well as by charitable gifts known as waqf (pl. awqaf).
The transSaharan trade started to decline in the late eighteenth century and by the middle of the twentieth had all but dried up. One of the main causes was the competition of transatlantic commerce, which had grown consistently in the two hundred years following the discovery of the Americas; another was the increase of commercial navigation along the west coast of Africa, which provided a safer and faster alternative to the long journeys across the desert (whose success or failure depended on the local tribes, while maritime commerce was managed and controlled by European players). A third cause was the growth of French colonial power in the region and the consequent dismantlement of the political and economic system that had shaped traditional life for centuries. (Tribal nomadism and transSaharan trade long predate the invasions of Islamized Arabs, who skillfully exploited and built upon the political and economic realities they found without undermining their fundamental aspects.) This turned out to be particularly detrimental in Mauritania, where a tenyear long (18951905) military campaign in the north, followed by an administrative reorganization and the transfer of political and economic powers to the coast, further contributed to the isolation and decline of the towns in the interior, whose economic and cultural survival depended on their strategic position along the main caravan routes.
Mauritania: One of the BetterKept Secrets in the World of Islamic Scholarship
Extending from the Maghrib to Western Sudan, and crossed by the westernmost of the transSaharan routes, Mauritania was always an important link between Mediterranean and Black Africa. Following the Arab invasions of the seventh and eight centuries, it played a critical role in the spread of Islam to West Africa and the consequent flourishing of a quintessentially Saharan form of ascetic mysticism, shaped by the extreme conditions of the desert and the patterns of nomadic life. The scholarly and literary tradition that grew out of it is documented by an impressive manuscript heritage (close to 40,000 according to official estimates) representing over three hundred years of book production and collecting in a region where such activities are hard to imagine and even harder to record.
Geographical distribution, provenance, and antiquity of the manuscripts
Historically, most manuscriptrich areas of Mauritania were located along two main axes, one running in an eastwest direction along the Senegal River, in the south of the country, and the other represented by the transSaharan route linking the markets of western Sudan to the oases of southern Morocco. It was along this western route that, between the twelfth and the thirteenth century A.D., a number of ksour (a Berber word for "village") were founded by islamized Berber groups, typically at such a distance from each other that could be covered within a reasonable amount of time . Some of them remained mere "filling stations," while others like Ouadane, Chinguetti, Tidjikja, Tichitt, and Oualata grew to become major commercial and intellectual ouposts. In time Chinguetti (Shinqit) acquired such a prominence and distinction that by the end of the eighteenth century it was known throughout the Islamic world as the spiritual and intellectual capital of Mauritania (a reputation that has lasted to this day, together with the status of seventh holiest city of Islam), and the name of Bilad elShinqit ("Chinguettiland") was used to indicate the entire country between Morocco and the Senegal River. This was mostly due to the towns many distinguished scholars and holy men, to the number of students and disciples these attracted from all parts of Islamic Africa and beyond, to the wide range of Islamic sciences they taught, and to the vast libraries they established to support their teaching and study.
Most private libraries were established between the end of the seventeenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, and combine manuscripts, printed books, and archival materials . With a few remarkable exceptions, manuscripts date from the eighteenth century onward and, if not copied locally, were acquired in North Africa, Spain, or the Middle East during trips that combined religious, political, and commercial purposes . Printed books are less scarce than one would assume, and in some collections outnumber the manuscripts. For the most part, they were printed in Morocco, Cairo, or Istanbul from the latter part of the nineteenth century onward. Archival materials are typically represented by family papers, correspondence, diplomatic, legal, and commercial documents such as deeds of sale, agreements, and certificates.
Current repositories and main collections
While many collections are still housed in private homes, mosques, and zawyas, these are being increasingly replaced by institutional repositories built right after the independence, as well as by more recent and conservationally correct "manuscript centers." In her 1994 survey, Geneviève SimonKhedis lists about forty libraries with holdings ranging from ten to six thousand items each. Only three are public institutions, but their combined holdings are almost as large as those of all the private libraries together (this being the natural result of their institutional mission, their national scope, and their collecting policies). Most private libraries hold between fifty and two hundred items, and those with more than one thousand bring together several collections representing one or more families. These are the Ahl alImam Abd alMumin library (with 3,000 manuscripts) and the Maktabat alAwqaf (2,000) in Tichitt, the Shaykh Sidiyya family library in Boutilimit (ca. 2,000), the Ould Habott library in Chinguetti (ca. 1,400), and the Sidi Ibn alTah library in Abar alAtrous (ca. 1,000). At least two collections, the alreadymentioned Ahl alImam Abd alMumin in Tichitt and the much smaller Sidi Abd Allah wuld Hajj Ibrahim in Tidjikja, were established in the 1980s as religious endowments (awqaf).
