A glittering geographic tour of the remarkable history, peoples, climate, creatures, sights and sounds of the largest and most austere desert on earth. Ten thousand years ago, the Sahara was a temperate grassland – petrified trees mark where forests used to stand, and former riverbeds are rich in the petrified bones of hippos, elephants, zebras and gazelles. Then a slight shift in the earth’s axis transformed it into the greatest desert in the world with astonishing speed.
Massive sand dunes are continuously formed and dissolved by fierce winds, making the ever-shifting topography of the desert more uncertain and hazardous to navigate. The inhabitants of this desolate terrain barely eke out a living. Throughout the millennia, diverse populations have struggled to make this severe landscape home.
Marq de Villiers and Sheila Hirtle chronicle the desert’s nations and peoples and legacies they have left to the sand: stone circles older than Stonehenge; Roman aqueducts; remnants of Greek fields and vineyards, and the ruins of palaces and temples along the Royal Road, a once busy trading route for gold and salt, resources that fuelled the economies of the great empires of Old Africa before centuries of conquests, religious wars and tribal turf battles destroyed them. Illuminated by written testimonies of past travellers, `Sahara’ conveys the majesty, mystery and abundance of the desert’s life in an evocative biography of the land and its people.