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Uomini e montagne del Sahara

Uomini e montagne del Sahara, by Mario Fantin. Bologna: Tamari Editori, 1970. 522 pages, 151 maps and sketch maps, 267 plates of black and white.

The mountain ranges of the Sahara desert are more complex and more interesting than most mountaineers would suspect. Besides the more or less commonplace names of Hoggar and Tibesti, there exists a number of others known only to a handful of Italians, Swiss and Frenchmen. Names like Tassili, Aìr, Ennedi, Gebel Marra and Adrar Ifora are generally meaningless to us, and it is not realized either that a volcano, Emil Koussi (11,193 ft), is the highest peak in the Sahara. Nor is it well known that a large number of people dwells, or has dwelled, in these wastes, often under the most adverse conditions, and that ancient cultures have left rich rock paintings, the only trace of man to be found at times in these lonely, craggy desert ranges.

The value of this book by Signor Fantin lies precisely in making the mountain world of the Sahara known to us in detail. To achieve this aim, a rather massive book had to be produced, but this was no problem for Signor Fantin, whose mountain books belong to the comprehensive type. This one is also impressive: in addition to its large format and extensive text, it offers 151 maps, charts and sketches (plus a number of figures in the text) and 267 large plates (black and white). Equally valuable are the 75 pieces of anthology attached to the text. All this material covers a variety of subjects too wide even to be listed here. Its content ranges mainly from human and natural life, prehistory and folklore in the Sahara, to the geography, exploration and climbing routes of its ranges. The book closes with indexes and a glossary of important local terms, mostly Touareg.

Although this book is in Italian, it will become the basic and overall work on the Sahara ranges for students and mountaineers of any nationality. It underwent a second edition two months after its first. Books like this, and similar others produced by the same author, make one wish that one’s favorite range would receive an equal covering.