The two largest institutional collections are those of the Institut Mauritanien de la Recherche Scientifique (IMRS), established in 1975 under the Ministère de la Culture et de la Recherche Scientifique, and the Institut Scientifique dEnseignment et de Recherches Islamiques (ISERI), founded in 1978 as part of the Ministère de la Culture et de lOrientation Islamiques. Both are located in the Mauritanias capital of Nouakchott. The IMRS holds about 6,000 manuscripts representing 72 collections, mainly from the Trarza region in the southwest, while the ISERI combines several collections for a total of about two thousand manuscripts in Arabic and Hassaniyya. Most libraries are open to students, teachers, and researches upon application; in a few cases (e.g., the ISERI) credentials are requested.
Physical characteristics: support materials, writing tools, bindings
The oldest surviving manuscripts in Mauritania are on parchment made from the skin of sheep, goat, or gazelle, a material that in the Maghrib and western Sahara was used until the eleventh century A.D., when in other parts of the Islamic world had been largely replaced by paper made from rags of linen and hemp (in Egypt, for example, the transition followed almost immediately the introduction of papermaking in the tenth century). This delay was not due to the unavailability of the new material, which in North Africa had been known since the ninth or the tenth century and manufactured at least since the eleventh, but rather to the fact that "the provinces of Ifriqiya (corresponding to modern Tunisia) and Sicily were centers of sheep raising, and the manufacture of leather and parchment, as well as the exports of hides, remained an important industry" (Bloom, 2001, 85).
Paper used in western Sahara was produced elsewhere in Egypt, the Maghrib, Spain, and Italy and traveled by camel along the transSaharan routes, together with salt, gold, leather, slaves, and a number of other trading goods. During the tenth and eleventh centuries papermaking spread from Egypt to the Islamic Far West (Maghrib and Spain), although in the next three hundred years Mediterranean and African markets were invaded by paper manufactured in north and northcentral Italy (particularly in Fabriano, Treviso, Florence, Bologna, Parma, Milan, and Venice) and exported by Genoese and Venetian merchants. Such a commercial success was due to a combination of technological developments and marketing skills, which made Italian paper available in larger quantities and more sizes than muslim paper, thus satisfying the growing needs of North African chancelleries. From the time it was introduced to the decline of the transSaharan trade in the nineteenth century, paper in West Africa remained one of the most precious and expensive goods, and as such it was variously recycled and treasured in ways that European travelers quickly learned how to exploit .
While the pen remained essentially the same tool cut from a piece of reed (thence the name qalam, from the Greek word for "reed") for the entire course of Islamic calligraphy, the transition from parchment to paper affected the type of ink used by calligraphers, scribes, and copists. The brownish ink (hibr), prepared with gallnuts and traditionally used on parchment, proved too acidic and corrosive for paper, and it was eventually replaced by black ink (midād) made from lampblack bound with gum arabica. This became the standard from India to Morocco, although recipes may vary from region to region and from author to author .
More technologically complex was the art of Islamic bookbinding, of which Mauritanian libraries provide a number of excellent although rapidly deteriorating examples. Following the Arab invasions of North Africa, the principal material of this art, leather, gave rise to a flourishing local industry, whose products and knowhow rapidly spread south along the main caravan routes, as well as north through Spain and across the Mediterranean. Throughout the golden age of transSaharan trade, large tanning works in the Maghrib supplied the markets of Western Sudan with the raw material for a variety of leather products, some of which are still manufactured today by the Berbers, Moors, and Tuareg of western Sahara. In addition to the leather from Morocco and other tanning centers of the Islamic world, some distinctive characteristics of Arab bookbinding are the cover boards made of several leaves of paper pasted together to increase the flexibility of the cover, the flat spine, the quires sewn without support, usually with linen or flax thread on two or four stations and a basic link stitch. In western Sahara, leather was also used to make richly decorated sleeve cases to protect the books from the sand and to carry them around, especially on camelback.
As pointed out by Marco Sassetti (1999, 33), an Italian book conservator with extensive experience of Mauritanian materials, all major formal aspects of a manuscript, including the quality of the paper and the binding, can be affected by its origin and intended use. Those produced by specialized ateliers, working under commission or for the general market, present a more formal and refined approach to layout, calligraphy, and decoration. The lines tend to be more generously spaced and the margins wider, the text is in canonical handwriting and the illuminations are polychrome (sometimes with traces of gold), and the overall look of the page shows a sense of �design� that is lacking in the more sparing manuscripts meant for personal use or practical purposes such as teaching, practice, or preservation.
