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The Countries of North Africa 427

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THE COUNTRIES OF NORTH AFRICA 427. The southern shores of the Strait of Gibraltar.—Like southern Spain and southern Italy, North Africa, north of the Atlas Mountains, has enough rain in winter for the farmers to grow wheat and barley in some sections. In other places, there are large olive orchards, from which olive oil is made, as in Spain. Many of the people in this country are Arabs, but many French, Italian, and Spanish people also live there. This land is in the temperate zone.

South of the Atlas Mountains is the desert's edge—the country of Hakim and the nomads, a land of little rain, little grass, and wandering tribes of people. It reaches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Nile River, on to the Red Sea, and even on beyond the Red Sea to Arabia in Asia.

Look at the map (Fig. 404) and see what countries own colonies in North Africa. Parts of Morocco are still independent, but France and Spain are both taking some parts of this country that they may rule it.

428. The desert.—South of Hakim's country is the Sahara, the largest of deserts. Hakim wants to cross the great desert when he grows up. You would not want to do that, for it would not be a pleasant nor a safe journey for you. People who cross this desert must travel for hours over bare, dry clay, baked almost as hard as a floor. At other times, they must pass for miles and miles over bare rock, so hot under the blazing sun that it would cook an egg almost as quickly as a hot frying pan does. The hot winds blow away every grain of sand or dust that comes loose from the stones. Most of the way across the desert there is sand, sometimes piled high by the desert wind, or stretching away in little wavy piles like the ocean, as far as eye can see. Hakim is used to this kind of country and climate, but you would not think it a pleasant place.

429. Crossing the could not cross this desert without the help of camels, which are often called ships of the desert. These ani mals have lived in dry countries so long that they are able to carry men and goods across the desert for several days without eating or drinking. Then, too, they can make a good meal of the twigs of the des ert thorn bushes. It is wonderful that there is an animal that can get on so well in such a hard situation.

Sometimes there are terrible sand storms in the desert. Clouds of dust and sand as large as thunder clouds sweep down upon the travelers. The men tell the obedient camels to lie down, and sometimes the poor beasts even stick their heads into the sand.

The men lie beside the camels and cover their heads with cloths to keep out some of the stifling sand and choking dust.

Here both men and animals must swelter, sometimes for hours, or even for a whole day, before the hot rain of burning, yellow dust stops. Sometimes it kills people.

Sometimes the dust covers up the trail and the travelers lose the way to the springs or wells that mark the road across the desert. If one is lost in the desert, he dies of thirst. ' Thus the man who crosses the desert must know the road well.

Fierce robbers sometimes attack trav elers in the desert, for there can be no policemen in such a place. For protection, travelers go in large numbers, often fifty or even several hun dred together. Such a body of people is called a caravan. These caravans take cloth, metal wares, and beads into Africa, and bring back to the Mediterranean ports ivory, ostrich feath ers, skins, and fine leather. These they get from the tribes south of the desert.

430. The oasis.— The best parts of the desert are the oases. An oasis is a place where there is water. It is a welcome sight for the thirsty men of the caravan to see, across the glaring sand, the dark green tops of palm trees growing where a spring brings water to the surface of the desert.

Whenever the nomads find a spring of water, they plant date trees, and some of them settle down, build villages, and live in one place as we do. Their one-story houses, made of sun-dried brick, have fiat roofs, and are always built out in the desert, so that they will not occupy any of the land that becomes so precious when irrigated. (Fig. 412.) These Arabs of the oases live largely on dates and the other things that will grow beneath the date trees—apricots, olives, beans and other vegetables. There are also little patches of alfalfa, which the Arabs cut and carry to the milch goats. Sometimes these goats pasture on the bushes of the surrounding desert, along with the flocks of the nomad Arabs, who do not own any of the precious date gar dens, and who, you remember, live almost entirely on meat and milk. The nomads often come into the oasis towns and trade goats, sheep, camels, wool, or skins for dates, vegetables, and hay. In the cool of the morning, the market beside an oasis village is a lively and interesting place. At noon in the heat of the day everyone is taking a nap. In the cool of the evening, they are all busy again, chat ting, walking to and fro, and carrying jars of water, listening to story tellers and the playing of music.

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