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BEAUTY, MYSTERY, AND STARVATION IN THE SAHARA

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Up until recently, if you heard of the African country of Niger, you’d think of Yellowcake Joe Wilson and his CIA bimbo wife Valerie Plame with their phony scandal trying to get Karl Rove.

By now, however, you may have heard that Niger faces famine after a prolonged drought and a locust plague of biblical proportions.

In January 2003, I led a Trans-Sahara expedition across the entire length of Niger. I found it to be one of our world’s special places, of achingly lonely beauty, of fascinating and friendly peoples, and mysterious lost cities, hidden oases, and camel salt caravans.

From the capital of Niamey on the Niger River, we went along the border of Nigeria, then out to Agadez in the Sahara, to visit a nomad tribe called the Wodaabe. The men paint their faces to look as attractive as possible to prospective wives:

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We then crossed a sand sea known as the T�ner�, the “desert of deserts” where nothing, not a blade of grass, grows for thousands of square miles. Camping in the T�ner� dunes is an experience one never forgets:

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Reaching the hidden oasis of Bilma, we discovered that the Bilma salt mines were still providing salt for the camel salt caravans as they had since the days of the Romans thousands of years ago:

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Even more unknown is the Lost City of Djado – an incredible abandoned city in the center of the Sahara built centuries ago by no one knows who that lies crumbling into the dust of history. It’s unexplored, unexcavated, and needs to be preserved as a World Heritage Site:

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Over three and a half million people in Niger are now on the brink of starvation, 800,000 of whom are young children. The Christian relief organization World Vision has a program of assistance. If you would like to help the people of Niger, World Vision can tell you how.