The desert: another look

The desert: the living environment

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Unlike the common clichés, and accepted by the majority of people, the desert is a space full of partially human, plant and animal life. It imposes on all of these species to survive, a permanent and relentless law: any unnecessary effort. In other words, a draconian economy and permanent use of the main source of life: water or the lack of humidity in the air. Let us be inspired by plants and animals of the desert which apply this rule of life wonderfully, and challenge, constantly, to respect human!



In the company of my friend Shawn, we passed, in Echentouf, somewhere between Erg Es Sedra and Iriqui, on December 30, a night "Khlâa", i.e., without anything, neither food nor cover! Sand bed and the sky starred as roof. What a privilege! But what cold also.


I rarely even admired cluster Amit (Les Pleillades), pursued by El Mechbouh (East), until dawn. It does the overtake, it, seems that at the end of the world, according to a nomadic tale! Reassuring, given the gap almost constant, on for thousands of years between the two constellations!


During this long night, Milky voice warmed us the pupils, reminding us that our beautiful planet is only a speck of dust in the universe and that its brief history, is only a moment in the absolute. The big and little Dipper playing the clock around the fixed polar invariably indicate North, in the middle of constellations operating harmoniously in a magical show. Echentouf, a beautiful bouquet of dunes in the middle of the part of the Hamada du Draa, just before arriving at the dried Lake Iriqui. Echentouf, means "Mane", and refers to this place because of the resemblance, by far, branches of tamaris atop the dunes, with a beautiful "horse mane". The North, one can see an ocean of sand, the beautiful waves starting at the El Abeidlya dunes and ending at El Alem (dune witness!). El Hadj Ahmed, the last dune isolated before the plain of Iriqui, and tamaris Atlat Abainouche, on behalf of a nomadic, peacefully buried heroine at the foot of this magical tree, close to the West, this space of erg. A poem to the memory of Abainouche, is still flowing tears at the few nomadic knowing the history and geography of this region, entitled: "here the tenderness with Abainouche was buried. Simply! To meditate when we see free rally ransacked in this region…

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On the left the bed Draa, still woven by a sparse forest of tamarisk and Afersig, form the southern border to this arid area where there are still plants of El Arad, the inevitable El Aggaya, El Ghassal, El Yessrif, and other Remth Lavender plant…

Tamarisk, with acacias, are the main points of rest for nomads, since the dawn of time, and provide useful benchmarks in the large expanses of desert. The family of this tree, very resistant to drought, with long roots, consists of three sorts that nomads don't ever confuse: Letl, the larger the thick trunks, a sort of baobab tree, creating in him alone a micro-climate. Akawar, less thick trunks and the dark-green leaves, to the salty taste, very much appreciated by the camels. Finally, Afersig to the fine and regular branches, upright vertically, grows mainly in the vicinity of the wadis. Found in this Hamada a hundred kinds of trees or "Ewscp", such as the tamarisks, acacia, Sea buckthorn and other Awarache. "Ewscp", means for the nomads every tree that can survive several years drought. Conversely, 'Rbia', i.e. grass or spring, means the "ephemeral" plants that grow as a result of rare rains or simply by the phenomenon of condensation of the lack of moisture collected night. Plants "Rbia" rarely survive in the spring and dry out quickly during the relentless desert summer.

Nomadic lexicon of plants and animals of the desert:


This time I was spoiled in more than one respect. Ten days of market, forgiveness, happiness!, through the most beautiful desert of the Morocco. It is that along this journey, I was arrested, constantly, by the smile of plants, after several years of drought. But how their seeds survive after a long incubation period? Mystery and magic of life.

