In 1999 Jeremy Keenan flew to Algeria, a country that had been virtually closed to the outside world throughout the 1990s by a bloody civil war. He was in search of the Tuareg, the fearsome veiled nomadic warlords of the Central Sahara with whom he had lived as a young anthropologist during the 1960s. Few knew more about them than Kennan, but even then their way of life was under threat and after he left in 1971 he could never bear to return, afraid of what he would find. Now, thirty years later, and against all advice, he was going back.
Landing in Tamanrasset, which he remembered as a small French colonial town, Keenan found a sprawling concrete jungle and despaired of ever making contact with his Tuareg friends, until a chance meeting set him on his way. Travelling with them into their traditional fortress, the vast mountainous area of Ahaggar, in the tracks of bandits and sleeping beside caves decorated with prehistoric cave paintings, Keenan discovered that the Tuareg who, after the horrors of Algeria's war of independence had learned to survive as tourist guides, were now being starved out of their means of livelihood by the violence in the north. Yet still, despite these shifting sands, much that he recognized remained.
His vivid and fascinating book takes us into the heart of the Sahara - into the lives and minds of the Tuareg, into his own past and into the fearful history and the present-day experience of Algeria itself.