Language, alphabet, scripts
The majority of manuscripts are written in Arabic, some in Hassaniyya (the Arabic dialect spoken in Mauritania), and a few in Peul (Pulaar, Fulani), Songhai, Hausa, and other Western Sudanic languages transcribed using the Arabic alphabet. At least two libraries, the Ould Habott in Chinguetti and the Dar alMakhtutat in Oualata, contain also Persian manuscripts (SimonKhedis, 1994, 291, 304). Texts written in North Africa and western Sahara use the Maghribi ("Western") script, a cursive hand developed in twelfthcentury Libya from the much older Kufic script; however, depending on a number of geographical and cultural factors (provenance of the manuscript, where the author or copyist learned his art, etc.), they show a variety of calligraphic styles, notably Fasi (from Fez), Qayrawani (from Kayrawan), Saharan, Sudanic, Suqi, and Oriental (Middle Eastern).
Most traditional libraries in Mauritania group a number of private collections formed over the last two centuries through family or scholarly inheritance. Depending on their origin and evolution, the size of these libraries some of which reflect the specific interests of a single scholar, while others represent the collecting efforts of several generations, or members, of a same family may range from a few dozen to a thousand items or more. Whatever their origins and extent, however, their composition usually reflects a broad range of intellectual interests and scholarly subjects. These are obviously dominated by religious (theological, juridical, canonical, and hagiographical) works, although history, geography, language, literature, science (mathematics, astronomy, medicine), and traditional knowledge are represented as well. As already mentioned, many collections also include private and public correspondence, records of commercial transactions, and other archival documents whose historical and anthropological significance, although still overshadowed by books and literary materials, is being increasingly recognized by scholars and owners alike.
Although most known libraries have been surveyed over the past ten years, only a few handlists, inventories, and catalogs exist to give an overview of their subject and percent composition. The first to receive inventorial attention was the one established by Shaykh Sidiyya "alKabir" in the 1810s and reviewed by Louis Massignon a century later. In his article for the Revue du Monde Musulman, Massignon divides the 1,195 works listed by his "field contact" in thirty subjects. These include: Koranic exegesis (tafsir), tradition (hadith), dogmatics (kalam), mysticism (tasawwuf), fundaments of the law (usul), philology (morphology, rhetorics, lexicography), poetry works (dawawin), prose works (adab), prosody (urudh), history (tarikh), travel narratives (akhbar), eschatology, medicine (tibb), courtesy books, physiology of the couple (nisa wa tazwidj), magic (khawass), oneirocriticism (interpretation of dreams), mathematics and astrology, and logic (mantiq) (Massignon, 1909, 410411). In percentage, they are: jurisprudence (30%), traditions of the Prophet (16%), mysticism (13%), theology (12%), Arabic language (10%), Koran (8%), and literature (7%); the remaining 4% being represented by invocation and rogations, history logic, ethics, biography, science (mathematics, astrology and astronomy), medicine, "hidden things," encyclopedias, pedagogy, and geography.
About eighty years later, after being dispersed and recomposed, the Shaykh Sidiyya library was surveyed and microfilmed by Charles C. Stewart of the University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign. The resulting catalog lists the following subject categories: Arabic (calligraphy, grammar, lexicography, morphology, philology, phonetics, rhetoric), biography, calendar, economy, ethics, hadith (and sunna), hidden meanings (charms, talismans), history, jurisprudence, libraries (book lending), literature, logic, medicine, mysticism, pedagogy, politics, Prophet Muhammad, Quran, science (arithmetic, astronomy, chemistry, classifications, gunpowder manufacture, human body), society, and theology (Stewart, 1994).
Another fundamental resource, Ulrich Rebstocks catalog of Arabic manuscripts in Mauritania (1989), contains a brief description of 2,239 works and a subject index listing 129 categories, each one followed by the number of relative titles and their percentage. The fifteen largest categories are the following: fiqh or jurisprudence (652 titles or 28.12%), tasawwuf or mysticism (195 or 8.77%), adab or prose (141 or 6.34%), tarikh or history (118 or 5.31%), the Koran (112 or 5.04%), tawhid or principles of oneness of God (109 or 4.90%), sira or biography (85 or 3.82%), nahw or grammar (81 or 3.64%), luga or language (76 or 3.42), munawwaat or miscellaneous (55 or 2.47%), tarajim or translations (51 or 2.29%), usul or principles (48 or 2.16%), kunnash (35 or 1.57%), mantik or logic (27 or 1.21%), and hadith or traditions (26 or 1.12%).
