Page 201. " even the Frenchmen who accompanied the peloton into the wilderness there managed to see djnoun "

In the French army, a peloton is a unit of cavalry corresponding to the platoon, equivalent in size to an infantry section, and commanded by a lieutenant or sergeant.

Public DomainDjnoun
Djnoun is the plura of djinn. According to Islamic belief, the Koran teaches that Allah has populated the universe with 4 types of beings: humans, angels, Iblis (Satan) and demons or djnoun. Possessing free will, a djinn can either be good or evil. Although only humans are visible, the other beings, including djnoun are not merely imaginary or symbolic: they coexist with humans, guiding and interfering with their efforts to follow the path of Islam. In fact, the djnoun are believed to have similar needs to humans. They eat, drink, procreate and die; they form families, communities and societies. However, their activities are nocturnal, ending at dawn with the muezzin's call to prayer. There is an extensive body of folklore in Morocco and Algeria relating to the djnoun.


Page 205. " Tadjmout with its terraced pink and blue houses "

Public DomainTadjmout
Tadjmout is a settlement in the Sahara Desert of southern central Algeria. It is situated in Laghouat province. Laghouat means "oases".


Page 209. " We're motoring out to some very old Garamantic ruins tomorrow. "
Creative Commons AttributionTouareg - Credit: Martijn Munneke

The modern Touareg are descended from the Garamantes. They were a Saharan people of Berber-Negroid origin who used an elaborate underground irrigation system, and founded a kingdom in the Sahara desert in an area that is now in Libya. They were a local power in the Sahara between 500 BC and 500 AD. There is not much information about them, including what they called themselves. Garamantes is what the Greeks and Romans called them. Current research indicates that the Garamantes had about eight major towns, three of which have been examined.

The ruins include numerous tombs, forts, and cemeteries. The Garamantes constructed a network of underground tunnels and shafts to mine the fossil water from under the limestone layer under the desert sand. It was built around 200 BC to 200 AD. The network of tunnels is known to Berbers as Foggaras. The network allowed agriculture to flourish, but it required the use of slaves to maintain.


Garamantic Ruins
Creative Commons AttributionGaramantic Ruins - Credit: Katy Tzaralunga
Page 211. " a study in sepia of a Peulh water-carrier with the famous Red Mosque of Djenne in the background "
Mosque of Djenne
Public DomainMosque of Djenne

The Peulh are pastoralists originating in the arid north of Senegal. Most Peulh are Muslim.

The Great Mosque of Djenné in Mali is the largest mud brick building in the world and is considered by many architects to be the greatest achievement of the Sudano-Sahelian architectural style, albeit with definite Islamic influences. The mosque is located in the city of Djenné on the flood plain of the Bani River. The first mosque on the site was built around the 13th century, but the current structure dates from 1907. Along with the "Old Towns of Djenné" the Mosque was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988.

Page 214. " From a certain point onward there is no longer any turning back. That is the point that must be reached. "

Bowles referred to this quote from Franz Kafka in Christopher Sawyer's 1989 biography, An Invisible Spectator, when describing the process of writing The Sheltering Sky:

I would write it consciously up to a certain point, and after that let it take its own course. You remember there's a little Kafka quote at the beginning of the third section: "From a certain point onward, there is no turning back; that is the point that must be reached." This seemed important to me.

It is indeed in Book Three that one has the sense of Bowles loosening his reins on the story and letting it take its own course. It feels almost as if the author is being led hither and thither across the dunes by Kit as she loses her grip on rationality and submits to whatever her primitive self allows.

It is at the end of Book Two that Bowles reaches the point of "no turning back". For with Port's death, the event with which the novel might have ended, Bowles realised he hadn't finished: 'The death of the main character," he says in An Invisible Spectator, does not make the book satisfactory. The book has to go on.' For Kit, this point had certainly been reached: there was no turning back.

Page 216. " two riders mounted on their high mehara "

Public DomainMeharas - Credit: Auguste Maure

The Mehara is the largest camel breed of West Africa. Lean and swift, they are favoured by people living in the Sahara.