This is a beautiful narrative by a young anthropologist on the first automobile expedition across the Sahara in 1925. The small caravan traveled in specially built Renault cars, making their way from Algeria south to the mountains of the Hoggar.
Now we began to learn the true meaning of the word “desert.” Our trail led for hours through the most hideous waste imaginable. We could compare it only to gigantic dumps and ash heaps, mountain piles of slag from the fires of Hell.
The expedition was organized by two men: Count Byron de Prorok, an American who claimed a Polish title and was looking for sensationalist material for his next lecture series, and M. Maurice Reygasse, an amateur archeologist and minor government official from North Africa. It was not a match made in Heaven. Pond, a graduate student from the University of Chicago, was the only member of the expedition with any formal training in the sciences.
When they reached the Hoggar Mountains, they stayed with the Tuareg people, a mysterious, matriarchal society where the men wear the veils. Pond gets invited to a night-time Ahal or courting party; he learns their songs and poetry, and discovers that the Tuareg are unrelated to the other peoples of the desert:
The Tuaregs belong to the Mediterranean group of the white race. Despite their veils and full robes their arms and faces do acquire a certain amount of tan. To get their true skin color I held my color chart next to the skin under the left arm. All six men showed the same shade of white as the average southern Italians.
Count Byron de Prorok also wrote about this trip (see Digging for Lost African Gods and In Quest of Lost Worlds) but the Count had a reputation to protect, and Pond’s account is less like a dramatic public lecture and more like a conversation with a poetic friend just back from a most wonderful adventure.