Not surprisingly, these subject lists and percentages of titles show a significant relationship between the nature and scope of the most comprehensive collections and the main areas of religious, linguistic, and scientific instruction which, until recently, formed the traditional curriculum of the Moorish tribes of monastic tradition in Mauritania:
"On commence à instruire lenfant dès lâge de cinq ans. Après lui avoir appris lalphabet, on lui enseigne le Qorân; puis lorthographie du Qorân, daprès des textes locaux ou étrangers; ensuite, la théologie, le droit et la mystique. Au sujet de ces trois sciences religieuses, on étudie dabord des résumés composés par des auteurs du pays et étrangers et, suivant le désir ou lintelligence de lélève, on passe à des textes plus vastes. On enseigne ensuite les autres matières : lhistoire du Prophète, la langue arabe à laide de poèmes choisis, la grammaire, la morphologie, lart métrique, la rhétorique, la logique, la médecine, larithmétique, etc. ... ; on étudie très peu lastronomie ou lastrologie. En chaque matière, lélève a à étudier des textes choisis composés par des étrangeres ou les savants du pays ; lélève ou le maître en fait la sélection. Il y a des régions où lon apprend, en général, toutes les matières, comme chez les habitants du Trarza et à Chinguetti, Walata, Tichit, Wadàn, Tidjikja, et dautres où lenseignement se borne au Qorân et au droit" (Ould Hamidoun, 1952, 4950). 
"Formal schooling starts at the age of five. After learning the alphabet, children begin to study the Koran and its orthography on local as well as foreign texts; then come theology, law, and mysticism. These three religious sciences are studied first using primers written by local and foreign authors; afterwards, if they are interested and mature enough, students can move to more advanced texts. Other typical subjects are the life of the Prophet, Arabic language, grammar, morphology, prosody, rhetoric, logic, medicine, arithmetic, etc. Astronomy and astrology are very little studied. The study of each subject is conducted on texts written by local or foreign scholars, the selection being made by either the student or the teacher. In some areas, such as the Trarza region and the towns of Chinguetti, Oualata, Tichit, Ouadane, Tidjikja, all subjects are taught, while in others instruction is limited to the Koran and law."
For the historian of western Sahara, who in general cannot rely on other documentary sources (such as the archaeological record, oral tradition, and European accounts), these manuscripts are particularly important as they represent the only written materials available for the precolonial period. Moreover, their quantity, location, nature and provenance, as well as their codicological characteristics and physical conditions, provide an almost unique opportunity for the book historian, the conservator, and the curator to develop a comprehensive, integrated, and farreaching conservation strategy. By taking advantage of what has been done in the field of manuscript cataloging and preservation, in the West as well as in Africa and the Middle East, such a strategy could successfully generate a knowledge base, if not a blueprint, for future initiatives concerned with similar materials in like environments. Until recently, in fact, most desert libraries have remained offlimits because of their geographical location and distribution, which complicated and frustrated all efforts to access, document, and protect them. Only in the last two decades have such efforts started to bear fruits. Their objects were to attract the amount and kind of scholarly attention they deserve, not only as historical and literary documents but also for the information they provide on a variety of topics, including book production and circulation in precolonial and colonial West Africa, forms of learning and transmission of knowledge, and the relationship between paper, books and other commodities in the transSaharan trade. Finally, these libraries represent Mauritanias most valuable cultural asset and, if properly preserved and protected, they can provide the key to the cultural and economic revival of many a dilapidated and destitute desert town.
Colonial Scholarship: Between Intellectual Pursuit and Intelligence Work
As a result of the transSaharan book trade, a remarkable amount of manuscript and printed books survived in private and institutional repositories across North and West Africa. While European interest for this materials dates from the early twentieth century, no serious attempts to identify, collect, organize, and preserve them were made until after the end of French colonial rule in the early 1960s, and particularly in the last ten to fifteen years. Initially, such efforts focused on the manuscriptrich areas on both shores of the great desert the intellectual centers and the oases of the Maghrib in the north and, at the other end, Senegambia, the Niger Bend (in and around Timbuktu), and the emirates of northern Nigeria while the immense ocean of sands in between was rarely tapped. This is one of the reasons why, as late as 1982, a western scholar could refer to the "tradition of study and writing in Mauritania during the past three centuries [as] one of the better kept secrets in the world of Islamic scholarship and in the history of Muslim intellectual life in North and West Africa" (Stewart, et al., 1992, 1).
