I have been listening to the song “Tea in the Sahara”by Sting
“Tea in the Sahara” from the book “The Sheltering Sky” by Paul Bowles
Tea in the Sahara
There are three girls from the mountains, from a place near Marhnia’s bled, and they are called Outka, Mimouna and Acha.” They go to seek their fortune in the M’Zab.
Most girls from the mountains go to Alger, Tunis, here, to earn money, but these girls want one thing more than anything else. They want to drink tea in the Sahara.
In the M’Zab the men are all ugly. The girls dance in the cafes of Ghardaia, but they are always sad; they still want to have tea in the Sahara.” So, many months pass,and they are still in the M’Zab, and they are very, very sad, because the men are so ugly. They are very ugly there, like pigs. And they don’t pay enough money to the poor girls so they can go and have tea in the Sahara.
One day a Targui comes, he is tall and handsome, on a beautiful mehari; he talks to Outka, Mimouna and Acha, he tells them about the desert, down there where he lives, his bled, and they listen, and their eyes are big. Then he says: ‘Dance for me,’ and they dance. Then he makes love with all three, he gives a silver piece to Outka, a silver piece to Mimouna, and a silver piece to Acha.
At daybreak he gets on his mehari and goes away to the south. After that they are very sad, and the M’Zabi look uglier than ever to them, and they only are thinking of the tall Targui who lives in the Sahara.”
“Many months go by, and still they can’t earn enough money to go to the Sahara. They have kept the silver pieces, because all three are in love with the Targui.
And they are always sad. One day they say: ‘We are going to finish like this — always sad, without ever having tea in the Sahara — so now we must go anyway, even without money.’
And they put all their money together, even the three silver pieces, and they buy a teapot and a tray and three glasses, and they buy bus tickets to El Gola.
And there they have only a little money left, and they give it all to a bachhamar who is taking his caravan south to the Sahara. So he lets them ride with his caravan.
And one night, when the sun is going to go down, they come to the great dunes of sand, and they think: ‘Ah, now we are in the Sahara; we are going to make tea.
The moon comes up, all the men are asleep except the guard. He is sitting with the camels playing his flute.Outka, Mimouna and Acha go away from the caravan quietly with their tray and their teapot and their glasses.
They are going to look for the tallest dune so they can see all the Sahara. Then they are going to make tea. They walk along time. Outka says: ‘I see a high dune,’ and they go to it and climb up to the top.
Then Mimouna says: ‘I see a dune over there. It’s much higher and we can see all the way to In Salah from it.’ So they go to it, and it is much higher.
But when they get to the top, Acha says: ‘Look! There’s the highest dune of all. We can see to Tamanrasset. That’s where the Targui lives.’
The sun came up and they kept walking. At noon they were very hot. But they came to the dune and they climbed and climbed.
When they got to the top they were very tired and they said: ‘We’ll rest a little and then make tea.’
But first they set out the tray and the teapot and the glasses.
Then they lay down and slept.
And then” “Many days later another caravan was passing and a man saw something on top of the highest dune there. And when they went up to see, they found Outka, Mimouna and Acha; they were still there, lying the same way as when they had gone to sleep.
And all three of the glasses,” he held up his own little tea glass, “were full of sand.
That was how they had their tea in the Sahara.”