In the company of Abdul Rahman, the Encyclopaedia of the desert, I more learned – and refreshed my memory-, in a few days than what I struggled to understand in several botanical references on the desert. Amazing! The desert is an open library, with contemplation and humility as major codes of reading. No need to know the original Latin or Greek names of these plants to drill the mysteries, and even less the virtues! Over the caravan, Addou declined me, with her soft voice and his parsimonious gesture, the identity of several desert plants, according to three criteria: name, usually rather descriptive, taste, especially the place and the usefulness for livestock, Callistus in particular. We must remember that the camel is the main vector of knowledge of the flora of the desert. Reaction against this or that plant, the nomad deduced the usefulness, and sometimes the medicinal cure. The Alchemy of these plants can be found elsewhere in camel milk, magical nectar, which only nomads know and exploit the benefits. I did not hesitate to note on a small notebook the valuable information, stripped by Addou, on this flora that many are unaware, but more serious, some – more – sacked and destroyed with impunity. Now came the time to share this another way – that of the nomad – on the flora of the Hamada du Draa, through a few plants that we were amazed during this unforgettable Caravan:

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First lesson recalled by Abdulai, knowledge base of every Shepherd of the desert, is the influence of the terrain on the plants. Where their middle ranking, which also determines their ability to withstand drought. So those that grow in wadis, relatives of an aquifer are fat and paradoxically less resistant to drought, as familiar to the water. On the other hand, those that grow in the sand (Sdar Erramla: plants in sand, such as SB, Legseiba, and other Anchal) do not need of groundwater, irrigation moisture determined by sand overnight. Others survive or thrive, in the Rocky hamada or stony hills (El Koudya), such as EL Homeidh. Plants champions, but rare, can be found in the three environments. Another medium inhospitable to plants is the reg, the clay ground and hard, kind of dried lake, the impermeable soil moisture for plants.


Let's review, these fondled plants of the gaze, over several caravans:

  • 1. Al Harcha, "rough", resistant to drought. 2. Taynaset, "sweet", appreciated camels. 3. Me ghaizel, due to its similarity to the "me ghaizel: stick to spin the hair". 4. Nassoufa, "bitter", miracle to extensive medicinal plant. 5. Al Jamra, "Piece of Ember", pungent, useful to livestock during cold nights. 6. El Guarca, "pinceuse", very acid and vitamin. 7. SB, multi-utile plant, not pushing in the sand, nourishes and quenches the camels, to make ropes and barriers, and is a refuge for many lizards, reptiles, beetles, etc. 8. Nsail, close to SB, highly resistant to drought. 9. Lehmä, "Heating plant", source of heat for the camels in the winter. 10. Jerjir, plant leaves green and juicy with beautiful flowers-roses clovers, beauty queen of desert plants. 11. Segaat Lernab, "the wick of the Hare", beautiful plant star, resembling the wick on the front of the Hare in this region. 12. Baslet Leghzal, "the gazelle ognon"; the gazelle, attracted by its smell, can have an autonomy of water for an entire summer, gnawing sparingly this ognon buried in the sand. 13. Al Homeidh, plant acid leaves, grows to El Koudya, through the slots in the rocks. Refreshing and very vitamin, it is appreciated by lizards whip tail and the shepherds in the event of hunger or thirst. Can be fatal to sheep, but safe for goats. 14. Legtaff, 'pistachio sheets', color and taste of pistachio, popular with the shepherds. 15. Al Harra, «the roucoula of the desert ', very spicy, divine salad for the shepherds. 16. ES-saâdane, sweet and rare, appreciated the camels and goats. 17. Bou Sraisra, "garlands", with a nice percussion in contact with goats, is part of the bitter plants family; 18. Al Yaamim, spicy and rare. 19. Lemkharsa, plant braided cord, slightly spicy. 20. Tafsa, yellow, fluorescent flowers, slightly spicy. 21. Tleiha, small acacia. 22. Semna, oily and soft, purple flowers. 23. Gueid Naam, "Barriers of the ostrich", because ostriches encoublent! 24. Tabezwaguet, sweet and refreshing. 25. Lehbalia, «Pincushion plant», very rare. 26. El Aggaya, a plant abundant, very harmful for the camels to the juicy green beans despite the drought; enigmatic as to its benefits for livestock. 27. El Ghassal, the lavender plant, to taste salty, effective for washing hands and clothes. 28. Anesrif, plant of the El Ghassal family, but more green. 29. El Araad, very resistant to drought, abundant in the plain between Sidi Naji and Zmaila. 30. Dhemran, plant with leafy green Pellet. 31. El Guerzim, Sea buckthorn very vitamin fruit, small red cherries, appreciated by the Wolves of the desert. 32. Legseiba, highly toxic and fatal safe for camels and goats, appreciated grows in the sand next to SB. 33. Tourza, highly toxic. 34. Lebteima, plant hallucinogen and dangerous; always green and juicy, attended in the bed of the Draa. 35. Oum Elbaina, the milk, very toxic plant. 36. Al Ammaya, "the blinding", very toxic milk can lead to blindness in contact with eyes. 37. Oum Rokba, giving Smar, thin reeds, to make mats. 38. Awarache, beautiful and magical plant at wood end, resistant to heat and drought, produces pink flowers spring, even in the absence of rain; its appreciated leaves of camels can be also used to tanner bladders!

