The Last Caravan

lastcaravan
The Last Caravan (1981)

A first-rate account, combining journalism and anthropology.
New York Times Book Review

Synopsis

The Tuareg, the famed blue-veiled men of the Beau Geste legend, were a proud people who regarded themselves as a rich and noble tribe.

But when the life-giving rains failed to fall for five consecutive years, Tuareg society faced imminent destruction.

With ninety percent of their animals dead, they were forced to leave the familiar pastures that had become deserts, and gather in and on the outskirts of the cities to the south. Thurston Clarke spent many months with the Tuareg, listening to their anguished stories and proud memories of an honorable past. In The Last Caravan the Tuareg come vividly to life as they tell of their dreams, the mythology that guides them, and better days.

More reviews of The Last Caravan

…heartbreaking…an important book.
—Publishers Weekly

An impressive book
—Houston Chronicle

Thurston Clarke has told a powerful story—of the drama and tragedy of the great African drought—a disaster made as much by man as nature…It is a moving and vivid work.
—Daniel Yergin

This excellent book carries us off to an urgent, sometimes catastrophic stretch of that vast continent that remains ‘dark’ to us mostly because of our own self-absorption, our incurious ignorance. It is reasoned and vivid.
—Edward Hoagland

Excerpt

Hassan: When I was a schoolboy in Gao I spent afternoons standing in front of the Hotel Atlantide. When the European tourists left the hotel, I followed them, trying to imitate the way they walked. I thought that if I walked as they did and wore their kind of clothing I would learn the secrets of their magic. Later I came to Niamey, worked for Europeans, and wore their clothes, but I never learned their secrets.

A new people who walked with a new cadence joined Niamey’s evening ritual. Hungry, bewildered, and exhausted, as many as two hundred Tuareg refugees arrived daily. The men were more assured and walked with long busy strides, their hands clasped behind their backs or holding the hand of another man, tightly when they first arrived and then more loosely until connected by a single finger. In the markets they stood an inch or two taller than the black Africans. The women were tentative, terrified. At the sound of a horn or a noisy engine, they darted like rabbits away from the road, into a ditch, behind buildings. Or, unpredictably, they ran straight ahead until they found a side street down which to escape.

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