This map plots the settings and references in The Sheltering Sky

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Boussif, Ain Krorfa, Messaad, Bou Noura, El Ga'a and Sbaa - cities of the Sahara
Public DomainSahara

"It's funny. The desert's a big place but nothing ever really gets lost there."

From Tangier/Oran, Kit, Port and Tunner burrow south, pushing deeper and deeper into the Sahara Desert. The remote towns, isolated military outposts and oases are real places. Most of them were in French-occupied Algeria, rather than in Morocco. However, Bowles was not concerned with setting the novel in a particular country (neither of which existed then as they do today) but rather in the amorphous North African desert.

The sprawling and busy Boussif is the last "civilized" stop before they plunge into the desert proper, embarking on a harrowing and hallucinatory journey via the fly-infested Ain Krorfa, Messaad, Bou Noura, El Ga'a and Sbaa, Godforsaken places where the sand devours them grain by grain.




Bou Noura
Public DomainBou Noura

The desolate, devouring and savage nature of the desert, as portrayed in The Sheltering Sky, is nowhere better evoked than in the "caravan scene" of Bertolucci's film.