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You can expand the list to other plants that are the delight of camels, goats and other animals, after the rain, such as Alok, Remth, postmortem, Adrach, Negd, Talaboute, El Had, Tan, and other El Gahwane and Echgaa, Addamia, Red chalk, Al Gorte, a sort of alfalfa; Al Horf, letter (layout of a letter of Arabic alphabet)… Al wake, fern of the desert… Al Khafour (such as Addamya), Essad (plant happiness! Region Zbar and El barga)… Aisha Glia, looks like the hair of Aisha anonymous Bedouin… Al Yalma, grey plant, AL Hanzab, kind of wild turnips… Laghbeira, small dust, dusty plant pushing only the foot of tamarisk. Arramram, salt plant, still wet and damp, good dining Al Karkaz, this plant fattens the camels. Al Karkaz, said the nomadic legend, has vowed to go up to the hump of the camel and stay there. Ccontrairement to the cliché admitted by many that the bump is a water reserve, whereas it is accumulated by what the animal eats. Bouzghaiba, hairy leaves, looks like AL Karkaz 

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The fauna of the Hamada du Draa is no longer her home… Quads gradually hunt camels. Free fun of rally and Quads in this beautiful desert. Just the cancelled Dakar, other events such as the Rallye des Gazelles and other marathons took over, under the blanket shameful to help local populations, to sack and destroy! 


About wildlife, I took the opportunity to update some information on what remains. This fauna has been almost decimated by the ruthless hunting of the princes of the Gulf, predators of modern times with devastating and sophisticated equipment (glasses, 4 x 4 guns powerful, etc.). The Spaniards and their 4 x 4, the nomads ' Made in Taiwan ' and their Quads, are completing this bleak picture: gut flora and scaring away his last reduced wildlife! And this, for an "ephemeral" pleasure and an immeasurable stupidity. Below, the champions of the survival of this fauna, innocent witnesses of "drought in the heart" of human:

  1. Fennec, the clever Fox of desert, virtually disappeared from the right bank of the Draa.
  2. El Warn, the warrant of the desert, the precious friend and dauphin for the nomad, which protects it from the poisonous danger of vipers, virtually disappeared.
  1. Al Afaa, the sand Viper, making toy at night with the gerbils and mice but never attack human.
  2. The Wolf of the Draa River, a well organized but increasingly rare species.
  3. The Hare of the wilderness, relatively abundant around the tamaris.
  4. The Jerboa, color sand, hopping on his long legs-spring.
  5. Zellem: lizard, very fast, called lightning, fairly abundant, color sand, feeds on insects, and hides in holes around the bushes (5-10 cm). 
  6. Cherchmall, Sinc or fish Sands (lizard, 8-15 cm), form of fish – more pasta-, rapidly sinking into the sand in case of danger; skin smooth scales, can move several metres under the sand and sow his pursuers; sand color with spots, in windows on the sides. 
  7. Boubreis, a kind of small lizard living in the pebbly environment; very quick and hard to catch. Pink spotted. (10-15 cm). 
  8. ElArrem, this lizard is the King of camouflage; plays the death and remains frozen and perfectly still; his head resembles a pebble; can bite but is not venomous. 

Finally look no further in this table the gazelles, Bustards, partridges and a multitude of birds, decimated several years.



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