National Geographic : 2011 Jan
worst dreams," he said, "I see a rare text that I haven't read being slowly eaten." [ e Marabout ] A er the salt merchant's talk about the One- Eye, a local man suggested I consult a certain marabout, a type of Muslim holy man. For a price, he could provide me with a gris-gris, a small leather pouch containing a verse from the Koran imbued by the marabout with a protec- tive spell. "He is the only one who can truly pro- tect you from Belaouer," the man had con ded. Arriving at the marabout's house, I entered a small anteroom where a thin, bedraggled man was crouching on the dirt floor. He reached out and firmly held one of my hands in both of his. A few of his ngernails had grown long and curved off the tips of his fingers like tal- ons. "Peace upon you," the man cried out. But a er I returned his greeting, he didn't let go of my hand. Instead he sat on the ground, rock- ing slightly back and forth, rmly holding on, and smiling up at me. en I noticed a chain fastened around his ankle. It snaked across the oor to an iron ring embedded in the stone wall. e marabout, a balding man in his late 40s, who wore reading glasses on a string around his neck, appeared. He politely explained that the chained man was undergoing a process that would free him from spirits that clouded his mind. "It is a 30-day treatment," he said. He reached out and gently stroked the crouching man's hair. "He is already much better than he was when he arrived." e marabout led the way to his sanctum, and my translator and I followed him across a courtyard, passing a woman and three children who sat trans xed in front of a battered televi- sion blaring a Pakistani game show. We ducked through a bright green curtain into a tiny airless room piled with books and smelling of incense and human sweat. e marabout motioned us to sit on a carpet. Gathering his robes, he knelt across from us and produced a matchstick, which he promptly snapped into three pieces. He held them up so that I could see that they FAR AFIELD TO TRADE FOR GOLD, IVORY, AND SLAVES. A mechanic repairs a truck used to carry slabs of salt from mines deep in the Sahara. Camel trains still work the route, but trucks haul more and make the 900-mile round trip in 10 days versus 45 for camels.