The first Europeans to develop a serious interest in the Arabic manuscripts of Mauritania and western Sahara were, naturally enough, those who had more direct access to them, that is, French colonial administrators and the travelers who followed in their steps. The French military conquest of Mauritania la Pacification lasted from 1901 to 1934 and was far from pacific. A first attempt to win the Moors by diplomatic means (with the traditional offer of a choice between �cooperation with financial rewards or resistance with military consequences�) achieved only partial results, and only in the southern regions of Trarza, Brakna, Tagant, and Hodh. This and the assassination, in May 1905, of Xavier Coppolani, the French Commissioner who had been the architect and main proponent of a "peaceful penetration," prompted the French administration to revise their strategy, and a series of military operations were launched to subjugate the northern half of the country. The campaign quickly escalated into a war that lasted five long cruel years, and ended only with the military conquest of the Adrar in the summer of 1909. The following, final phase was largely aimed at policing the conquered regions and lasted until 1934, when the French occupied the oases on the Moroccan and Algerian borders, put down the last major organized raid, and divided the entire northwestern Sahara in the three administrative districts of Takna, Rigaibat, and Moor (Gerteiny, 1967, 10215).
One of the first political and religious leaders to accept the protection of the French was Sidiyya Baba (1860-1924), shaykh of the Qadiriyya Sufi order in the Trarza region and grandson of the scholar Shaykh Sidiyya alKabir (17751868), who established one of the most important family libraries in West Africa. It was largely thanks to Sidiyya Babas realpolitik, and his personal relationship with Coppolani, that this famous collection was shown for the first time to Europeans and subsequently described in a scholarly journal doutremer. While Colonel Gouraud was leading his colonne de lAdrar to the conquest of Atar and Chinguetti, farther south, in the pacified Trarza region, another French officer managed to make significant progress of a different, more peaceful kind:
"M. le commandant Gaden dont nous disions dernièrement à nos lecteurs lutile et féconde activité scientifique, a bien voulu sur notre demande prier Cheïkh Sidia de faire établir pour nous le catalogue de sa bibliothèque" (Massignon, 1909).
"Mr. Gaden, whose valuable and productive scientific activities have already been described in these pages, has kindly asked Shaykh Sidiyya to compile an inventory of his library for us."
Thus Louis Massignon (18831962), one of the most eminent orientalists of his time, begins his review of the Shaykh Sidiyya library in Boutilimit, whose appearance in the Parisian Revue du Monde Musulman of July 1909 represents the first published attempt, by a European scholar, to describe and assess the holdings of a traditional Saharan library. After dividing the 1,195 items in thirty subjects, Massignon points out the surprising prevalence of printed over manuscript texts (683 and 512, respectively); the strictly orthodox nature of the collection, dominated by theological, juridical, and doctrinal works; and the rigidly administrative and legislative bent of the first owner of this "bibliothèque maghrébine de type très accusé." With the exception of a few works from Morocco, the books are mostly inexpensive editions published in Cairo and represent a remarkably accurate and judicious choice of the basic texts of Islamic theology and law. Among the manuscripts, Massignon describes a series of twentyfour works by two members of the Kunta (a scholarly lineage who played a major role in the islamization of West Africa), followed by a list of the most important titles within each of the main subject areas.
Massignons field contact was Henri Gaden (18671939), a military officer who took advantage of the opportunities offered him by various appointments in the colonial administration including those of commissioner (191620) and lieutenant governor (192026) of Mauritania to develop serious ethnological interests which eventually made him a specialist of the Fulani language (Métayer, 2003; Ricard, 2001). His "utile et féconde activité scientifique" is an example of the scholarly pursuits which, nurtured by years of experience in the field and a genuine passion for the local cultures, enhanced the career of many a colonial administrator and brought some of them, like the historianethnographer Maurice Delafosse (18701926) and the linguist Edmond Destaing (18721940), to the forefront of their respective disciplines. Other French military officers or colonial administrators who, in one way or another, were instrumental in drawing scholarly attention to the traditional libraries of Mauritania are Colonel (later General) Louis Archinard (18501932), whose substantial manuscript collection is now at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France; Paul Marty (18821938), who published a number of important works on Islam in Mauritania, including one describing 162 manuscripts from the library of Shaykh Sidi Muhammad b. Shaykh Ahmadu b. Sulayman in Mederdra ; and, one Colonel Modat, who described various aspects of Adrar life and culture including the contents of an important library in Chinguetti in a series of articles published between 1919 and 1922 in the newlystarted Bulletin du Comité dÉtudes Historiques et Scientifiques de lAfrique Occidentale Française.
