Page 107. " There was music in the next room: the sharp reedy rhaita and the dry drums beneath. "

Public DomainRhaita
The rhaita is a double reeded instrument from North Africa similar to an oboe.

It is made from cedar wood by traditional craftsmen. It is one of the main instruments used by the Master Musicians of Joujouka, a famous traditional music ensemble from Morcco.

Page 115. " 'Good-bye,' says the dying man to the mirror they hold in front of him. We won't be seeing each other anymore.' "

This is a quote from Paul Valéry's L'idee fixe, 34. Valéry was a French poet, essayist and philosopher (1871-1945).

The title of Book Two, The Earth's Sharp Edge, is taken from a line at the close of Chapter 20 when Port and Kit are in a bus heading for El Ga'a. Port is now showing signs of being seriously ill and is not responding to her entreaties:

She looked out at the windswept emptiness. The new moon had slipped behind the earth's sharp edge.

Page 117. " he had grown tired of his half-dozen or so Ouled Nail mistresses "

Women of Ouled Nail were Berber belly dancing girls said to have originated in the "Montes des Ouled" who served in towns across the Sahara. Little girls were trained from an early age in the art of dancing, leaving their desert villages as young as nine to go into the cafes and practice their trade. They wore exotic costumes decorated with jewells and used heavy make up, tattooing their faces and darkening their eyes with kohl. They went unveiled, even when almost all women in North Africa were covered and wore huge bracelets with studs and spikes an inch or two long designed to protect them.


Page 118. " from the big gate of Igherm he could see the valley below where a soldier from the Poste waited in a truck to pick him up and carry him to Beni Isguen, which was too far to walk. "

The Beni Isguen to which Lieutenant d'Armagnac expects to travel is a medieval fortified oasis city in the heart of the Algerian Sahara, in a province known as Ghardaia. Today, visitors cannot enter the Mzabite city without an authorised guide. There is a strict dress code and photographs are forbidden there. There is no accommodation for visitors who must leave by nightfall. Igherm is the name of a village in the western Anti-Atlas Mountains in Morocco - too far to be the town in Algeria mentioned here. However, igherm is also the word of fortified granary and may have been used by Bowles as a probable name for a fictitious Saharan town in Algeria.

Beni Isguen
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeBeni Isguen - Credit: Holger Reineccius