People of the Veil. Being an Account of the Habits, Organiza- tion and History of the Wandering Tuareg Tribes which Inhabit the Mountains of Air or Ashen in the Central Sahara. By Francis Reiman Rodd. (Macmillan. 30s.)
NOBODY else has described the Tuaregs as they look to an observer coming from the South---where indeed many of them are now settled, since the exodus which followed their revolt against the French in 1917. Mr. Francis Rodd travelled through Northern Nigeria, and moved up into the Sahara from the west of Lake Tchad for his nine months of exploration and study. Part of his book is too detailed for any but the geographer and anthropologist : but much is delightful to anyone whose curiosity was ever aroused about these strange people—pre-Arab certainly, yet not Berber, so Mr. Rodd thinks : and probably at one time Christian. Scarcely any other supposition can explain the recurrence of the Cross as an ornament alike of sword and saddle : and no other can account for the position assigned by this Mohammedan people to their women. Mr. Rodd's researches into their history had generally negative results. We can be tolerably sure that they did not always wear the veil. But when the custom grew up, by which men assume this garment at the age of about twenty-five and then wear it so constantly that none is ever seen unveiled, Mr. Rodd can no more deter- mine than the cause or significance of it.
It is clear from his book that the Tuaregs are now Britain's problem as well as that of France—part of that problem being to consider what will happen to this most picturesque of peoples if they are forced to abandon nomad life. It is also clear from his preface that British and French officers in the regions which converge on Lake Tchad meet together and work together in mutual confidence. Mr. Rodd after travelling sonic hundreds of miles with a French Camel Corps patrol, was appointed before the men on parade an honorary sergeant of the Peloton Mehariste du Gure—a compliment which, as he says, can only be appreciated by those who know the French army.