One could argue that such scholarly interests on the part of many colonial administrators, no matter how genuinely pursued and scientifically motivated, in reality served more practical purposes, broadly defined by the constant need to access political and military information and to avoid diplomatic faux pas, misunderstandings, and deceptions . The problem and a possible solution are articulated by Ismaël Hamet, a military officer and interpreter turned editor who, in 1911, published six manuscripts describing events that occurred in Mauritania between the end of the sixteenth century A.D. and the second half of the seventeenth century A.D. The manuscripts had been collected by Captain JeanBaptiste Théveniaut (18701956) who, as administrator of the Trarza district in 190708, had established "des relation cordiales dans le monde des lettres musulmanes" in order to better pursue a genuine interest in the history, social organization, and religious practices of the local tribes. In his preface Hamet (1911, 12), commenting on the pitfalls of access to indigenous information, suggests the creation, throughout French Africa, of a network of military interpreters responsible for the collection, the study, and the translation of historical manuscripts and other records of local traditions .
Barefoot Bretons and Bored Britons
The "pacification" of Mauritania, and the subsequent consolidation of French rule over its vast territory, made it a safer destination for new kinds of travelers and scholars. These were neither members of the armed forces nor civil servants, although they benefited from the presence of both, and until after the independence continued to be almost exclusively French.
Among the first to visit the Adrar region and its manuscript libraries were the biologist Théodore Monod, whose lifelong love affair with the Sahara is documented in such works as Méharées (1937) and Lémeraulde des Garamantes (1984), and two rather unconventional mademoiselles, Odette Du Puigaudeau and Marion Sénones, who between 1933 and 1960 made five long trips to western Sahara, each time living for extended periods of time with their Moorish friends. The multiple interests and talents of these two women, combining scientific curiosity and artistic sensibility, allowed them to appreciate and describe their hosts culture and lifestyle in a number of original travel books (written by Du Puigaudeau and illustrated by Sénones), which remain required reading for anybody interested in the region and its inhabitants.
In the Spring of 1934, on their way to Adrar and Chinguetti, Du Puigaudeau and Sénones stopped in Boutilimit, capital of the southwestern Trarza district. Here Abdallahi Ould Shaykh Sidiyya, son of Sidiyya Baba, showed them the family library established by his great grandfather at the close of the eighteenth century, and subsequently described by Massignon and cataloged by Stewart:
"One of Abdallahis suite took a heavy key which was hanging round his neck, went up the three crumbling steps and unlocked the door. Shutters were thrown open, and the evening sun lit up two bare and rather dilapidated rooms. In them were the wooden chests covered with leather, studded with heavy nails and bound with iron bands, which contained all the wisdom of Islam.
Hundred of rare books were there in sumptuous bindings: Moorish Korans and also Moroccan, Tunisian and Egyptian, and many books of philosophy, poetry, and law. Four generations of the family had laboriously collected them. There was a most precious Koran of the thirteenth century of which Abdallahi was particularly proud. It had been brought from Egypt by some of the disciples which his greatgrandfather was constantly sending over all the Musulman world.
Abdallahis disciples took the books out of the chests and pointed out to us the ornamental capitals and mystic illuminations. Their faces glowed with pride: all these books belonged to their beloved master, and it was for them as well as for him that they had left their families and their countries" (Du Puigaudeau, 1937, 9596).
Du Puigaudeaus appreciation of the books and their custodians reverential attitude towards them is clearly tainted by their poor storage conditions a sweet and sour reaction typical of most Europeans who came after her. This is even more evident in Du Puigaudeaus unedited notebook entry for May 8, 1951, where a later visit to the same library, now housed in an "ugly grey hut" built by the French administration, is preceded by a poetic description of a tikit, the traditional iglooshaped hut which serves as home and classroom of a local teacher:
"La hutte est tout en makerba entournée dun large quadrillage de cordes de sbot. Elle est posée sur son socle de sable durci et le vent la entournée dun haut croissant de sable rose" (Du Puigaudeau and S�nones, 2000, 89).
"The hut is made of markeba [a tall perennial grass, Panicum turgidum] surrounded by a large grid of ropes of sbot [another perennial grass, Stipagrostis pungens]. It sits on a base of hardened sand, surrounded by a crescent of pink sand created by the wind."
In this living and learning space, where books are exposed rather than reposited as they still play an active role in the educational process,
"Une dizaine de telamid accroupis sur une natte apprennent la grammaire, lisant ou écrivant sur les louhas.
Des coffres plein de livres, des piles de livres sont rangés autour de la grand pièce ronde. Les parois de paille sont soutenues par une armature de branches entrecroisées, fixées à leur croisement par des cordes. Cette demeure a la beauté et la douceur dun nid" (8990).
"A dozen pupils squatting on a mat are learning grammar, reading or writing on their louhas [writing tablets].
Around the large, circular room are chests full of books and piles of books. The straw walls are supported by a structure of branches intertwined and tied by ropes. This home has all the beauty and the softness of a nest."
In contrast, the Frenchbuilt library is essentially a repository where the more precious volumes, sanctified as relics of a glorious past, are protectively although precariously stored away:
"Trois pièces exiguës, assez misérables, dont une est fermée. Un talmidi ouvre les coffres de fer, nous montre de beaux livres anciens quil sort de leurs étuis de peau beige, mate comme du daim, ornés dappliques ouvragées.
Je revois le beau Coran ancien quAbdellahi nous avait montré autrefois. Pour le manier, les gestes de Bou Mediana deviennent des caresses et, layant refermé, il le pose contre sa poitrine, puis sur sa tête avant de le glisser dans sa gaine de peau" (90).
"Three cramped rooms, quite dingy, of which one is closed. A talmidi [pupil] opens the iron chests to show us some beautiful old books, which he takes out of their leather sleeves of a dull beige, like chamoix, and decorated.
I see again the beautiful old Koran which Abdellahi had shown us years ago. Bou Mediana handles the book as he were caressing it, and, after closing it, he holds it against his chest, then on his head before slipping it back into its leather case."
The other important family library visited by the two Frenchwomen in 1937, on their second Saharan journey, is the one originally established one hundred and fifty years before by the Chinguetti scholar Sidi Muhammad Ould Habott, whose holdings are still valued today as the crown jewels of intellectual Mauritania:
"Treize cents ouvrages gainés de cuir colorié, frappé dor, rapportés dAfrique du Nord, dÉgypte, de Syrie, de Tombouctou, par des pèlerins et des messagers. En 1937, son gardien Mohammed Abdullah ould Ghulam avait en mon honneur sorti de leurs coffres tout le vieux Corans enluminés, tout ces livres de science et de poésie. Leur dernier propriétaire les avait légués en bien habous à la communauté de Chinguetti" (127).
"Three hundred works bound in coloured leather and stamped in gold, brought back from North Africa, Egypt, Syria, and Timbuktu by pilgrims and travelers. In 1937 its guardian, Mohammed Abdullah ould Ghulam, took all the illuminated Korans, and all the science and poetry books out of their cases for me to admire. Their last owner had bequeathed them to the community of Chinguetti."
It is interesting to compare Du Puigaudeaus notes and comments with those of the English traveler Bruce Chatwin, who saw the Habott library in 1970 and left a memorably dismissive description of the entire experience:
"Passed to the open market to find a small black boy presiding over the dismembered remains of a camel surely to be my bifteck tonight. Followed the small boy to the library but the guardian was asleep. I will not wait till he is awake before leaving his courtyard house owned by a perfectly horrible woman who demanded presents and her equally unpleasant nephew who threatened to steal my camera unless I coughed up. Walleyed dragon with indigodyed face and hennaed nails.
The key to the famous Arabic library was found after promises of money by me preceded by affirmations that the proprietor was away in the bush. A pile of old Korans rapidly being reduced to fragments by dust and worm mouldered in a corner. Fine way to treat books. I could see no trace of the socalled YellowEyed Koran probably from the golden lozenge that decorated its cover" (Chatwin, 1993, 49).
Interestingly, while Du Puigaudeau uses the juxtaposition of tikit and library to stress a contrast between the two places (one beautiful and soft as a bird nest, the other hard and dingy as a concrete prison), Chatwins idiosyncratic path from the market to the library invites a comparison between the dismembered remains of the camel and the pile of old Korans rapidly being reduced to fragments. And whereas Du Puigaudeaus guardian is portrayed as a sacristan, entirely devoted to his precious books, Chatwins "perfectly horrible woman and her equally unpleasant nephew" have the parasitic and predatory attitude of impoverished tribesmen used to feeding on the occasional tourist. While the conditions of the books and the people in charge of them may indeed have deteriorated in the three decades separating the Bretons visit from the Britons, it is obvious that the comments of the latter have more to do with his unsympathetic attitude toward the place and its inhabitants, than with any particular preservation problems, no matter how serious they were.
 A significant effort to fill this gap is represented by the Saharan Studies Association (www.ssa.sri.org), founded in 1992 by "a body of scholars with common interests associated with the African Studies Association in the United States."
 "A good calligrapher ... could receive up to twelve camels for each copied manuscript. Consequently a library gave cultural and economic prestige to the family who owned it" (Alunno in Frederici, 2002, 12).
 The practice of acquiring manuscripts by sending buyers and copyists to faraway places continued well in the twentieth century. In 1945 the private collection of the Moroccan Ahmed Boularaf, who for half a century (190755) was Timbuktus main bookseller, numbered 6,039 books and 2,075 manuscripts, the latter mostly collected in the way described above (Akmir, 2002, 183).
 The itinerary OuadaneChinguettiRachidTidjikja would take 1013 days, and the next leg, TidjikjaTichittOualata, another two weeks (Ould Khalifa, 1998, 32930; Fall, et al., 2000).
 Among the oldest are the Ahl Fadil and the Maktabat alAwqaf in Tichitt, both established in the seventeenth century A.D., the Ould Habott (est. 1782) and Ould Hamuni (ca. 1820) in Chinguetti, the Shaykh Sidiyya in Boutilimit (ca. 1826), and the Ahl alAqil in Mederdra (1829) (SimonKhedis, 1994).
In Chinguetti, the Ahl Muhammad Salih wuld alHanshi collection (est. 1863) contains manuscripts dating back to the fourteenth century A.D., while the library of the scholar Muhammad wuld Habat (17481868) includes, among other old and rare works on astrology, mathematics and traditional medicine, a ninth century theological work by Abu Hilal alAskari, which is the oldest Arabic manuscript known to exist in Mauritania.
In Tichitt the oldest manuscripts are in the alreadymentioned Ahl Fadil and Maktabat alAwqaf collections (SimonKhedis, 1994, 30405).
 "The world of Islam revered knowledge, and stressed the virtues of pilgrimage. Knowledge acquired abroad was preferred to the home product, and the aspiring scholar would migrate from one famous law school to another, keeping open regular links between Fez, Meknes, Tlemcen, Tunis, Kayrawan, Cairo and places further to the east" (Oliver and Atmore, 2001, 33). Similarly, says the great historian and philosopher Ibn Khaldun, "merchandise becomes more valuable when merchants transport it from one country to another" (Khaldun in Oliver and Atmore, ibid.). Books and manuscripts, being embodied knowledge and merchandise at the same time, provide excellent examples of these two statements.
 René Caillié, for instance, mentions several occasions in which single sheets of paper were used as a form of payment and much appreciated by the natives. See R. Caillié, Travels through Central Africa to Timbuctoo and Across the Great Desert, to Morocco, Performed in the Years 18241828, vol. 1 (London: Colburn and Bentley, 1830; reprint, London: Frank Cass, 1968), 306, 310, 325, 446 (page citations are to the reprint edition).
 One of the most informative and influential sources on this topic is the North African Ibn Badis (100761), whose treatise on the technology of bookmaking provides not less than sixty recipes to make black ink, including solid inks for travelers and traveling scribes. Martin Leveys edition (1962) includes also a translation of AbulAbbas al Sufyanis "Art of Bookbinding and of Gilding," written in 1619. On the manufacture of black ink in the Islamic world during the middle ages, see also Zerdoun BatYehouda (1983, 123141; 237243).
 For a discussion of traditonal education visàvis contemporary educational approaches and programs in Mauritania, see Ould Ahmedou (2000).
 Marty held various appointments in the colonial administration, including that of Chief du Service des Affaires Musulmanes.
 On the relationship between knowledge and power in French colonial Africa, see Emmanuelle Sibeud, Une science impériale pour lAfrique? La construction des savoirs africanistes en France, 18781930 (Paris: Éditions de lÉcole des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, 2002), and Agbenyega Adedze, "In Pursuit of Knowledge and Power: French Scientific Research in West Africa, 193865," in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 23, nos. 12 (2003): 335344, http://www.cssaame.ilstu.edu/issues/23/36.pdf (accessed 28 September 2005).
 A quarter of a century after his death, Captain Théveniaut became, under the fictional name of Baculard dArnaud, the infamous protagonist of Louis Gardels novel Fort Saganne (1980), which was later (1984) turned into a film directed by Alain Corneau and with Gerard Depardieu in the role of the protagonist. Although the events described in the novel took place in Algeria, the movie was filmed in Chinguetti, where a couple of years later the English traveler Michael Asher recorded the aftermath of this memorable experience in Two Against the Sahara: On Camelback from Nouakchott to the Nile (New York: William Morrow, 1988).
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About the Author
Graziano Krätli is International Program Support Librarian at Yale University.
Email: graziano [dot] kratli [at] yale [dot] edu
© 2005 Graziano Krätli
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